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September 21, 2014

1995-96: NHL Goes Mile High; Canada Loses Franchises

The Three Stars

Nordiques Win Stanley Cup, But In Colorado - After years of last place finishes and first overall draft picks the Quebec Nordiques are bought by American interests and moved to Denver to become known as the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs star in their first season, sweeping John Vanbiesbrouck and the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup. They are the only the NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in its first season in a new city. Quebec isn't the only jilted Canadian city. The NHL approves the sale of the Winnipeg Jets and agrees to move the franchise to Phoenix in the 1996-97 season.

Red Wings Soar - Steve Yzerman's Detroit Red Wings finish with a NHL record 62-13-7 record, bettering Montreal's 60 win season of 1976-77. The Wings also equals Philadelphia's record for home wins with 36 wins. Its personal victory for coach Scotty Bowman, who also guided the '76-77 Habs. He moves past Al Arbour (1,606) into first spot on the all time list of games coached, finishing with 1,654. But the Wings lose to their new arch-rivals from Colorado in the playoffs.

NHL Stars To Play In Olympics - The NHL, NHLPA and IIHF reset the look of international hockey. The Canada Cup is renamed and reworked into the World Cup. More importantly, plans are announced to allow all NHL players to be able to participate in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The league will take a 17 day break in the middle of the season.

Season Highlights:
  • The Avalanche may very well not have won the Stanley Cup had they stayed in Quebec. That's because the Montreal Canadiens almost certainly would never have traded disgruntled superstar goalie Patrick Roy to Quebec City. But, following an embarrassing 11-1 loss and subsequent incident on the bench with coach Mario Tremblay and president Ronald Corey, Roy is traded to Colorado.
  • After a year of rest from cancer treatments and chronic back ailments Mario Lemieux returns. He scores his 500th career goal as part of his 69 goal, 161 point season. His storybook season sees him win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and Pearson Trophy.
  • Steve Yzerman, Dale Hawerchuk and Mark Messier also score their 500th career goal. Another former Oiler, Paul Coffey, notches his 1000th assist.
  • There is great excitement in Vancouver as the Canucks acquire superstar Alexander Mogilny to play alongside 60 goal man Pavel Bure. Unfortunately the Russian Rocket is grounded with a severe knee injury after just 15 games. Mogilny picks up the slack by scoring 55 goals.
  • Grant Fuhr plays in goal for 76 consecutive games in St. Louis. A late season knee tweak was the only thing that prevented him from playing in all 82 games.
  • Winnipeg traded Teemu Selanne to Anaheim where he teamed up with a red hot Paul Kariya.
  • Los Angeles Kings winger Tony Granato undergoes brain surgery after hitting his head against the boards in a game.
  • Though it did not shock the hockey world like it did the first time around, Wayne Gretzky is traded. He joins Brett Hull in St. Louis but they Blues lost in dramatic fashion to Detroit in seven games in the playoffs.
  • The Florida Panthers surprise with their Stanley Cup run. After Scott Mellanby kills a rat in the dressing room, Panthers fans take to littering the ice with plastic rats after each Florida goal.

  • American network Fox introduces the FoxTrax puck. The puck is cut in half and wired to emit a glow on screen during broadcasts, making it easier to follow. The network scrapped the experiment, much to relief of traditional fans.

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