1998-99: Goodbye Gretzky
The Three Stars:
Wayne Gretzky Retires - After weeks of speculation Wayne Gretzky acknowledges he is retiring from the NHL. He plays his final game for the Rangers at Madison Square Gardens in New York. Before the puck is dropped NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declares No. 99 will be retired across the league. Gretzky picks up one final point - an assist on Brian Leetch's goal in a 2-1 OT loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the final minute of regulation Rangers coach John Muckler calls a timeout and the fans give Gretzky a rousing ovation. Gretzky finished his career with an amazing 894 goals, 1963 assists and 2857 points, just three of the 61 NHL records he set.
Hull's Controversial Goal Wins Cup - The Dallas Stars win their first Stanley Cup amid much controversy. The NHL had a strict rule against players in the goaltender's crease, allowing for many disallowed goals all season long. Brett Hull scores the triple-overtime winning goal and the Stars Stanley Cup party begins when replays reveal Hull's foot was in the crease. The NHL officially said the goal was properly reviewed and because Hull control of the puck prior to the blue-paint violation it was a legal goal. Two days later the NHL announced crease violations would again be left to the on-ice officials.
Chiasson Killed In Car Crash - Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Steve Chiasson is killed on May 3rd when he loses control of his truck following a season-ending party. The 32 year old Chiasson had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal driving limit, was not wearing a seat belt and was speeding at the time of the single vehicle accident.
- Jaromir Jagr, who scored the game winning goal in Gretzky's final game, wins his first Hart Trophy and third Art Ross Trophy with 127 points. In the post Gretzky era he would lead the NHL in scoring the next three seasons.
- The Nashville Predators begin play.
- The NHL introduces the Maurice Richard Trophy to honor the leading goal scorer each season. Teemu Selanne won the inaugural award with 47 goals. Ironically this was the first non-lockout season since 1969-70 that the NHL did not have a single 50 goal scorer.
- On February 13th, 1999, Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens hosts it's last NHL game, a 6-2 win by Chicago.
- Eric Lindros had another excellent season interrupted by serious injury. He scored 93 points in 71 games when he suffered a collapsed lung that kept him out of the lineup for the rest of the year, and seriously dashed the Flyers strong Stanley Cup hopes.
- Patrick Roy passes Terry Sawchuk and Jacques Plante as the winningest goalie in NHL history - regular season and playoffs combined.
- Luc Robitaille scores his 500th career goal and Mark Messier scores his 600th. Phil Housley becomes the highest scoring American born player of all time.