October 09, 2015
The NHL's "First Noel" arrived in the 1957-58 season.
Noel is not the most common name in hockey.
Claude Noel played seven games in the NHL with the 1979-80 Washington Capitals and later coached in Columbus and Winnipeg.
Before him Noel Picard was a solid defenseman with the St. Louis Blues in their first few seasons starting in 1967.
But the NHL's "First Noel" was Noel Price, a fellow from Brockville, Ontario who spent the better part of a the Original Six's final decade trying to crack a NHL lineup. First it was Toronto. Then New York, Detroit and Montreal. Over that 10 year span he got into about 100 NHL games, but could never stick.
In the meantime Price established himself as a Hall of Fame player at the American Hockey League level. Over 13 AHL seasons he played 751 games, scoring 59 goals and 319 assists for 378 points. He would win the Eddie Shore award as the AHL's top defenseman in 1970 and helped his teams win four Calder Cup championships.
When the NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967, Price finally found himself in the NHL - two seasons in Pittsburgh, one with Los Angeles and three with Atlanta.
None other than Larry Robinson, one of the NHL's all time greatest defensemen, credited Price for mentoring him when both were in the AHL.