Today in Hockey History: Sept. 1
A familiar face returned to Pittsburgh on this date, but this time it is an owner, although his playing days are quite done yet. Also, there were some big moments for a couple of the National Hockey League’s earliest stars on Sept. 1.
Lemieux Moves to the Owner’s Box
On Sept. 1, 1999, the NHL Board of Governors approved Mario Lemieux’s application to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him and who he became a superstar for.
Lemieux retired from playing the just over two years prior to making this purchase. The Penguins were in serious financial trouble at this time and Lemieux stepping in helped them remain in Pittsburgh. He defers much of the $32 million still owed to him and converts it into equity in the team. This is the first time in North American sports history where a team is owned by one of its former players.
A little over a year later, on Dec. 27, 2000, Lemieux becomes the first owner to ever play for his team when he comes out of retirement. He also joined Gordie Howe and Guy Lefleur as the only three players to skate in a game after they had been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Morenz Returns to Montreal
Hockey Hall of Famer Howie Morenz is considered one of the first major stars in the NHL. During his 11-season stint with the Montreal Canadiens, Morenz scored 253 goals and 401 points over 430 games. He helped the Canadiens win three Stanley Cup championships and on an individual level, he won three Hart Trophies for being voted the league’s most valuable player.
Just prior to the 1934-35 seasons, Morenz was traded to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He scored a career-low six goals in his first season with the Blackhawks before being traded to the New York Rangers midway through the 1935-36 season.
On Sept. 1, 1936, the Canadiens brought Morenz back by purchasing his contract. He scored four goals and 20 points in 30 games. On Jan. 28, 1937, his career was ended by a horrific leg injury when his skate got caught in the boards causing four separate fractures. While still in the hospital, Morenz died from a coronary embolism caused by blood clots in his injured leg. He was 34.
Odds & Ends
The Los Angeles Kings acquired defenseman Barry Beck, on Sept. 1, 1989, from the Rangers for cash. The 32-year-old defenseman was a veteran of 563 games but hadn’t played for three years. He retired following the 1985-86 season due to chronic shoulder injuries. He played in 52 games during the 1989-90 season before retiring for good.
Longtime executive Brian Burke resigned as president and general manager of the Hartford Whalers, on Sept. 1, 1993, to become the executive vice president and director of hockey operations for the NHL. He served as the league’s chief disciplinarian in this role until he stepped down in 1998 to become the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.
Head coach Paul Holmgren added general manager to his job description after Burke left. He resigned as head coach on Nov. 16, 1993, to focus on his front office duties. He was fired, on March 30, 1994, after a drunk driving arrest and replaced with Pierre McGuire.
On this same day in 1993, the Buffalo Sabres acquired two-time Stanley Cup winner, Craig Simpson, from the Edmonton Oilers for winger Jozel Cierny and a fourth-round draft pick. Simpson had scored at least 24 goals in each of the previous seven seasons including 56 in 1987-88. However, injuries limited Simpson to just 46 games and 12 goals over the next two seasons with the Sabres. Cierny only played in one NHL game for the Oilers and the draft pick was used on Jussi Tarvainen, who never played in the league.
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim signed Paul Kariya to a three-year deal on Sept. 1, 1994. They drafted the future Hall of Famer with the fourth overall pick of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He played 47 games the following seasons, scoring 18 goals and 39 points. He scored 300 goals and 669 points in 606 career games with the Ducks before signing with the Colorado Avalanche in 2003.
The Phoenix Coyotes signed veteran free-agent forward Greg Adams on Sept. 1, 1998. He scored 38 goals and 89 points over the next two seasons with the teams. He signed with the Florida Panthers in 2000 for a 17th and final season in the NHL.
Thomas Vanek signed with the Canucks on Sept. 1, 2017. He scored 17 goals and 41 points in his 61 games in Vancouver. At the 2018 NHL trade deadline, Vanek was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte, who has been a big contributor during the Canucks’ 2020 Stanley Cup playoff run.
Happy Birthday to You
There have been 20 players born on this date who played in the NHL over the years.
The first was Hall of Famer Didier Pitre, who was born in Valleyfield, Quebec on Sept. 1, 1883. He was a star for the Canadiens in the National Hockey Association before the franchise joined the NHL. He earned the nickname “Cannonball” because of his speed and booming slap shot and was part of the Canadiens’ first Stanley Cup win in 1916. He spent 15 total seasons with Montreal, playing in 127 NHL games before retiring in 1923.
The most recent Sept. 1 birthday boy to play in the league was Otto Koivula. The 22-year-old Finnish-born winger made his league debut with the New York Islanders this past season. He has yet to register his first NHL point in 12 games.
Brian Bellows, born on Sept. 1, 1964, had the best career out of these 20 players. He played in 1,118 games with five different teams between 1987 and 1998. He scored 485 goals and 1,022 points and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993.
Other notable players born on this date include Dave Lumley (66), Alan Haworth (60), Norm Maciver (56), Mats Zuccarello (33), Gustav Nyquist (31), Tomas Nosek (28) and Nathan MacKinnon (25).
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