Hockey’s Wildest Season

The Changing of the Guard in the NHL, 1969–1970

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About the Book

The 1969-70 season marked a turning point in the history of the National Hockey League. The season began with a near fatality and it culminated on a steamy Sunday afternoon in Boston with one of the NHL’s most iconic moments. In the interim, the 12 NHL clubs staged thrilling and memorable playoff races that were not decided until the final regular-season games were played. The three traditional powerhouse teams from the Original Six era faltered while former underdog clubs began to vie for top honors. Along the way, Boston’s Bobby Orr made history by becoming the first defenseman to win the NHL scoring title, three aging veterans in Detroit combined to form the most effective forward line in hockey, and a rookie goalie, Tony Esposito, lifted the Chicago Black Hawks from the basement to a divisional championship. Told here are the numerous other wonderful, strange, and captivating incidents that made the fun, fascinating, and free-wheeling 53rd NHL season one for the ages.

About the Author(s)

John G. Robertson is a private tutor and sports historian who lives in Cambridge, Ontario. He is also the author of several books on baseball history.

Bibliographic Details

John G. Robertson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 288
Bibliographic Info: 9 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8070-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4125-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Notes on Names, Spellings and Terms xi
Preface: Childhood Memories 1
Part I: The NHL Before 1969–70
1. What a Difference a Decade Makes! 6
2. The Original Six Era: Big Three, Little Three 9
3. From Six Teams to 12: The NHL Doubles Down 12
4. The Mild, Mild West: Not Separate but Not Equal 20
Part II: The 1969–70 NHL Season
5. Mayhem in Ottawa: The Wayne ­­Maki–Ted Green Incident 34
6. The Old Boys’ Club: The NHL’s Geezer Goaltenders 42
7. How Mick Jagger Nearly Caused an NHL Forfeit 53
8. Organic Matter: The East Dominates the ­­All-Star Game 56
9. A Cool Wedding Quashed 61
10. “Boston’s Mighty Orr” Leads the Bruins 63
11. The New York Rangers: Revamped and Dangerous 72
12. Chicago Black Hawks Rising … with Shutouts 80
13. The Suddenly Soaring Detroit Red Wings 86
14. Montreal Canadiens: Unknowingly on Thin Ice 91
15. Toronto Maple Leafs: Treading Water 97
16. St. Louis Blues: The Biggest of the Small Fish 101
17. Pittsburgh Penguins: Improving and Anonymous 103
18. Minnesota North Stars: Drawn and Quartered 106
19. Oakland Seals: Struggling to Be Relevant 110
20. The Kings: Losing and Loathing in Los Angeles 116
21. Philadelphia Flyers: 24 Ties … But Still One Short 119
22. The Plummeting New Yorkers 124
23. It Happened One Night: The Rangers’ Long Bus Ride 126
24. Surging Popularity: The Numbers Speak for Themselves 129
25. Saturday, April 4: Clearly Clarifying Nothing 131
26. Sunday, April 5 (A): Theater of the Absurd 135
27. Sunday, April 5 (B): Five ­­Empty-Net Goals 145
Part III: The All-American 1970 Stanley Cup Playoffs
28. The Stanley Cup … Canada’s Trophy? 154
29. The Quarterfinals: Blowouts, Brawls and a Bounty 158
30. ­Boston–Chicago Semifinal: A Surprising Sweep 175
31. St. ­­Louis–Pittsburgh Semifinal: The Blues Are Tested 182
Part IV: The Finals—From Shadow Treatment to Classic Finish
32. Game #1: Plante Goes Down; Bruins Go Up 190
33. Game #2: Another Half Dozen Goals 197
34. Game #3: “We Are Looking Forward to Sunday” 200
35. “First Annual Bobby Orr Awards Luncheon” 204
36. Anticipation 206
37. Game #4: “And What Could Be Better Than That?” 208
38. A Photo for the Ages 216
Part V: Denouement
39. Celebrations 222
40. Michel Brière: An Athlete Dying Young 224
41. An Unexpected Resignation 229
42. The Strange Death of Terry Sawchuk 232
43. Social Notice: Say, Who’s That Fellow Dating Bernie Geoffrion’s Daughter? 236
44. The NHL’s Tiebreaker and Divisional Realignment 237
45. The Cup, the Bruins and the Rest of the Original Six 241
46. The 1967 Expansion Teams 246
Aftermath: Miscellany 256
Chapter Notes 259
References 269
Index 271