For every well-known piece of hockey trivia from the first 100 years of the NHL, there’s an untold amount of minutiae floating around, waiting to make even the most ardent fan’s day.
Take for instance, the fact that goal judges used to be fans, plucked from the crowd, to stand on the ice and signal a score with a flag. Or that Dave “Tiger” Williams, the league’s all-time penalty minutes leader spent almost three full days of his life sitting the box. The Buffalo Sabres’ 11th-round pick in 1974, Taro Tsujimoto, is legendary for being just that—a made up player.
It would be easy to spend days looking through the archives to find things no one remembers at this point. Here’s a look at just a smattering of NHL trivia, involving some well-known names and some forgotten over time.
• The NHL’s first iteration of the penalty shot was more akin to soccer than the present-day hockey version. The puck was placed inside a 10-foot circle and 38 feet from the net. A player taking a penalty shot had the option to move within the circle while shooting, while the goalie had to wait for a shot to be taken before moving. St. Louis Eagles player Ralph ‘Scotty’ Bowman was the first to convert one for a goal on Nov. 13, 1934.
• Initially, the NHL All-Star Game was played in October, with a team of All-Stars playing against the previous season’s Stanley Cup champion. In 1967, the game was moved to mid-season, and two years later, the format was changed to an East vs. West matchup—the same point in time fans got the chance to vote in a starting lineup.
• Bobby Orr’s first NHL contract with the Boston Bruins was a two-year deal in 1969, one of the first negotiated with an agent, worth $70,000 (plus bonuses), which would be worth approximately $521,000 in 2016. His next contract, inked in 1971 and spanning five seasons, was the NHL’s first million-dollar deal.
• Connie ‘Mad Dog’ Madigan became the oldest rookie in NHL history when he suited up for the St. Louis Blues at the age of 38 in January of 1973. He notched three assists and 29 penalty minutes over 20 regular season and five playoff games over the rest of the season, the only NHL action he’d see.
• The namesake of sports’ most famous trophy, Frederick Arthur Stanley—better known as Lord Stanley of Preston—not only never presented the Cup he donated to a winning team, he never saw a Stanley Cup championship game as he was called back to England in 1893.
• The NHL had 42 players making at least a million dollars in salary during the 1992–93 season. According to CapFriendly.com, there are 485 players with a $1 million salary.
• Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh is widely credited as the first NHL goalie to keep a water bottle on top of his net, starting during the 1984–85 season. While he did it to combat his bouts of severe dehydration, the practice caused Edmonton Oilers coach Glen Sather to famously quip, “Maybe we want a bucket of chicken on our net, maybe hamburgers. I mean if you have water bottles out there, let’s have lunch.”
• The Chicago Blackhawks were the first team to use a goal horn, when owner Bill Wirtz had one installed in the Chicago Stadium during the 1973 Stanley Cup Final because he liked how the one on his yacht sounded.
• Wayne Gretzky may have five Lady Byng trophies to credit as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player, but he’s also responsible for taking the first NHL penalty in Edmonton Oilers’ history, a slashing infraction on Oct. 10, 1979 in a 4–2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
• It’s hard enough to get your name etched on the Stanley Cup, it’s even more rare to do so as a teenager. The title of youngest person to have his name engraved on the chalice belongs to Stafford Smythe, son of NHL legend Conn Smythe, who made it as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 11-year-old mascot in 1932. He went on to add his moniker four more times during the 1960s—as the team’s president.
• The shortest NHL career in history belongs to Jorge Alves, who played the final eight seconds for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 3–1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 31, 2016. Alves, 37, is the Hurricanes’ equipment manager and was signed to a one-day contract as the team’s emergency goalie after backup Eddie Lack fell ill.
• The most often retired number across the league is 9, which has been raised to the rafter for 12 different players by 10 teams: the Oilers (Glenn Anderson), Rangers (Andy Bathgate and Adam Graves), Bruins (Johnny Bucyk), Maple Leafs (Charlie Conacher and Ted Kennedy), Islanders (Clark Gillies), Red Wings (Gordie Howe), Blackhawks (Bobby Hull), Flames (Lanny McDonald), Stars (Mike Modano) and Canadiens (Maurice Richard).
• Since its inception in 1963, only seven NHL franchises haven’t had the first pick in the draft: Anaheim, Carolina/Hartford, Calgary, Minnesota, Nashville, San Jose and Vancouver. The Montreal Canadiens have selected first five times, the most of any team.
• When Kris Draper was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Detroit Red Wings, the official swap was listed as ‘future considerations.’ The actual return to Winnipeg, however, was a dollar. Safe to say the Red Wings got their money’s worth, as the rugged forward played a role in winning four Stanley Cups with the franchise.