HARK—THE DAWNING OF A NEW ICE AGE
In the NHL's first 21-team season—Edmonton, Hartford, Quebec and Winnipeg were added from the defunct WHA—axioms began to go by the boards. Junior competition is a must for anyone interested in a pro career. Not necessarily: 43 of the 210 players picked in the 1980 draft came out of college hockey. The NHL is for Canadians only. Ah, but 65 of the league's 500 players—an unheard-of 13%—were born in the U.S. Montreal always wins the Stanley Cup. On the contrary, the Canadiens were bumped in the quarterfinals. With 1:26 to play in the final game at Montreal's Forum, Minnesota's Al MacAdam tapped in a rebound to eliminate the Canadiens, who had won four consecutive titles. No fewer than six North stars were from the U.S. It was fitting that one of the best of the U.S. Olympians, Defenseman Ken Morrow, contributed to the New York islanders' upset of Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup finals.
The expansion islanders, who joined the league in 1972-73, had established a reputation for choking in the playoffs. Sure enough, after beating the Flyers in three of the first five games and taking a 4-2 lead in the sixth, the islanders went into a defensive shell and allowed two third-period goals. Now, it was feared, they would lose in overtime, drop the seventh game in Philadelphia and reinforce their wretched claim to fame. Instead, New York's Bob Nystrom scored at 7:11 of the overtime and the islanders were chokers no more. One of their erstwhile playoff busts, Bryan Trottier, set a point-scoring record (29) and was Stanley Cup MVP.
There were other indications of a new order. Edmonton's Wayne (The Great) Gretzky, 19, tied Los Angeles' Marcel Dionne for the scoring title with 137 points (Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy because he'd scored two more goals than Gretzky). The Vezina Trophy went to Buffalo's Don Edwards and Bob Sauve, with a combined 2.51 goals-against average. Hartford's incomparable Gordie Howe, 52, retired after playing in an unprecedented five decades and amassing a record 2,366 points. The No. 3 scorer in pro hockey history, Chicago's 41-year-old Bobby Hull (1,808), also played his final season.
February 12, 1981
Islander Duane Sutter beats Flyer Goalie Pete Peeters in the Stanley cup finale.
Gretzky, with 51 goals, was the finest NHL teen-ager since Bobby Orr.