It’s been 100 years since the first two games of the National Hockey League (NHL) took place.
Although the NHL wasn’t the first professional hockey league, it is the one with staying power. According to History.com, by the time the first NHL games were played on this day in 1917 the first league had folded. The International Pro Hockey League called it a day after 13 years. In that time, wo other leagues took shape. They are the National Hockey Association - NHA - and the Pacific Coast League -PCL. All of the hockey leagues hail from Canada.
From Five to NHL Hall of Fame
The NHL’s original lineup of franchises included: The Canadiens, the Wonderers, the Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and the Toronto Arenas. In 1924 the first U.S. team, the Boston Bruins, joined the ranks, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
At one point there were 10 teams in the NHL. Then there what is considered the ‘Original Six’. This includes the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Black Hawks, and Detroit Red Wings. Today the NHL comprises 31 teams, 24 located in the United States and seven in Canada.
In recognition of today’s highlight in hockey history, I’ve gathered six examples of NHL memorabilia scoring high at auction.
Blast From the Past
A Boston Bruins game-worn sweater from the franchise’s first season in the NHL (1924-1925). According to the item description in auction catalog of Heritage Auctions, the sweater It is believed to be the only surviving representation from the 1924-25 Boston Bruins team. Left winger George Redding wore the sweater. Despite the efforts of the then 21-year-old Redding and his teammates, that first season was a bit tough for the Bruins. The team finished with a record of 6-24 on the season. The sweater fared far better at auction in 2009, when it sold for $27,000 through Heritage Auctions.
This replica championship banner recognizing the Philadelphia Flyers second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals (1974-75 season) sold for $675 during Goldin Auctions’ December 2017 auction. The banner is signed by 25 members of the Flyers team, in addition to the team’s owner and chairman Ed Snider.
Another item of hockey history that changed hands at auction is the puck Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau landed for his first NHL goal. The game took place in January of 1951 and Beliveau was called up from the junior hockey league to play for the Montreal Canadiens. The puck was set in a new presentation plaque, at the request of Mr. Beliveau specifically for presentation to the winning bidder, according to the description in the auction catalog. The final bid saw the puck sell for $17,909 during a 2005 sale through Classic Auctions.
A pair of game-worn hockey gloves belonging to Wayne Gretzky during the 1980-81 season. The gloves date to the first of seven consecutive seasons that ‘The Great One’ claimed the Art Ross Trophy. This was as the league’s leading scorer, as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, according to the auction catalog description. The gloves, which bear a clear indication of scrapes and scuffs from ice-cold competition, sold for $33,600 during an August 2017 auction presented by Heritage Auctions.
Hall of Fame Hardware
During a 2015 auction this NHL Hall of Fame Induction Ring, belonging to Yvan Cournoyer commanded $5,628.75 when it sold through Goldin Auctions. Cournoyer carried the nickname “The Roadrunner” and played for 16 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. This original ring was presented to Cournoyer on Sept. 8, 1982, when he was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame.
During a 2014 auction presented by Lelands, a lot comprising of the skates and stick used by future Hall of Fame legend, Gordie Howe, sold for $10,585. The skates and stick were used by Howe during his rookie season. Howe was playing right wing for the 1946 Detroit Red Wings. He was just 18 years of age. After playing 26 seasons in the NHL and six in the World Hockey Association, Howe retired in 1980. In that time his achievements include: 2,421 games played, 1,071 goals, 1,518 assists, and 2,589 points, according to the auction catalog description.
Happy 100th anniversary to the players and fans, past and present, of the NHL. Keep cool and play on!