Today we look at game results from the 1967 National Hockey League Opening Night, including the debuts of five the six expansion teams. Plus, the usual quick hits.
Rangers Shock Hawks
What a difference a year makes.
In the biggest upset of the NHL’s opening night in venerable Chicago Stadium the invading New York Rangers took no prisoners as they shocked the Black Hawks 6-3 right on their own home ice. On opening night a year ago, it was the Black Hawks who thumped New York by that very 6-3 margin.
The Rangers were full value for this one, even if the Black Hawks were unable to ice their “A” lineup. They outshot the Black Hawks 41-32 and held a wide edge in play, especially over the final 40 minutes.
Jean Ratelle, who looks like he’s experiencing no ill effects from off-season back surgery, paced the Ranger attack with two goals and two assists. Don Marshall, Phil Goyette, Reggie Fleming and Red Berenson collected the other New York goals.
The goal for Berenson was his first NHL tally since being traded from Montreal to the Rangers two years ago.
Bobby Hull showed he’s ready for another record-setting season by scoring two goals for the Hawks. He notched his first one before the game was two minutes old. Pit Martin, acquired from Boston in that huge off-season trade, also found the range for Chicago.
Rangers appeared far better conditioned than the Black Hawks. That was evident especially in the final period when New York scored three times in just over three and a half minutes to shatter a 3-3 tie. Early in the game, the Rangers were almost meek in their play before getting their legs under them in the middle frame.
Ed Giacomin handled the goaltending for the Rangers and had a solid performance with 29 saves. Black Hawks used Dave Dryden in goal with number one man Denis DeJordy still unsigned. DeJordy was in the house, and watched the game from the press box.
Dryden’s performance was spotty at best. He seemed to have trouble covering rebounds and handling goal-mouth traffic. All the Ranger goals came from close-in.
Pens Strong But Habs Win
The Pittsburgh Penguins lost a hockey game last night but it felt like a huge victory for the fledgling franchise in their first National Hockey League game.
The Penguins, in front of 9,307 fans at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh lost the powerful Montreal Canadiens by a score of 2-1. But given the fact that Montreal was expected to waltz to a lopsided victory and encounter little resistance in doing so, being on the short end of the narrow margin felt like a huge win for the Pens.
In fact, had it not been for the spectacular work of Montreal’s young goaltender Rogatien Vachon, the Penguins might have pulled off the ultimate upset. Vachon was forced to make 35 saves, a busy night in any league. Many of Pittsburgh’s shots tested the youngster severely.
Montreal right winger Claude Provost was dead-on with his assessment of the game:
“Our team didn’t play well. Our goalkeeper saved us.”
Pittsburgh netminder Hank Bassen was nearly as good as Vachon. He also recorded 35 saves and couldn’t be blamed for the goals that did beat him.
Canadiens opened the scoring late in the first period when Gilles Tremblay scored a short-handed goal while rookie defenceman Carol Vadnais was in the sin bin.
After only 53 seconds of the second period Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau scored what proved to be the winner, the 400th goal of his illustrious career. The goal came after Bassen had made a save on a drive by John Ferguson. Sprawled on the ice, the Penguin goalkeeper was unable to corral the loose puck and it was quickly deposited into the net by Beliveau.
Bassen complained to referee John Ashley that he was being held down by a Montreal player, but his argument fell on deaf ears.
Veteran Andy Bathgate, a likely Hockey Hall of Fame candidate when he finally retires, scored the first goal in Penguins history. The veteran right winger, a 17th round pick in the Expansion Draft, found the range at 7:06 of the final frame when he beat Vachon with a trademark 35-foot snap shot. Vachon probably still hasn’t seen the shot.
Penguins coach Red Sullivan was happy with the overall effort from his squad. He felt they could have been more aggressive in the bodychecking department.
Ken Schinkel and newly acquired Gene Ubriaco were Pittsburgh’s best on the night. Leo Boivin and Al MacNeil were strong on the blue line.
A disappointing feature of the game was the complete lack of ceremony on the occasion of the return of NHL hockey to Pittsburgh after 37 years. There were no celebrities, no speeches from civic officials, not even a ceremonial puck drop. Even the player introductions were ho-hum.
Wings Tie Bruins on Tainted Goal
Detroit Red Wings got a goal from Dean Prentice with just over two minutes to play to gain a 4-4 tie with the Boston Bruins at the Boston Garden. The Bruins argued vociferously that the puck had been illegally batted into the net but referee Vern Buffey disagreed.
Bruins held a 2-0 lead in this one. John Bucyk scored in the 18th minute of the first period and that was followed up by the first of Tommy Williams’ two second-period markers at 5:05 of the middle frame.
Detroit scored three quick ones in a span of five minutes to take a 3-2 lead. But Williams put Boston in front again at 16:51 and the second ended with the teams tied at three.
Boston came out flying in the third, and Johnny McKenzie scored what the Bruins still feel was the winning goal at 2:14. That set the stage for the controversial goal by Prentice.
Bruins coach Harry Sinden maintained that Prentice batted the puck out of the air with his stick above his shoulder:
“I don’t know what Buffey was looking at. That puck was over Prentice’s shoulders.”
The game was a tough one for Detroit. Starting goalie Roger Crozier left the game early in the second period when he was knocked unconscious by a wicked shot by Bobby Orr which struck him on the temple. He was replaced by George Gardner who was solid the rest of the way.
After the game, Crozier insisted he would be just fine:
“I still feel a little woozy but I’m okay. I never saw the puck, I went out like a light.”
Later on, defenceman Gary Bergman was injured and left unable to continue. He took an accidental stick in the mouth from Orr and will likely require extensive dental repairs.
Gerry Cheevers played a sound game in goal for the Bruins. The four goals allowed were generally a result of a lack of support from his Boston mates.
Blues Late Goal Ties North Stars
A goal by Wayne Rivers with a minute and 26 seconds remaining in the game lifted the St. Louis Blues into a 2-2 tie with the Minnesota North Stars before over 11,500 fans at The Arena in St. Louis.
Rivers goal came on a breakaway after he broke into the clear at centre ice. He unleashed a 30-footer that got under the arm of Minnesota goalie Gary Bauman and sent the home town crowd happy.
The game was a tight-checking affair, with the teams still looking for chemistry that will only come with familiarity. It took a while for both clubs to find an offence of some description.
Bill Masterton finally opened the scoring at 15:20 of the second period. Masterton, returning to professional hockey after a three-year absence, beat Blues goalie Seth Martin with a backhand shot from close in.
Larry Keenan had the first goal in Blues history at 3:22 of the final period to knot things up at 1-1. But North Stars Dave Balon put Minnesota ahead again thanks to a beautiful setup by Andre Boudrias at 17:03. That set the stage for Rivers’ heroics.
Martin had a strong game in the St. Louis nets, as did Bauman for the North Stars. For Martin, at age 34 it was his first NHL game and he showed none of the nervousness that one might expect. For Bauman, it was his third big-league contest. He got into a couple of games with Montreal last season.
North Stars coach Wren Blair was not terribly unhappy with the outcome.
“We played with a short-handed defence and for the most part we had a pretty good night. I only wish we could have made it last out another two minutes.
“If you had told me before the game we would get a tie on the road, I suppose I would have taken that.”
Seals Whip Flyers
The California Seals, self-proclaimed odds-on favourites to win the NHL’s Western Division title, opened the 1967-68 season in impressive fashion, soundly thrashing the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 in Oakland.
It was a shame that only 6,836 fans bothered to show up at the Oakland Coliseum to take in the game.
The Seals veterans led the way in this one. Charlie Hodge had a sparkling debut in goal, while Bobby Baun was a stalwart on defence. Bill Hicke paced the offence with two goals.
Seals grabbed the early lead only 3:23 in when defenceman Kent Douglas caught Flyers goalie Bernie Parent napping with a shot from about 65 feet. Philadelphia battled back to tie it at 10:07 of the second on a goal by Bill Sutherland, but that was as close as they would get. Billy Harris scored what would prove to be the winner a minute and 25 seconds later.
Veteran Gerry Ehman, picked up from the American Hockey League Rochester Americans in a trade late in training camp scored the other California goal. He also had two assists on the night.
Seals unveiled their new green uniforms to mixed reviews from those fans who were on hand. Most preferred the basic black threads sported for the past few seasons by the Seals Western Hockey League predecessors.
Seals coach Bert Olmstead, a tough nut to crack at the best of times, paid the teams a left-handed compliment after the game:
“I’ll concede the expansion teams aren’t playing the old-fashioned brand of NHL hockey yet. But there were glimmers of it at times.”
- Buffalo Bisons opened the American Hockey League season with a 5-3 win over the Providence Reds. Bob Jones, Guy Trottier, Mike Labadie, Gerry Ouelette and Dennis Kassian scored for the Bisons. Pierre Gagne had a pair of goals for the Reds, with John Sleaver netting the other.
- Rookie centre Garry Unger, who had knee surgery just before the Maple Leafs training camp, is skating again. He’ll be assigned to Tulsa of the Central Professional Hockey League once he’s fit.
- A Philadelphia newspaper, running a daily feature on Flyers players, refers to winger Wayne Hicks as a “2nd Bobby Hull?”
- Canada’s national team will be without six regulars as they travel to Grenoble, France for a tournament. Not able to accompany the team overseas are centres Gary Dineen and Fran Huck, defencemen Barry McKenzie and Marshall Johnston, and goalie Ken Broderick. Winger Roger Bourbonnais has yet to join the team this season.