Top 20 Dates in United States Hockey History

Photo: United States Hockey Hall of Fame

Over the years, ice hockey has grown substantially in the United States and it comes as a result of the success of the country’s international teams. From the Olympics to World Junior Championships, the wins are piled high In this article, NoVa Caps looks at the Top 10 dates in the history of United States hockey. 

20. First Artificial Ice Rink Opened – December 26, 1894
In 1894, the very first artificial ice rink was opened in the United States in Baltimore, Maryland. It was known as the North Avenue Ice Palace.

19. First Game of Hockey Played in the United States – 1893
While hockey has been played in America for almost a hundred years, the very first known recorded game of ice hockey in the United States was played at Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities in 1893. Those games were the foundation on which USA Hockey has been built

18. 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Final Series – September 14th, 1996
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Game 1), Montreal, Quebec (Games 2 and 3)
United States 3, Canada 4 (OT)
United States 5, Canada 2
United States 5, Canada 2

After tying the Best of Three series in Game 2, the USA won Game Three and the first ever World Cup of Hockey with a furious comeback. If you haven’t watched any of this game, or the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, please do. Highlights for Game 3 are below, but the whole Final series is must-watch hockey. Great players, great goals, great hits, lots of fights, and good old-fashioned USA vs. Canada hatred.

17. 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship – March 31st – April 7th, 2017
Plymouth, Michigan
What seems to be a theme among most of these United States international victories, the U.S. went undefeated on their way to a Gold Medal. Unlike each of the two tournaments below (and what seems to be many, many other international showings), the U.S. was able to follow up a round robin victory against Canada by defeating them in the Gold Medal game, securing a victory in a thrilling 3-2 overtime goal by Hilary Knight.

But what makes this tournament stand out is what happened off the ice, not completely what happened on the ice. Just two weeks before the tournament was slated to begin, the players on the United States Women’s team announced that they were going to boycott the upcoming World Championship due to inequitable support and conditions for women’s hockey. A massive agreement was struck between the players and USA Hockey in the days before the tournament and the Americans went to the tournament and won.

16. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby Drafted By the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins – June 26, 2004 & July 22, 2005
In the past 12 years, the NHL has seen its fair share of stars and players that have helped shape the game. Perhaps no two players have been as important as the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. Throughout their respective careers, both have set and broken numerous offensive records and delighted thousands of fans with their amazing skill. Drafted in 2004 and 2005, respectively, both have helped hockey in their respective teams’ communities grow and headlined a new wave of hockey stars. As a result, the number of young hockey players in the United States has grown and in turn, will add to the future success of USA Hockey.

15. NHL Doubles in Size By Adding Six Teams – February 1967
By 1963, the NHL still consisted of just six franchises (the Original Six of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, and Detroit Red Wings), and the Rangers’ governor at the time, William Jennings, proposed the expansion to the West Coast to his colleagues. While it took some time, six franchises were ultimately added to double the league: the California Seals (San Francisco/Oakland), Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues. The expansion is the largest ever undertaken at one time by an established major sports league. The expansion resulted in the growth of the league and gave way to even more expansion within the next decade.

14. Seattle Metropolitans Become First US Team to Win the Stanley Cup –March 26, 1917
In its infancy, the Stanley Cup was a trophy that had been won solely by Canadian teams. But in March 1917, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s (PCHA) Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win Lord Stanley’s mug after the Cup’s trustees decided that teams outside Canada could compete for the Cup. On March 26, 1917, they defeated the National Hockey Associatian’s (NHA) Montreal Canadiens, who were the defending champions in four games to clinch the Cup. Since then, numerous American teams have lifted the Stanley Cup, and if it were not for the Metropolitans, those teams may have not had the opportunity to do so.

13. Boston Bruins were the first American team to join the National Hockey League – 1924
During that season, the first NHL game was played in the United States where the Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Maroons 2-1. That same season, the NHL increased the season schedule from 24 games to 30 games. Three more American teams the New York Rangers, Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Cougars, joined the NHL in the year 1926. That same year, the Western Hockey League fell apart and sold most of its players to the new NHL teams. This makes the NHL the top hockey league in North America. In 1942, the Brooklyn Americans withdrew from the NHL. This left the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers, and Black Hawks as the only teams left in the NHL for the next 25 years. Those six teams are now called “the Original Six.”

12. Wayne Gretzky Traded to Los Angeles Kings – August 9, 1988
Wayne Gretzky is without question the greatest hockey player ever, and after winning three Stanley Cups as a member of the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980’s and setting and shattering numerous records. The thought of Gretzky ever leaving Edmonton was absurd and seemingly impossible to everyone in Canada and the NHL. But on August 9, 1988, the impossible happened. The Oilers traded Gretzky, along with forward Mike Krushelnyski and defenseman Marty McSorley to the Los Angeles Kings. However, the trade itself had a resounding and lasting effect. The arrival of hockey’s biggest star on the West Coast helped the game of hockey become popular and the growth of ice rinks and hockey programs in California and on the West Coast increased. The trade of Gretzky to Los Angeles is what inspired Toronto Maple Leafs young superstar Auston Matthews, originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, to begin playing hockey. While bittersweet at first, there’s no doubt Gretzky’s arrival helped hockey grow in the United States.

11. 2014 Women’s Olympic Final – February 20th, 2014
Sochi, Russia
United States 2, Canada 3 (Overtime)

This game was one of the most-watched women’s international games in recent memory, as the Canadians took the Gold Medal in an exhilarating overtime win over the Americans. While the Americans came out on the losing end, this game brought significant attention and awareness of women’s hockey, both in the United States and Canada, which in turn, has helped the game grow in both countries.

10. First Women Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame – November 8, 2010
Induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious honors any hockey player can receive, and for years, the Hall inducted only men. However, in 2009, the Hall of Fame created a by-law that allowed for two women to be eligible for induction each year. In 2010, USA Women’s hockey great Cammi Granato become one of the first two women ever enshrined in the hallowed halls (Toronto native Angelea James was the other). Granato had a decorated international career and was an inspiration to young female hockey players across the United States. She captained the Red, White, and Blue to the Gold Medal in 1998, and in her career, scored 54 goals and 96 points in 54 career international games played.

9. First American Inducted Into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945
Another historic moment in the history of American hockey is the induction of Hobey Baker into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945. The namesake of college hockey’s top individual award, Baker famously turned down an offer to play for the Montreal Canadiens. He is recognized as the United States’ first hockey star and played at Princeton. He was always an amateur player, and never played for the Stanley Cup and died young. Baker perished in 1918 at the age of 26 in a plane crash. Nonetheless, he was part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1945.

8. First American Taken in NHL Draft – June 8, 1983
One of the most historic moments in the history of United States hockey was the selection of the first American player drafted first overall. On June 8, 1983, Brian Lawton became the first American-born player ever taken with the first pick in the draft. Drafted by the Minnesota North Stars out of Mount St. Charles Academy, Lawton played only 483 games in the NHL with the North Stars, New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins, and San Jose Sharks, scoring 112 goals and recording 266 points. His draft also included fellow Americans Pat Lafontaine and Tom Barrasso being selected third and fifth overall, respectively. This was a sign of greater things to come.

7. 2014 Men’s Olympic Group A Round Robin, United States vs. Russia
February 15th, 2014
Sochi, Russia
United States 3, Russia 2 (Shootout)

One of the most memorable wins in recent memory for the Men’s Olympic team, this victory is most remembered for the heroics of current Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (then a member of the St. Louis Blues), who converted on four of his six attempts in the shootout to lift the Americans over the host Russians in front of a raucous crowd inside the Bolshoy Ice Dome. It led to the nickname of T.J. Sochi by fans, and thrust Oshie into the spotlight as an international hero, with an appearance on The Today Show, and a shoutout from former President Barack Obama.

 6. 2010 World Junior Championship – December 26th, 2009 – January 5th, 2010- Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
This victory was significant for several reasons, one of which was that it broke Canada’s five-year streak of consecutive Gold Medals, as well as it being the United States’ first Gold Medal since a win in 2004 and its second ever win. The Gold Medal is one of the most famous in United States hockey history, with Capitals defenseman John Carlson scoring a dramatic overtime game-winner.

5. 2004 World Junior Championship – December 26th, 2003 – January 5th, 2004 Helsinki and Hämeenlinna, Finland
This tournament was historic for the United States, as it was the World Junior Men’s first-ever Gold Medal win, and first medal win since they took home the Silver Medal in 1997.. While the win itself was historic, the roster featured many prominent players, including many future NHL players such as Mark Stuart (Winnipeg Jets), Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild), Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild), and Ryan Kesler (Anaheim Ducks). The Gold Medal game is also remembered for Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s costly giveaway to Patrick O’Sullivan. In an attempt to clear the puck, Fleury inadvertently turned the puck over to O’Sullivan, who then scored to put the Americans ahead 4-3, which would prove to be the game-winning goal.

4. 1998 Women’s Olympic Final – February 8th – February 17th, 1998
Nagano, Japan
In the first ever Women’s Hockey Olympic Tournament, the United States Women won the first ever Gold Medal. They went 5-0 in the round robin, defeating China 5-0, Sweden 7-1, Finland 4-2, Japan 10-0, and then coming back from a 4-1 deficit with 14 minutes left in the third period against Canada to win 7-4. Then, just three days later, they faced off against Canada in the Gold Medal game and won 3-1 on the back of a one-goal, two-assist performance from Sandra Whyte (now Sandra Whyte-Sweeney).

3. 1960 Olympics Final Games – February 22nd, 24th, 26th, 27th, and 28th, 1960
Squaw Valley, California
United States 6, Sweden 3
United States 9, Germany 1
United States 2, Canada 1
United States 3, Soviet Union 2
United States 9, Czechoslovakia 4

Before this tournament, the United States was an afterthought, with hockey fans expecting Sweden, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), Canada, and the powerhouse Soviet Union to dominate. After advancing past the two-game preliminary round and defeating the Czechs and Australians, the United States won all five of its final games. Their win over the Soviet Union secured them the Gold Medal, with the dominant effort against the Czechs being their curtain call for a 7-0 Olympic Tournament and first-ever American Ice Hockey Gold Medal.

2. 1980 Finland vs. United States Final Round Game – February 24th, 1980
United States 4, Finland 2
While the Miracle on Ice game did not clinch anything for the United States, this game gave the United States its second-ever Gold Medal (its first in 20 years), and left Finland without anything to show for their hard work and practice.

1. Miracle On Ice – February 22nd, 1980 – Lake Placid, New York
United States 4, Soviet Union 3
This is arguably the most famous game in United States hockey history and one of the most historic in the history of the Olympics. With the Americans led by Head Coach Herb Brooks, and said by many to not have a chance against the powerful Soviets, the U.S. shocked both fans and analysts alike with a shocking 4-3 win over the seemingly unbeatable Soviet Union. Down by two goals heading into the third period, the Americans, led by captain Mike Eruzione, scored two goals in the final frame to cap off a historic victory for American hockey on their way to their second-ever Gold Medal, and first in 20 years.

By Tyler Anderson

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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2 Responses to Top 20 Dates in United States Hockey History

  1. #1 and #2 gave me goosebumps

  2. Pingback: Capitals announce 2017-18 Promotional Calendar | NoVa Caps

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