The NHL and NHLPA have agreed upon a new CBA agreement, ending the lockout and on Jan. 19 the players will take the ice with their respective teams to kick off the shortened season.
The league has been through something like this before. Of course, we are talking about the lockout that occurred during the 1994-95 season and when settled, caused the league to have a 48-game regular season.
It is time to go back in our time machine and take a look at what happened that year from the lockout. From the lockout being settled, to interesting tidbits that happened during the season, to the interesting standings, to who won the awards at the end of year, including the Stanley Cup, it was certainly a season that was hard to forget.
Much like what just happened between the NHL and NHLPA, the lockout in 1994-95 was a long one.
The lockout began on October 4th, 1995 and went all the way until January 11th, 1995. The disagreement wiped out a total of 468 NHL games as well as the All-Star Game that was supposed to be played in San Jose.
Of course, before the settlement and much like what went on during this season’s lockout, there were several hiccups along the way. For starters, the NHL All-Star Game that was supposed to happen in San Jose was cancelled on Dec. 8 and a few days later, the owners authorized commissioner Gary Bettman to cancel the season.
However, and very similar to the lockout that just occurred, the owners then came back a few weeks later to say that in order for the season to not be wiped out, games must start no later than Jan. 16. This deadline helped get negotiations started once again on Jan. 3.
Eight days later, there was labour peace between the two sides and the game would be back on the ice. The league decided to implement a 48-game regular season schedule, which commenced on Jan. 20 and saw teams only play against clubs within their Conference.
Once the season began, it was a whirlwind and one that provided great, interesting and exciting hockey.
Organizational and league stuff
- The 1994-95 season would mark the last time the Quebec Nordiques would ever play in Quebec. The organization announced that it would move to Denver, Colorado and become the Colorado Avalanche.
- This season also marked the first time that the league was going to be televised by Fox. How can anyone forget the glow puck or the robots?
- For starters, the 1994-95 season was one in which the league saw some team’s arenas come to an end.
The Boston Bruins played their last season at the Boston Garden and the Vancouver Canucks played their final season at the Pacific Coliseum. At the other end, both the Chicago Blackhawks (United Center) and St. Louis Blues (Kiel Center) opened their new arenas.
- This lockout season also marked the first and so far only time that an NHL regular season extended into the month of May. Officially, the regular season began on Jan. 20 and went all the way until May 3.
- This season was also the start of several notable NHLers careers. Players such as Peter Forsberg (Quebec Nordiques), Sergei Gonchar (Washington Capitals), Paul Kariya (Anaheim Mighty Ducks), and Nikolai Khabibulin (Winnipeg Jets) all made their NHL debuts.
- At the other end of the spectrum, this season saw the last of several veteran NHLers including Dirk Graham (Chicago Blackhawks), Mark Howe (Detroit Red Wings), Steve Larmer (New York Rangers), Mats Naslund (Boston Bruins) and Peter Stastny (St. Louis Blues).
- The first lockout shortened season also included a game that was postponed. On Mar. 10, a game between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks was cancelled because the Guadalupe River flooded, which made it close to impossible for the two teams to get to the San Jose Arena.
Interesting names moved around before and at the trading deadline
Due to the shortened season, the NHL’s Trade deadline was pushed back a month or so from when it usually took place. For this particular season, the deadline happened on Apr. 7.
There were several interesting trades that occurred before or at the deadline:
- The Montreal Canadiens acquired both Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov from the New York Islanders while they sent Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schenider and Craig Darby the other way.
- Russ Courtnall was traded by the Dallas Stars to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Greg Adams and Dan Kesa.
- The New York Rangers traded Glen Featherstone, Michael Stewart, 1995 first round draft pick (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) and a 1996 fourth round draft pick (Steve Wasylko) to the Hartford Whalers in exchange for Pat Verbeek.
Fascinating NHL standings
Going into the 1994-95 season, many in the hockey world expected the New York Rangers to play like the Stanley Cup champions that they were in 1994.
Unfortunately, these people were more than likely disappointed because the Blueshirts had an extremely inconsistent shortened season. The team finished eighth in the Eastern Conference and clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season by beating the Philadelphia Flyers at the Spectrum in early May.
Speaking of the Flyers, who were led by their franchise player Eric Lindros, the team managed to make the postseason for the first time since 1988 and also won their first division title since 1987. It also marked the return of Ron Hextall between the pipes.
Another team in the Eastern Conference who clinched a playoff spot after not making it the season before was the Quebec Nordiques. In their last season in Quebec, the team surprised many and was the top seed in the East with 65 points and second in the league behind the Detroit Red Wings (70 points).
The rest of the top eight in the Eastern Conference featured the usual suspects. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins (third seed), Boston Bruins (fourth seed), New Jersey Devils (fifth seed), Washington Capitals (sixth seed) and Buffalo Sabres all made the postseason for the second consecutive year.
In the Western Conference, things were extremely tight when it came to making the postseason. It was clear that the Detroit Red Wings were the class of the Western Conference as they finished the season as the top seed with 70 points.
Following the Red Wings, things were not as clear. The Calgary Flames (55 points) finished as the number two seed and were followed by the St. Louis Blues (61 points), Chicago Blackhawks (53 points), Toronto Maple Leafs (50 points), Vancouver Canucks (48 points), San Jose Sharks (42 points) and the Dallas Stars (42 points).
What was also interesting was that for the first time since the 1969-70 season, the Montreal Canadiens did not make the postseason. The team struggled to an 18-23-7 record and finished 11th in the Eastern Conference.
First round upsets aplenty in the Stanley Cup Playoffs
With teams being so close in the standings, it should come as no surprise that there were several upsets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
For starters, the eighth-seeded New York Rangers knocked the top-seeded Quebec Nordiques out of the first round in six games. It was a bittersweet finish for the Nordiques as it was their last season in Quebec but a new beginning was on the horizon.
The New Jersey Devils, who were the fifth seed, beat the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins in five games. It was an incredibly low-scoring series and for the Boston Bruins, it was their last postseason game in the Boston Garden.
In the Western Conference, the second seeded Calgary Flames were upended by the surprising seventh-seeded San Jose Sharks in seven games. It was the second straight season that the Sharks made the postseason and knocked out one of the top seeds in their Conference.
Another upset occurred when the sixth seeded Vancouver Canucks beat the third seeded St. Louis Blues in seven games. The Canucks were doing everything they can to try and outdo last year’s run to the Stanley Cup final.
Rivalries highlight the Conference Finals
When two rivals meet each other in the postseason, there is nothing like it.
The games are exciting, there are great goals, hits, saves and every game means something. This was the case in both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals in the shortened season.
In the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils played won a gruelling six-game series over the Philadelphia Flyers. After falling one goal short of making the Cup Final in 1994, the Devils were headed there for the first time in franchise history.
In the Western Conference, the Detroit Red Wings faced their long-time Original Six rival the Chicago Blackhawks. While Blackhawks’ goaltender Ed Belfour was nothing short of outstanding, his team would lose to the Red Wings in five games as the Red Wings were headed to the Cup final for the first time since 1966.
Devils sweep Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final
Going into the Stanley Cup final, the Detroit Red Wings had dominated from the start of the regular season and rode that success to the final where they were heavily favoured to beat the New Jersey Devils.
Boy, were the Red Wings surprised on a late June night when the Devils wrapped up the series in style by sweeping the best team in the league. The Devils’ trap and Martin Brodeur were simply brilliant in stymieing the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Paul Coffey, Dino Ciccarelli, Kieth Primeau and Ray Sheppard and proved to the league that a good defensive system can overcome any high-powered offence.
For his strong and consistent play throughout the entire postseason, New Jersey Devils’ forward Claude Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lemieux finished the post season with 16 points (13 goals and 3 assists).
Season ending awards
Instead of being held in June, the league’s annual awards were given out in the month of July on July 6.
- Art Ross Trophy (League’s Top Scorer)
The NHL’s leading point scorer in the strike shortened season was Pittsburgh Penguins’ superstar Jaromir Jagr. Jagr finished the season with 32 goals and 38 assists for 70 points in 48 games.
Believe it or not, Eric Lindros finished with the same amount of points (29 goals and 41 assists) as Jagr but the award went to Jagr because he had more goals.
- Hart Memorial Trophy (League’s Most Valuable Player)
Eric Lindros would have the last laugh as he would go onto win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Lindros led the team in points (70) and helped his team get into the postseason for the first time since 1988.
- Lester B. Pearson (League’s Most Valuable Player as voted by the Players)
Eric Lindros managed to win this award as well. Without Lindros, the Philadelphia Flyers would have been a much easier team to play against and NHLers knew that.
- Vezina Trophy (League’s Best Goaltender)
For the second straight year, Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Dominik Hasek was awarded the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best netminder. That season, Hasek went 19-14-7 with a 2.11 GAA, a .930 save percentage and five shutouts.
- James Norris Memorial Trophy (League’s Best Defenceman)
At the end of the 1994-95 season, Detroit Red Wings’ defenceman Paul Coffey was awarded the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman for the third time in his career. In the shortened season, Coffey led the Wings in scoring with 58 points (14 goals and 44 assists) in 45 games.
- Calder Memorial Trophy (League’s Best Rookie)
Peter Forsberg burst onto the NHL scene in the shortened 1994-95 season and captured the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Forsberg finished the season with 50 points (15 goals and 35 assists).
- Frank J. Selke Award (League’s Top Defensive Forward)
While Ron Francis certainly had a solid number of points in 1994-95 (11 goals and 48 assists for 59 points), he was also the league’s best defensive forward and won the Frank J. Selke Award. Francis led the league with a +30.
- Jack Adams Award (League’s Best Head Coach)
In his first year as an NHL head coach, Quebec Nordiques’ bench boss Marc Crawford won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s best coach. Crawford led his team to the top seed in the Eastern Conference with 65 points and a second place finish in the entire league.
It was great hockey
Recently, Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail wrote a piece on the 1994-95 shortened season.
In this piece, Duhatschek, a member of the media wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame the Hall of Fame, spoke to several members of the hockey world who were in the league that season and what it was like to experience a 48-game regular season. Here is what CBC Hockey commentator and former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey said about the shortened season:
“But it was also the best hockey I’ve ever been a part of,” insisted Kelly Hrudey, who played goal for the Los Angeles Kings that year and is now an analyst for Hockey Night in Canada. “It was awesome. It was an amazing sprint from start to finish.
“Training camp was only three or four days long and I remember vividly being really scared during the first practice because as a goalie, I felt way behind everybody else, and knowing there wasn’t much time to get ready. We tied the first game 3-3 with the Toronto Maple Leafs in L.A. and I let in one, maybe two, ordinary goals. I think it was the next day that (coach) Barry Melrose came and talked to me about it. He said, ‘Unfortunately, in a 48-game schedule, with only intraconference games, we really can’t afford that.’
“It was amazing to feel that sort of pressure that quickly in a season. Every game was just so important.”