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The 1970-71 NHL season was the 54th season of the National Hockey League. Fourteen teams each played 78 games (six games against each opponent). Two new teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks made their debuts and were both put into the East Division. The Chicago Black Hawks were moved to the West Division. Prior to the start of the season, the Oakland Seals were renamed California Golden Seals. The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup by beating the Black Hawks in seven games in the finals. From this season through the 2002-03 season, teams wore their white (or yellow) jerseys at home and their dark jerseys on the road.

A new award for the most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHL Players Association, the Lester B. Pearson Award, was introduced this season and the first winner was Phil Esposito.

Regular Season

Phil Esposito breaks the record for goals in a season with his 59th, March 11, 1971.

This season saw a marked increase in goal scoring, especially by the Boston Bruins, who shattered dozens of scoring records as they set the mark for most goals by a team (399) by nearly a hundred over the previous record holder. They also set records for most victories (57) and points (121). Phil Esposito set records for most goals in a season with 76 and for most points with 152. Defenceman Bobby Orr won his second consecutive Hart Trophy and set a new record for assists with 102. The Bruins also had the four league leading scorers, the first time in history this was achieved (the only other time being by the Bruins in 1974), and seven of the top ten leading scorers, the only time in NHL history this has ever been achieved.

Phil Esposito scores his 72nd goal, April 3, 1971.

Boston won the East Division championship in a runaway. In the West Division, the powerful Chicago Black Hawks had been moved there partially to accommodate the expansion Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks (both of which were placed in the East Division) but more in an effort to provide greater balance between the divisions. Chicago broke St. Louis' stranglehold over the division, winning handily over the Blues and advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.

The Montreal Canadiens, who missed the playoffs in 1969-70, appeared to be sinking once more. Players did not like Claude Ruel's dictatorial rule as coach, and Ralph Backstrom and John Ferguson retired. Ruel resigned and Al MacNeil took over. Both Ferguson and Backstrom returned, but Backstrom was later traded to Los Angeles for draft choices.

Canadiens fight fans at Boston Garden, November 8, 1970.

The first meeting of the season between the Boston Bruins and the Canadiens on November 8 saw plenty of rough play. Eleven penalties were called in the first 19 minutes of the first period. With the Bruins leading 3-1, a wild melee broke out in the last minute that turned into a bench-clearing brawl. With multiple fights going on, Derek Sanderson and Claude Larose got into it on the Canadiens bench. Fans got involved in the fight which the police rushed to stop. Incensed, more Montreal players waded into the crowd, throwing punches. Police restored order and amazingly, no misconduct penalties were assessed. Each team received three fighting majors and in the penalty-free second period, Dallas Smith made it 4-1 Bruins, resulting in Rogatien Vachon being pulled. Boston added two more in the third period for a 6-1 drubbing in which Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito both had three points.

The Vancouver Canucks played well at first and were around the .500 mark at mid-season. Then Orland Kurtenbach was injured and the team sagged.

On October 29th, Gordie Howe became the first player to record 1000 assists in a 5-3 win over Boston at the Detroit Olympia. Detroit introduced a fine rookie goaltender, Jim Rutherford, who had bright moments despite the Red Wings last place finish. However, they suffered their worst defeat in franchise history January 2nd, when Toronto crushed them 13-0.

Jean Béliveau on Ted Green Night, January 24, 1971.

Before the January 24 Boston-Montreal game, "Ted Green Night" was celebrated. With Green's family present, including his three young children, he was showered with gifts and tributes including a new car, an addition to his home and a plaque from Canadiens captain Jean Béliveau. Green spoke and was extremely emotional, thankful for being able to return from the horrific skull injury inflicted upon him in the 1969-70 pre-season. Fittingly, the Bruins defeated the Habs 4-2.

On March 12th, Boston's Phil Esposito broke Bobby Hull's record for goals by a player in a season at 7:03 of the first period on Denis DeJordy of Los Angeles at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Then, at 15:40 he became the first player to score 60 goals. The Bruins won 7-2.

Buffalo had a star, Gilbert Perreault, who on March 18th broke Nels Stewart's (and Danny Grant's, and Norm Ferguson's) rookie record with his 35th goal in a 5-3 win over St. Louis. He went on to finish the season with 38.

Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger, now middle-aged, were finally forgiven for their gambling in 1948 and were reinstated to the NHL. However, they did not return to the NHL.

Bobby Orr's 100th assist on Ken Hodge's goal, April 3, 1971.

Boston wrapped up the regular season with a 7-2 win over Montreal on April 4 in which the Canadiens Phil Myre manned the net. Esposito had a hat trick and an assist for 76 goals and 76 assists total. Orr picked up two assists for 102 on the season. The Bruins set an NHL record by having 10 different skaters score 20 goals or more in a season.[1] Boston also had the top four league leading scorers, the first time in history this was achieved (the only other time being by the Bruins in the 1973-74 season), and seven of the top ten leading scorers, the only time in NHL history this has ever been achieved. Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, John Bucyk and Ken Hodge all made the First All-Star Team while Bucyk won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Esposito the Art Ross Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award and Orr the James Norris Memorial Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP.

Final Standings

East Division
Team GP W L T GF GA Pts
Boston Bruins 78 57 14 7 399 207 121
New York Rangers 78 49 18 11 259 177 109
Montreal Canadiens 78 42 23 13 291 216 97
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 37 33 8 248 211 82
Buffalo Sabres 78 24 39 15 217 291 63
Vancouver Canucks 78 24 16 8 229 296 56
Detroit Red Wings 78 22 45 11 209 308 55

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

West Division
Chicago Black Hawks 78 49 20 9 277 184 107
St. Louis Blues 78 34 25 19 223 208 87
Philadelphia Flyers 78 28 33 17 207 225 73
Minnesota North Stars 78 28 34 16 191 223 72
Los Angeles Kings 78 25 40 13 239 303 63
Pittsburgh Penguins 78 21 37 20 221 240 62
California Golden Seals 78 20 53 5 199 320 45

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Scoring Leaders

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Phil Esposito Boston Bruins 78 76 76 152 71
Bobby Orr Boston Bruins 78 37 102 139 91
John Bucyk Boston Bruins 78 51 65 116 8
Ken Hodge Boston Bruins 78 43 62 105 113
Bobby Hull Chicago Black Hawks 78 44 52 96 32
Norm Ullman Toronto Maple Leafs 73 34 51 85 24
Wayne Cashman Boston Bruins 77 21 58 79 100
John McKenzie Boston Bruins 65 31 46 77 120
Dave Keon Toronto Maple Leafs 76 38 38 76 4
Jean Beliveau Montreal Canadiens 70 25 51 76 40
Fred Stanfield Boston Bruins 75 24 52 76 12

Leading Goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP MIN GA GAA W L T SO
Jacques Plante Toronto Maple Leafs 40 2329 73 1.88 24 11 4 4
Eddie Giacomin New York Rangers 45 2641 95 2.16 27 10 7 8
Tony Esposito Chicago Black Hawks 57 3325 126 2.27 35 14 6 6
Gilles Villemure New York Rangers 34 2039 78 2.30 22 8 4 4
Glenn Hall St. Louis Blues 32 1761 71 2.42 13 11 8 2
Gump Worsley Minnesota North Stars 24 1369 57 2.50 4 10 8 0
Eddie Johnston Boston Bruins 38 2280 96 2.53 30 6 2 4
Rogie Vachon Montreal Canadiens 47 2676 118 2.64 23 12 9 2
Doug Favell Philadelphia Flyers 44 2434 108 2.66 16 15 9 2
Cesare Maniago Minnesota North Stars 40 2380 107 2.70 19 15 6 5

Stanley Cup Playoffs

A significant controversy arose before the playoffs, where the Minnesota North Stars - having had a substantial lead for third place in the West over the Philadelphia Flyers - lost several games in a row to finish in 4th place by a single point. It was widely rumored that they did so to avoid playing the far superior Chicago Black Hawks, since at this time in the playoffs the first place team played the third place team and the second played the fourth. Nothing was proven against the North Stars (who defeated their first round opponents, St. Louis, four games to two, while the Flyers were swept by the powerful Black Hawks), but the format was changed the following year to the 1-4/2-3 format that prevailed thereafter.

New York beat Toronto, but Bobby Hull and the Chicago Black Hawks were just too much for the Rangers and the Black Hawks advanced to the finals in seven games. Hull won two games with goals on face-offs, despite Glen Sather's coverage of him.

Playoff Bracket

Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals
E1 Boston Bruins 3
E3 Montreal Canadiens 4
E3 Montreal Canadiens 4
W4 Minnesota North Stars 2
W2 St. Louis Blues 2
W4 Minnesota North Stars 4
E3 Montreal Canadiens 4
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 3
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 4
W3 Philadelphia Flyers 0
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 4
E2 New York Rangers 3
E2 New York Rangers 4
E4 Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Montreal Canadiens 4, Boston Bruins 3

The Bruins and Canadiens faced each other in the playoffs for the fifteenth time, having last met in the 1969 Semi-finals where Montreal won in six games. Having shattered nearly ever team record in the regular season, the Bruins were heavy favorites to take the series. A comeback from a four goal deficit in Game 2 led by Jean Béliveau and outstanding goaltending by rookie Ken Dryden in several games resulted in Montreal upsetting Boston four games to three.

Bobby Orr opens the scoring, Game 1 of the 1971 Quarter-finals, April 7, 1971.

Game 1 at the Boston Garden saw Gerry Cheevers start in goal for the Bruins and Ken Dryden for the Canadiens. Boston soundly beat Montreal 7-2 in the last game of the regular season with Phil Myre in net so the Habs turned to Dryden, despite him only having played six NHL games. The game was a goaltenders duel which Cheevers won, stopping 30 shots to Dryden's 39. Bobby Orr opened the scoring with a precise slapshot from the point at 3:57 of the first period on the power play. Montreal responded with a power play goal of their own by John Ferguson early in the second period. Wayne Cashman scored the game winner near the halfway point of the period before Fred Stanfield added an insurance goal at 8:47 of the third period as the Bruins won 3-1.

Wayne Cashman from Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, Game 2 of the 1971 Quarter-finals, April 8, 1971.

Game 2 at Boston saw Bruins coach Tom Johnson start Eddie Johnston in net. Given Cheevers' excellent performance in Game 1, many questioned the move, especially after Montreal executed one of the largest comebacks in NHL playoff history. After Yvan Cournoyer scored at 3:32 of the first period, Bobby Orr tied it up a minute later with a one-timer slapshot from the slot. Ted Green made it 2-1 Bruins in the next minute on a give and go with Ken Hodge. In the second period, Boston broke the game open with goals by John McKenzie, Wayne Cashman and Derek Sanderson, all of which Orr assisted on. Before the period ended, Henri Richard stripped Orr of the puck at the Boston blueline and deked Johnston to make it 5-2 Bruins. Jean Beliveau poked in a rebound on the power play early in the third period before scoring his second goal at little over a minute later to make it 5-4 Bruins. At 9:59, Ken Hodge's weak pass back to the point was picked off by Jacques Lemaire who scored on a breakaway to tie the game. John Ferguson gave Montreal the lead with a close-in one-timer before Frank Mahovlich scored on a breakaway to give the Canadiens a shocking 7-5 win. Ed Johnston couldn't be faulted for any of the goals against. Loose defensive coverage, especially by Derek Sanderson's line, who were a combined -10, resulted in the loss.

Game 3 at the Montreal Forum was a tight-checking match filled with penalties, 17 total were called. Despite the many manpower advantages, no power play goals were scored. Cheevers was back in the net for the Bruins but he was outplayed by Dryden who faced 38 shots. After Phil Esposito opened the scoring 29 seconds in, the parade to the penalty box started, which included a fight between Ted Green and Peter Mahovlich. Frank Mahovlich tied the score 4:04 into the second period before Jacques Laperriere put Montreal ahead at 12:05. Boston had several power plays after Laperriere's goal but couldn't take advantage. No power plays resulted in the third period in which Frank Mahovlich scored his second of the game to give Montreal a 3-1 victory and a two games to one lead in the series.

First goal of Bobby Orr's hat trick, Game 4 of the 1971 Quarter-finals, April 11, 1971.

Game 4 at Montreal saw Bobby Orr give one of his best single game performances. As with Game 3, the first two periods were filled with penalties, with 19 called. Frank Mahovlich scored the only goal of the first period, on the power play at 5:30. Orr tied the game at 11:01 of the second period on an amazing play. Dryden came out of the net and poked the puck into the corner, which caromed into the air parallel to the goal line. Orr swatted the puck mid-air, which bounced through Dryden's legs, hit the post and went in. Mike Walton put the Bruins up 2-1 on the power play late in the period. In the third period, Orr's one-timer from the point made it 3-1 Boston, 37 seconds in. Yvan Cournoyer made it close at 6:13 but Fred Stanfield scored an insurance goal at 17:21. With Don Awrey in the box for the only penalty of the third period, Montreal pulled Dryden for an extra attacker. Orr scored a short handed, empty net goal with 3 seconds left to seal Boston's 5-2 win. His Hat trick was only the second in NHL playoff history by a defenseman to that point, George Boucher having scored the first in the 1921 NHL Championship.

Ed Westfall's short handed goal from Bobby Orr, Game 5 of the 1971 Quarter-finals, April 13, 1971.

Game 5 at Boston was dominated by the Bruins, driven by another great performance from Bobby Orr. Wayne Cashman opened the scoring in the game's first minute before Yvan Cournoyer tied it up at 5:38. Orr then assisted on goals by Phil Esposito and Mike Walton. In the second period, John McKenzie staked Boston to a 4-1 lead before taking a penalty at 16:59. Orr grabbed the puck in the neutral zone, rushed around the Habs net and fed a backhand to Ed Westfall who scored a shorthanded goal to make it 5-1 Bruins. Goals by Frank Mahovlich and John Ferguson early in the third period cut the lead to 5-3. Unlike Game 2, the Bruins prevented a comeback with the first goals of the series from John Bucyk and Ken Hodge. Boston's 7-3 win saw them out shoot Montreal by a wide margin, 56-27, and take a three games to two lead in the series.

Game 6 at Montreal was the only game the Canadiens dominated in the series as they out shot the Bruins 43-32. Montreal goals by Peter Mahovlich and Henri Richard were countered by Phil Esposito and Fred Stanfield as the game reached the halfway mark. Montreal broke the game open with goals by Jacques Lemaire, J.C. Tremblay and then Richard and Mahovlich's second goals of the game. Derek Sanderson got one back with less than four minutes to go in the game before Marc Tardif and Jacques Laperriere completed the 8-3 rout and tied the series at three games each.

Game 7 at Boston saw Ken Dryden play his best game of the series as the Bruins out shot the Canadiens 48-34. Ken Hodge opened the scoring at 6:50 of the first period after picking off a clearing pass and firing a shot past Dryden's glove. At 14:48, Frank Mahovlich knocked a pass out of mid-air past Cheevers to tie the game before Réjean Houle scored his first career playoff goal by tipping in a Peter Mahovlich slapshot. J.C. Tremblay scored the only goal of the second period, firing a shot over Cheever's glove. Frank Mahovlich scored 14 seconds into the third period after Jacques Lemaire stripped Orr of the puck at the Bruins blueline. Fred Stanfield cut the lead to 4-2 less than a minute later but despite peppering Dryden with shots, the Canadiens held on for a 4-2 win to take the series.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 7 Montreal Canadiens 1-3 Boston Bruins 0-1
2 April 8 Montreal Canadiens 7-5 Boston Bruins 1-1
3 April 10 Boston Bruins 1-3 Montreal Canadiens 1-2
4 April 11 Boston Bruins 5-2 Montreal Canadiens 2-2
5 April 13 Montreal Canadiens 3-7 Boston Bruins 2-3
6 April 15 Boston Bruins 3-8 Montreal Canadiens 3-3
7 April 18 Montreal Canadiens 4-2 Boston Bruins 4-3

Chicago Black Hawks 4, Philadelphia Flyers 0

The Hawks opened the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers, who had a record of 28-33-17, earning 73 points, while placing third in the West Division. The series opened with two games at Chicago Stadium, and the Black Hawks, who won a club record 30 games at home, continued their dominance, easily defeating the Flyers 5-2 and 6-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. The series moved to the Philadelphia Spectrum for the next two games, however, the Hawks were too much to handle for the Flyers, as Chicago won a close third game by a 3-2 score, before sweeping Philadelphia out of the playoffs with a 6-2 win in the fourth game.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 7 Philadelphia Flyers 2–5 Chicago Black Hawks 1-0
2 April 8 Philadelphia Flyers 2–6 Chicago Black Hawks 2-0
3 April 10 Chicago Black Hawks 3–2 Philadelphia Flyers 3-0
4 April 11 Chicago Black Hawks 6–2 Philadelphia Flyers 4-0

Montreal Canadiens 4, Minnesota North Stars 2

No. R Date Score Opponent Record
1 W April 20, 1971 7–2 Minnesota North Stars 1–0
2 L April 22, 1971 3–6 Minnesota 1–1
3 W April 24, 1971 6–3 @ Minnesota 2–1
4 L April 25, 1971 2–5 @ Minnesota 2–2
5 W April 27, 1971 6–1 Minnesota 3–0
6 W April 29, 1971 3–2 @ Minnesota 4–2

Chicago Black Hawks 4, New York Rangers 3

Bobby Hull scores the overtime winner, Game 5 of the 1971 Semi-finals, April 27, 1971.

Chicago's next opponent was the New York Rangers, who had finished the season with a 49-18-11 record, earning 109 points, and a second place finish in the East Division. The Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first playoff series. Since the Black Hawks won their division, they were given home ice advantage in the series. The series opened up with two games at Chicago Stadium, however, the Rangers took a 1-0 series lead, defeating the Hawks in overtime by a 2-1 score. Chicago evened the series in the next game, shutting out New York 3-0. The series shifted to Madison Square Garden for the next two games, and the Rangers won the third game of the series by a 4-1 score, however, Chicago fought back in the fourth game, demolishing New York 7-1 to once again even the series. The fifth game was back in Chicago, and the Hawks took the series lead for the first time with a 3-2 overtime victory. Back in New York for the sixth game, the Rangers would push the series to the limit, with their second overtime victory of the series, setting up a seventh and deciding game in Chicago. The Black Hawks used their home ice advantage, and held on for a 4-2 victory, to win the series, and earn their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1965.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 18 New York Rangers 2–1 (OT) Chicago Black Hawks 0-1
2 April 20 New York Rangers 0–3 Chicago Black Hawks 1-1
3 April 22 Chicago Black Hawks 1–4 New York Rangers 1-2
4 April 25 Chicago Black Hawks 7–1 New York Rangers 2-2
5 April 27 New York Rangers 2–3 (OT) Chicago Black Hawks 3-2
6 April 29 Chicago Black Hawks 2–3 (3OT) New York Rangers 3-3
7 May 2 New York Rangers 2–4 Chicago Black Hawks 4-3

Montreal Canadiens 4, Chicago Black Hawks 3

see 1971 Stanley Cup Finals

The 1971 Stanley Cup finals were played by the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Black Hawks. The series went the full seven games, with the Canadiens winning in Chicago despite trailing 2-0 halfway into the second period of game seven. Jacques Lemaire took a shot from centre ice that miraculously escaped goaltender Tony Esposito's notice, cutting the Black Hawks' lead to 2-1. Henri Richard tied the game just before the end of the second period, and scored again 2:34 into the third, giving the Habs the lead. Montreal goalie Ken Dryden kept Chicago off the board for the rest of the game, and the Habs won their third Stanley Cup in four years. It was the final game for Canadien superstar and captain Jean Beliveau, who retired after the season. It was Al MacNeil's final game as Montreal coach. After he had benched Richard for Game 5, The Pocket Rocket declared that "[MacNeil] is the worst coach I ever played for!"[2] Although Richard retracted his "angry comment", as he called it, MacNeil still resigned.

NHL Awards

Prince of Wales Trophy: Boston Bruins
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Chicago Black Hawks
Art Ross Memorial Trophy: Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Calder Memorial Trophy: Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo Sabres
Conn Smythe Trophy: Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins
Lester B. Pearson Award: Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
NHL Plus/Minus Award: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy: Eddie Giacomin & Gilles Villemure, New York Rangers
Lester Patrick Trophy: William M. Jennings, John B. Sollenberger, Terrance G. Sawchuk

All-Star Teams

First Team   Position   Second Team
Ed Giacomin, New York Rangers G Jacques Plante, Toronto Maple Leafs
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins D Brad Park, New York Rangers
J.C. Tremblay, Montreal Canadiens D Pat Stapleton, Chicago Black Hawks
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins C Dave Keon, Toronto Maple Leafs
Ken Hodge, Boston Bruins RW Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins LW Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1970-71 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last Games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1970-71 (listed with their last team):



Film of the Sabres inaugural season including the 1970 NHL Expansion Draft and 1970 NHL Amateur Draft and many interviews. Footage of the Sabres first exhibition game (against the Rangers), a game versus Montreal, Toronto on November 18, 1970 (featuring Leafs goalie Murray McLachlan in one of his two NHL games), Detroit on February 20, 1971, Boston on February 23, Chicago on March 5, St. Louis on March 18 (Gilbert Perreault breaks the record for most goals by a rookie), Vancouver on March 26, 1971.

Video of the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 7, 1970.

Five minutes of coverage of the Bruins-Canadiens bench-clearing brawl during the last minute of the first period, November 8, 1970.

The first half of the Bruins-Leafs game on November 14, 1970.

The second half of the Bruins-Leafs game on November 14, 1970.

The Bruins set the record for the fastest three goals, scored in 20 seconds versus the Vancouver Canucks, February 25, 1971.

Highlights of the goals from the Bruins-Canadiens Game 2 of the 1971 Quarter-finals on April 8, 1971.

Highlights from the Bruins-Canadiens Game 7, Canadiens-North Stars Game 6 and Canadiens-Black Hawks Game 7 from the 1971 Stanley Cup playoffs.

See Also


  1. National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book 2006, p.174, Dan Diamond & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-920445-98-5
  2. Henri Richard. Retrieved on 2006-11-15. “In the 1971 Stanley Cup finals he was reported to have called his coach, Al MacNeil, the worst coach he had ever played under in the NHL.”

NHL Seasons

1966-67 | 1967-68 | 1968-69 | 1969-70 | 1970-71 | 1971-72 | 1972-73 | 1973-74 | 1974-75