Ice Hockey Wiki

The 1972-73 NHL season was the 56th season of the National Hockey League. Sixteen teams each played 78 games. For the first time since the collapse of the Western Hockey League in 1926, the National Hockey League had serious competition. A new professional hockey league, the World Hockey Association, made its season debut with 12 new teams, many of which were based in the same cities as NHL teams. Unlike the Western Hockey League, though, the new World Hockey Association would not challenge for the Stanley Cup. In response to the new league, the NHL hastily added two new teams in an unplanned expansion, the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames, in an attempt to exclude the WHA from newly constructed arenas in those markets. The first thing the WHA did was sign Bobby Hull, and the Chicago Black Hawks sued, claiming a violation of the reserve clause in NHL contracts. Others soon followed Hull to the WHA, including Bernie Parent, J.C. Tremblay, Ted Green, Gerry Cheevers and Johnny McKenzie. In the expansion draft, the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames made their picks and eleven Islander players skipped off to the WHA. The California Golden Seals were also a victim of the WHA, losing eight key players.

Prior to the start of the season, the 1972 Summit Series, which was the first ever meeting between Soviet Union and NHL calibre Canadian ice hockey players, took place. Canada expected to easily beat the Soviets, but were shocked to find themselves with a losing record of one win, two losses, and a tie after four games in Canada. In game four, which Canada lost 5-3, Vancouver fans echoed the rest of Canada's thoughts of Team Canada's poor performance by booing them off the ice. The final four games were played in the Soviet Union. Canada lost game five, but won the last three for a final record of four wins, three losses, and a tie.

The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup by beating the Chicago Black Hawks four games to two in the finals. No teams in the playoffs swept their opponents, the last time this would happen until 1991.

Regular Season

The Canadiens took over first place in the East Division and the league from the Boston Bruins while for the third straight season the Chicago Black Hawks dominated the West Division.

Final Standings

East Division
Montreal Canadiens 78 52 10 16 329 184 783 120
Boston Bruins 78 51 22 5 330 235 1097 107
New York Rangers 78 47 23 8 297 208 765 102
Buffalo Sabres 78 37 27 14 257 219 940 88
Detroit Red Wings 78 37 29 12 265 243 893 86
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 27 41 10 247 279 716 64
Vancouver Canucks 78 22 47 9 233 339 943 53
New York Islanders 78 12 60 6 170 347 881 30

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 42 27 9 284 225 93
Philadelphia Flyers 78 37 30 11 296 256 85
Minnesota North Stars 78 37 30 11 254 230 85
St. Louis Blues 78 32 34 12 233 251 76
Pittsburgh Penguins 78 32 37 9 257 265 73
Los Angeles Kings 78 31 36 11 232 245 73
Atlanta Flames 78 25 38 15 191 239 65
California Golden Seals 78 16 46 16 213 323 48

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 55 75 130 87
Bobby Clarke Philadelphia Flyers 78 37 67 104 80
Bobby Orr Boston Bruins 63 29 72 101 99
Rick MacLeish Philadelphia Flyers 78 50 50 100 69
Jacques Lemaire Montreal Canadiens 77 44 51 95 16
Jean Ratelle New York Rangers 78 41 53 94 12
Mickey Redmond Detroit Red Wings 76 52 41 93 24
John Bucyk Boston Bruins 78 40 53 93 12
Frank Mahovlich Montreal Canadiens 78 38 55 93 51
Jim Pappin Chicago Black Hawks 76 41 51 92 82

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
Ken Dryden Montreal Canadiens 54 3165 119 2.26 33 7 13 6
Gilles Villemure New York Rangers 34 2040 78 2.29 20 12 2 3
Tony Esposito Chicago Black Hawks 56 3340 140 2.51 32 17 7 4
Roy Edwards Detroit Red Wings 52 3012 132 2.63 27 17 7 6
Dave Dryden Buffalo Sabres 37 2018 89 2.65 14 13 7 3
Roger Crozier Buffalo Sabres 49 2633 121 2.76 23 13 7 3
Doug Favell Philadelphia Flyers 44 2419 114 2.83 20 15 4 3
Rogie Vachon L.A. Kings 53 3120 148 2.85 22 20 10 4
Cesare Maniago Minnesota North Stars 47 2736 132 2.89 21 18 6 5
Jim Rutherford Pittsburgh Penguins 49 2660 129 2.91 20 22 5 3

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Playoff Bracket

Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals
E1 Montreal Canadiens 4
E4 Buffalo Sabres 2
E1 Montreal Canadiens 4
W2 Philadelphia Flyers 1
W2 Philadelphia Flyers 4
W3 Minnesota North Stars 2
E1 Montreal Canadiens 4
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 2
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 4
W4 St. Louis Blues 1
W1 Chicago Black Hawks 4
E3 New York Rangers 1
E2 Boston Bruins 1
E3 New York Rangers 4

New York Rangers 4, Boston Bruins 1

The teams met the year before in the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals where the Bruins prevailed in six games. Rangers coach Emile Francis had watched game films of the Bruins and noticed that Bobby Orr was favoring his knee. Instead of trying to keep the puck away from Orr when shooting the puck in Boston's zone, Francis instructed his players to put the puck in Orr's corner and then forecheck him aggressively. Although he had played well in his short time with the Bruins, goalie Jacques Plante didn't hold up in this series. He was replaced with Eddie Johnston and Ross Brooks but all were outplayed by the Rangers Eddie Giacomin.

#8 Steve Vickers, Jacques Plante and Bobby Orr, 1973 Quarter-finals Game 1, April 4, 1973.

Game 1 at the Boston Garden saw Plante and Giacomin start in goal. The Bruins Doug Roberts and the Rangers Brad Park traded first period goals before Bruce MacGregor put New York up 2-1 at 7:25. The next shift, Ted Irvine targeted Orr and the two fought, both receiving seven penalty minutes. With Orr off, the Rangers scored three goals, Park with his second of the game and two goals from Walt Tkaczuk. With New York leading 5-1 heading into the third period, Pete Stemkowski and Derek Sanderson traded goals. Orr was held pointless as was Phil Esposito's line, which was badly outplayed by Tkaczuk's line, as the Rangers stunned the Bruins 6-2.

Phil Esposito suffers torn right knee ligaments and is lost for the playoffs, 1973 Quarter-finals Game 2, April 5, 1973.

Game 2 at Boston again saw Plante and Giacomin start in goal. The teams traded goals in the first period with Wayne Cashman and Steve Vickers scoring. Phil Esposito assisted on Cashman's goal which would be his only point of the series. In the second period, disaster struck the Bruins after the Rangers Ron Harris caught Esposito with a hip check, tearing Esposito's right knee ligaments and putting him out of the series. The Bruins then took two penalties in quick succession which the Rangers Ted Irvine and Pete Stemkowski scored on. Doug Roberts scored his second of the series to cut the Rangers lead to 3-2 heading into the third period. With Roberts in the penalty box, Walt Tkaczuk scored his third of the series. Orr was again held scoreless as the Rangers won 4-2 and took a two games to none lead with the series heading to New York.

Gregg Sheppard scores the game winner, 1973 Quarter-finals Game 3, April 7, 1973.

Game 3 at Madison Square Garden saw Plante replaced by Eddie Johnston in net for the Bruins. Reaching the end of his brilliant career, Plante played his last NHL match in Game 2. Derek Sanderson took Phil Esposito's place centering Wayne Cashman and Ken Hodge. The changes sparked the Bruins, who took a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Gregg Sheppard. Pete Stemkowski tied it up just before the first period ended. Boston's second line scored its first goal of the series as Fred Stanfield put the Bruins up 2-1 at 3:13 of the second period. Jean Ratelle tied it up at 6:12 of the third period, deflecting in a Dale Rolfe shot. Just past the halfway mark, Sheppard intercepted a Steve Vickers pass and scored his second of the game on a breakaway which proved to be the winner. Mike Walton scored an empty net goal as the Bruins won 4-2 behind a stellar performance by Johnston, despite New York out shooting Boston 37-27. Bobby Orr didn't have a point for the third straight game.

Steve Vickers makes it 4-0, 1973 Quarter-finals Game 4, April 8, 1973.

Game 4 at New York saw Johnston start again for Boston while Giacomin remained in the net for the Rangers. New York scored early as Brad Park led a 3 on 1 which ended with a tap-in by Rod Gilbert at 2:35 of the first period. At 16:30, after the Bruins twice failed to clear the puck from their zone, a Bruce MacGregor shot caromed off the boards to Pete Stemkowski who knocked it in the short side on Johnston for a 2-0 Rangers lead. In the second period, Bobby Rousseau beat Johnston with a slapshot while on a partial breakaway before Don Marcotte overskated the puck which resulted in Steve Vickers gaining the puck alone in front of Johnston. He fired a low shot past Johnston for a 4-0 Rangers lead. The third period was scoreless, even though Boston twice had a two man advantage. Despite being outshot 33-25, a brilliant defensive effort saw the Rangers take a three games to one stranglehold on the series. Giacomin earned the shutout, the first by a Ranger goalie in the playoffs since Chuck Rayner had one in the 1950 Semi-finals.

Bobby Orr scores, Game 5 of the 1973 Stanley Cup Quarter-finals, April 10, 1973.

Game 5 at Boston saw the desperate Bruins start Ross Brooks in goal for his only career playoff game while Giacomin started his fifth straight game. Steve Vickers scored on the first shift of the game but a little over a minute later, Bobby Orr evened the score with his only goal of the series. Ken Hodge gave Boston a 2-1 lead at 12:45 on the power play before Vickers and Bruce MacGregor scored two quick goals. Ed Johnston went in for Brooks to start the second period and held the Rangers at bay until the last minute when Walt Tkaczuk potted his fourth of the series. Rod Gilbert put New York up 5-2 at 4:10 of the third period until three minutes later, Don Marcotte cut the lead to 5-3. However, it was all the offense the Bruins could muster. Vickers completed his first career playoff hat trick as the Rangers won 6-3 and took the series.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 4 New York Rangers 6-2 Boston Bruins 1-0
2 April 5 New York Rangers 4-2 Boston Bruins 2-0
3 April 7 Boston Bruins 4-2 New York Rangers 1-2
4 April 8 Boston Bruins 0-4 New York Rangers 1-3
5 April 10 New York Rangers 6-3 Boston Bruins 4-1

NHL Awards

Prince of Wales Trophy: Montreal Canadiens
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Chicago Black Hawks
Art Ross Memorial Trophy: Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Lowell MacDonald, Pittsburgh Penguins
Calder Memorial Trophy: Steve Vickers, New York Rangers
Conn Smythe Trophy: Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy: Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo Sabres
Lester B. Pearson Award: Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
NHL Plus/Minus Award: Jacques Laperriere, Montreal Canadiens
Vezina Trophy: Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Lester Patrick Trophy: Walter L. Bush, Jr.

All-Star Teams

First Team   Position   Second Team
Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens G Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins D Brad Park, New York Rangers
Guy Lapointe, Montreal Canadiens D Bill White, Chicago Black Hawks
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins C Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers
Mickey Redmond, Detroit Red Wings RW Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Frank Mahovlich, Montreal Canadiens LW Dennis Hull, Chicago Black Hawks


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1972-73 (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 1972-73 (listed with their last team):



Eight minutes of the second period of the Atlanta Flames first ever game on October 8, 1972 versus the Buffalo Sabres.

Highlights of the Bruins-Islanders game on January 18, 1973.

Over eight minutes of highlights of the January 18, 1973 Canadiens-Penguins game.

Six minutes of highlights of the Buffalo Sabres last regular season game of the 1972-73 season in which they earn their first playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.

See Also


NHL Seasons

1968-69 | 1969-70 | 1970-71 | 1971-72 | 1972-73 | 1973-74 | 1974-75 | 1975-76 | 1976-77