1969–70 NHL season

The 1969–70 NHL season was the 53rd season of the National Hockey League. For the third straight season, the St. Louis Blues reached the Stanley Cup finals, and for the third straight year, the winners of the expansion West Division were swept four games to none. This time, however, it was at the hands of the Boston Bruins, as the defending champions Montreal Canadiens narrowly missed the playoffs, something that did not happen again for the next quarter century. With both the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs missing the 1970 Stanley Cup playoffs, it was the first time in league history that neither of the NHL's two Canadian teams (at the time) qualified for the playoffs (something that has happened only once since, in 2016, when all of the league's then seven Canadian teams missed the playoffs). It was also the final season that teams wore their colored jerseys at home until the 2003–04 season.

1969–70 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 11, 1969 – May 10, 1970
Number of games76
Number of teams12
Top draft pickRejean Houle
Picked byMontreal Canadiens
Regular season
Season championsChicago Black Hawks
Season MVPBobby Orr (Bruins)
Top scorerBobby Orr (Bruins)
Playoffs MVPBobby Orr (Bruins)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsBoston Bruins
  Runners-upSt. Louis Blues

Regular season

Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins became the first (and as of 2019, the only) defenseman in NHL history to win the league scoring championship. He did it by setting a new record for assists with 87 and totalling 120 points, only six shy of the point record set the previous season by teammate Phil Esposito. Along the way, he also won the Norris Trophy for the third straight year as the top defenseman, the Hart Trophy for league MVP, and the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoff MVP, being the only player in the NHL to win four individual awards.

Gordie Howe finished the season within the ten leading NHL point scorers for an all-time record of 21 consecutive seasons; it was the final season he did so.

For the third straight season, the St. Louis Blues easily won the West Division, being the only team in the division to have a winning record.

The East Division, however, saw a temporary changing of the guard, as Montreal dropped from first the previous season to fifth, missing the playoffs on the total goals scored tie-breaker with the New York Rangers. The Rangers were in first place for a time, but injuries on the blueline doomed any hope of a first-place finish, and they even obtained Tim Horton in desperation. It was the only season Montreal failed to make the playoffs between 1948 and 1995, and as the Toronto Maple Leafs also failed to make the postseason, this was the first playoffs in NHL history to feature no Canadian teams. (The next time it happened was 2015–2016.) These developments were instrumental in the decision to move Chicago to the West Division in conjunction with the 1970 expansion, and the adoption of "crossover" playoff series between East and West Division teams the following season. The division crossover kept the newer expansion teams out of the Stanley Cup final for the next three seasons.

The Bruins and the Black Hawks both tied for the lead in the East (and entire league) with 99 points, but Chicago was awarded first place because they had more wins. It was Chicago's second first-place finish in Black Hawk history (the first being 1966–67).

Canadiens/Rangers tiebreaker

The last two playoff berths in the East Division were contested by three teams entering the final weekend of the season. The Detroit Red Wings were in third place with 93 standings points, followed by the Montreal Canadiens with 92 and the New York Rangers with 90.[1] All three were scheduled to play home-and-home contests on April 4 and 5, with the Red Wings and Rangers facing each other and the Canadiens going up against the first-place Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings captured the third seed with a 6–2 win over the Rangers at the Olympia on Saturday night. The Canadiens needed just one victory to clinch the fourth and final berth, but failed to do so in a simultaneous 4–1 loss to the Blackhawks at the Montreal Forum.

That set up the scenario in which a New York win and a Montreal loss would give each team identical 38–22–16 records. At that time, the next tiebreaker was goals scored in which the Canadiens held a 242–237 advantage before action on April 5. The Rangers also had to outscore the Canadiens by at least five goals in order to qualify for the postseason.[2]

The Rangers and Red Wings were scheduled to play a nationally televised 2 pm ET Sunday match at Madison Square Garden. Roy Edwards was supposed to have been Detroit's starting goaltender, but his "headaches and chest pains" forced coach Sid Abel to press Roger Crozier back into service for the second time in 18 hours. The Rangers peppered Crozier with a franchise-record 65 shots on goal en route to a 9–5 triumph and a four-goal lead over Montreal. New York coach Emile Francis even replaced his goalie Eddie Giacomin with an extra attacker when the score reached 9–3, but it only resulted in a pair of empty-net goals for the Red Wings.[2]

Later that evening at the Chicago Stadium, the Canadiens either had to win or score at least five goals in defeat, but were up against a Blackhawks team needing a victory to clinch top seed in the divisional playoffs. With Montreal trailing 5–2 and desperate for three more goals with 9:16 remaining in the third period, coach Claude Ruel pulled his netminder Rogie Vachon for an extra attacker. The Canadiens surrendered five empty-net goals in a 10–2 defeat and missed the postseason for the only time within a 46-season span from 1949 to 1994.[3] Montreal's Yvan Cournoyer commented on the Red Wings' effort in the afternoon, bitterly stating, "Those guys have no pride."[2]

Prior to the following season, the NHL established head-to-head results as the second tiebreaker after wins and ahead of goals-for.[2] Goal differential eventually replaced goals-for as the third tiebreaker beginning with the 1984–85 campaign.[4] With the Toronto Maple Leafs finishing below the Canadiens in the East Division cellar, 1969–70 marked the first time no Canadian team advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs. By the time a recurrence of this happened 46 years later in 2016, the number of Canada-based franchises had grown to seven.[2]

Final standings

East Division[5]
1Chicago Black Hawks7645229250170+8099
2Boston Bruins76401719277216+6199
3Detroit Red Wings76402115246199+4795
4New York Rangers76382216246189+5792
5Montreal Canadiens76382216244201+4392
6Toronto Maple Leafs76293413222242−2071
West Division[5]
1St. Louis Blues76372712224179+4586
2Pittsburgh Penguins76263812182238−5664
3Minnesota North Stars76193522224257−3360
4Oakland Seals76224014169243−7458
5Philadelphia Flyers76173524197225−2858
6Los Angeles Kings76145210168290−12238


Playoff bracket

Quarterfinals Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
1 Chicago 4
3 Detroit 0
1 Chicago 0
East Division
2 Boston 4
2 Boston 4
4 New York 2
E2 Boston 4
W1 St. Louis 0
1 St. Louis 4
3 Minnesota 2
1 St. Louis 4
West Division
2 Pittsburgh 2
2 Pittsburgh 4
4 Oakland 0


(E1) Chicago Black Hawks vs. (E3) Detroit Red Wings

In the Chicago-Detroit series, the Black Hawks swept the series, winning all four games by 4–2 scores.

Chicago won series 4–0

(E2) Boston Bruins vs. (E4) New York Rangers

The Bruins clobbered the Rangers 8–2 in game one; Ranger coach Emile Francis replaced Ed Giacomin when the score reached 7–1, in favor of Terry Sawchuk. Sawchuk replaced Giacomin as the starter in game two, but Boston won 5–3.

Game three at Madison Square Garden featured a hostile crowd, with the New York fans booing, shouting obscenities and throwing objects at the Boston players. Giacomin – back in goal for the Rangers – reportedly told Bruin Derek Sanderson "We're being paid to get you tonight." A subsequent brawl erupted into both benches clearing, as well as fans littering the ice with debris; it took 19 minutes to play the first 91 seconds of the game. By the end of the Rangers' 4–3 win, the teams had set a new NHL playoff record for penalties (38) and penalty minutes (174).

Game four had Rod Gilbert score two goals in a 4–2 Ranger win. Giacomin was brilliant in goal for the Rangers and one of the highlights was stopping Derek Sanderson on a shorthanded breakaway. Game five was won by Boston 3–2 as Esposito scored two goals. Bobby Orr set up the winner when he stole a pass at center ice when the Rangers were caught on a line change. Game six was won easily by the Bruins and featured another display of fan abuse. Bobby Orr scored two goals, including the winner. Fans threw eggs and ball bearings on the ice, and when the outcome was no longer in doubt, set fires in the mezzanine of Madison Square Garden.

Boston won series 4–2

(W1) St. Louis Blues vs. (W3) Minnesota North Stars

In the West Division playoffs, the St. Louis Blues ousted the Minnesota North Stars in six games. The Blues won the first two games at the St. Louis Arena. Game three at the Metropolitan Sports Center featured Gump Worsley's sharp goaltending and Bill Goldsworthy scoring two goals in a 4–2 win for the North Stars. Cesare Maniago played in goal for Minnesota in game four and picked up a 4–0 shutout, tying the series. Game five at St. Louis Arena was tied 3–3 when St Louis scored three goals in the third period by Red Berenson, Terry Gray and Jim Roberts and the Blues won 6–3. In game six, Ab McDonald scored two goals as the Blues eliminated the North Stars by a score of 4–2.

St. Louis won series 4–2

(W2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (W4) Oakland Seals

In game one, Nick Harbaruk's goal midway through the third period was the winner as Pittsburgh won 2–1. In game two, Gary Jarrett gave Oakland a 1–0 lead, but Pittsburgh came back to win 3–1. Game three at Oakland featured a hat trick by Ken Schinkel of the Penguins as Pittsburgh won 5–2. Game four saw Oakland holding 1–0 and 2–1 leads, but the Seals just couldn't hold on and the game was tied 2–2 at the end of regulation time, with Michel Briere scoring the series winning goal at 8:28 of overtime for Pittsburgh. It was the final time the Seals made the playoffs. The Stanley Cup Playoffs did not return to the Bay Area until 1994 when the San Jose Sharks made the playoffs for the first time. This also marks only the second of three times ever a team in any of the four North American major sports have swept a team in their first playoff series.[6]

Pittsburgh won series 4–0


(E1) Chicago Black Hawks vs. (E2) Boston Bruins

In the East Division final, Boston beat Chicago in four straight games.

Boston won series 4–0

(W1) St. Louis Blues vs. (W2) Pittsburgh Penguins

In the West Division final, the St. Louis Blues beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. The Pens did not get to the semifinals again until their championship season in 1991.

St. Louis won series 4–2

Stanley Cup Finals

Phil Esposito of the Bruins led all playoff scorers with 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, at the time a new NHL playoff record, followed by Orr with 20 points and Johnny Bucyk of the Bruins with 19 points. Gerry Cheevers of the Bruins led all goaltenders with twelve wins, while Jacques Plante of the Blues led all goaltenders in goals against average in the playoffs with 1.48.

Boston won series 4–0


1969–70 NHL awards
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(East Division champion)
Chicago Black Hawks
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:
(West Division champion)
St. Louis Blues
Art Ross Trophy:
(Top scorer, regular season)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
(Perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication)
Pit Martin, Chicago Black Hawks
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks
Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Hart Memorial Trophy:
(Most valuable player, regular season)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
James Norris Memorial Trophy:
(Best defenceman)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Phil Goyette, St. Louis Blues
Vezina Trophy:
(Goaltender(s) of team with best goaltending record)
Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks
Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
Edward W. Shore, James C. V. Hendy

All-Star teams

First team  Position  Second team
Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks G Ed Giacomin, New York Rangers
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins D Carl Brewer, Detroit Red Wings
Brad Park, New York Rangers D Jacques Laperriere, Montreal Canadiens
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins C Stan Mikita, Chicago Black Hawks
Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings RW John McKenzie, Boston Bruins
Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks LW Frank Mahovlich, Detroit Red Wings

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

Bobby Orr Boston Bruins763387120125
Phil Esposito Boston Bruins7643569950
Stan Mikita Chicago Black Hawks7639478650
Phil Goyette St. Louis Blues7229497816
Walt Tkaczuk New York Rangers7627507738
Jean Ratelle New York Rangers7532427428
Red Berenson St. Louis Blues6733397238
J. P. Parise Minnesota North Stars7424487272
Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings7631407158
Frank Mahovlich Detroit Red Wings7438327059
Dave Balon New York Rangers76333770100
John McKenzie Boston Bruins72294170114

Source: NHL.[7]

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
Ernie WakelySt. Louis Blues301651582.1112944
Tony EspositoChicago Black Hawks6337631362.173817815
Jacques PlanteSt. Louis Blues321839672.1918955
Ed GiacominNew York Rangers7041481632.363521146
Roy EdwardsDetroit Red Wings4726831162.59241562
Rogatien VachonMontreal Canadiens6436971622.633118124
Roger CrozierDetroit Red Wings341877832.6516690
Gerry CheeversBoston Bruins4123841082.7224884
Bernie ParentPhiladelphia Flyers6236801712.791329203
Ed JohnstonBoston Bruins3721761082.98169113

Other statistics





The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1969–70 (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 1969–70 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Kingston, NY: Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Toronto, ON: Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley; Hughes, Morgan; Romain, Joseph; Duplacey, James (2003). The Hockey Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of the National Hockey League. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
  • McFarlane, Brian (1973). The Story of the National Hockey League. New York, NY: Pagurian Press. ISBN 0-684-13424-1.
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