1996–97 NHL season

The 1996–97 NHL season was the 80th regular season of the National Hockey League. The Stanley Cup winners were the Detroit Red Wings, who swept the Philadelphia Flyers in four games and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years.

1996–97 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 4, 1996 – June 7, 1997
Number of games82
Number of teams26
Top draft pickChris Phillips
Picked byOttawa Senators
Regular season
Presidents' TrophyColorado Avalanche
Season MVPDominik Hasek (Sabres)
Top scorerMario Lemieux (Penguins)
Eastern championsPhiladelphia Flyers
  Eastern runners-upNew York Rangers
Western championsDetroit Red Wings
  Western runners-upColorado Avalanche
Playoffs MVPMike Vernon (Red Wings)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsDetroit Red Wings
  Runners-upPhiladelphia Flyers

The regular season saw a decline in scoring and rise in the number of shutouts to an all-time record of 127.[1] This trend continued into the playoffs, during which an all-time record of 18 shutouts were recorded.[2] Only two players, Mario Lemieux and Teemu Selanne, reached the 100-point plateau during the regular season[3] (compared with 12 who reached the plateau in 1995–96[4]). Many factors, including fewer power plays, more calls of the skate-in-the-crease rule, fewer shots on goal and more injuries to star players than the season before, contributed to the reduction in scoring and skyrocketing in shutouts. Paradoxically, teams averaged more even-strength goals scored (174)[5] than in 1995–96 (172).[6]

This was the first time in 30 years—and in the entire expansion era—that the Boston Bruins had a losing record and missed the playoffs, ending a still-unsurpassed North American professional sports streak of 29-straight seasons in the playoffs.

League business

This was the first season for the Phoenix Coyotes, who had relocated from Winnipeg and had previously been known as the Winnipeg Jets. They would remain in the Central Division.

On March 25, 1997, the Hartford Whalers announced that they would move from Connecticut following the 1996–97 season. Starting in the 1997–98 NHL season, they would be known as the Carolina Hurricanes.

The 1996–97 season marked the retirement of Craig MacTavish, the last active NHL player who played without a protective helmet. MacTavish had been grandfathered under the old rule requiring them to be worn because he had signed a pro contract before the rule was established on June 1, 1979. The first player to ever wear a helmet was George Owen in the 1928–29 season.

Regular season

The Boston Bruins recorded the League's worst record, missing the playoffs for the first time in 30 seasons and ending the longest consecutive playoff streak ever recorded in the history of North American professional sports.

On November 16, 1996, the eight-sided scoreboard at the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo crashed to the ice during a maintenance check. The accident occurred only 90 minutes after the visiting Boston Bruins players had conducted their morning practice. No-one was injured, but the game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Bruins was postponed.[7]

Final standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
11New Jersey Devils82452314231182104
23Philadelphia Flyers82452413274217103
34Florida Panthers8235281922120189
45New York Rangers8238341025823186
59Washington Capitals823340921423175
611Tampa Bay Lightning8232401021724774
712New York Islanders8229411224025070
Northeast Division
12Buffalo Sabres8240301223720892
26Pittsburgh Penguins823836828528084
37Ottawa Senators8231361522623477
48Montreal Canadiens8231361524927677
510Hartford Whalers8232391122625675
613Boston Bruins822647923430061
Eastern Conference[8]
R Div GP W L T GF GA Pts
1New Jersey DevilsATL82452314231182104
2Buffalo SabresNE8240301223720892
3Philadelphia FlyersATL82452413274217103
4Florida PanthersATL8235281922120189
5New York RangersATL8238341025823186
6Pittsburgh PenguinsNE823836828528084
7Ottawa SenatorsNE8231361522623477
8Montreal CanadiensNE8231361524927677
9Washington CapitalsATL823340921423175
10Hartford WhalersNE8232391122625675
11Tampa Bay LightningATL8232401021724774
12New York IslandersATL8229411224025070
13Boston BruinsNE822647923430061

Divisions: ATL – Atlantic, NE – Northeast

bold – Qualified for playoffs

Western Conference
Central Division
12Dallas Stars8248268252198104
23Detroit Red Wings8238261825319794
35Phoenix Coyotes823837724024383
46St. Louis Blues8236351123623983
58Chicago Blackhawks8234351322321081
611Toronto Maple Leafs823044823027368

Pacific Division
11Colorado Avalanche8249249277205107
24Mighty Ducks of Anaheim8236331324323185
37Edmonton Oilers823637925224781
49Vancouver Canucks823540725727377
510Calgary Flames823241921423973
612Los Angeles Kings8228431121426867
713San Jose Sharks822747821127862

Western Conference[9]
R Div GP W L T GF GA Pts
1p – Colorado AvalanchePAC8249249277205107
2Dallas StarsCEN8248268252198104
3Detroit Red WingsCEN8238261825319794
4Mighty Ducks of AnaheimPAC8236331324523385
5Phoenix CoyotesCEN823837724024383
6St. Louis BluesCEN8236351123623983
7Edmonton OilersPAC823637925224781
8Chicago BlackhawksCEN8234351322321081
9Vancouver CanucksPAC823540725727377
10Calgary FlamesPAC823241921423973
11Toronto Maple LeafsCEN823044823027368
12Los Angeles KingsPAC8228431121426867
13San Jose SharksPAC822747821127862

Divisions: CEN – Central, PAC – Pacific

bold – Qualified for playoffs; p – Won Presidents' Trophy

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF= Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points


Stanley Cup Final

The Red Wings swept the Flyers in four games to win for the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since 1955. Mike Vernon of Detroit was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Detroit vs. Philadelphia
May 31Detroit42Philadelphia
June 3Detroit42Philadelphia
June 5Philadelphia16Detroit
June 7Philadelphia12Detroit

Detroit wins series 4–0 and Stanley Cup

Playoff bracket

  Conference Quarterfinals Conference Semifinals Conference Finals Stanley Cup Final
1 New Jersey 4     2 Buffalo 1  
8 Montreal 1     3 Philadelphia 4  
2 Buffalo 4 Eastern Conference
7 Ottawa 3  
    3 Philadelphia 4  
  5 NY Rangers 1  
3 Philadelphia 4  
6 Pittsburgh 1  
4 Florida 1   1 New Jersey 1
5 NY Rangers 4     5 NY Rangers 4  
  E3 Philadelphia 0
(Pairings are re-seeded after the first round.)
  W3 Detroit 4
1 Colorado 4     3 Detroit 4
8 Chicago 2     4 Anaheim 0  
2 Dallas 3
7 Edmonton 4  
  1 Colorado 2
  3 Detroit 4  
3 Detroit 4  
6 St. Louis 2   Western Conference
4 Anaheim 4   1 Colorado 4
5 Phoenix 3     7 Edmonton 1  
  • During the first three rounds home ice is determined by seeding number, not position on the bracket. In the Finals the team with the better regular season record has home ice.


The NHL Awards presentation took place on June 19, 1997.

Presidents' Trophy:Colorado Avalanche
Prince of Wales Trophy:Philadelphia Flyers
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:Detroit Red Wings
Art Ross Trophy:Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:Tony Granato, San Jose Sharks
Calder Memorial Trophy:Bryan Berard, New York Islanders
Conn Smythe Trophy:Mike Vernon, Detroit Red Wings
Frank J. Selke Trophy:Michael Peca, Buffalo Sabres
Hart Memorial Trophy:Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres
Jack Adams Award:Ted Nolan, Buffalo Sabres
James Norris Memorial Trophy:Brian Leetch, New York Rangers
King Clancy Memorial Trophy:Trevor Linden, Vancouver Canucks
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:Paul Kariya, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Lester B. Pearson Award:Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres
NHL Plus/Minus Award:John LeClair, Philadelphia Flyers
Vezina Trophy:Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres
William M. Jennings Trophy:Martin Brodeur/Mike Dunham, New Jersey Devils
Lester Patrick Trophy:Bill Cleary, Pat LaFontaine, Seymour H. Knox III

All-Star teams

First Team  Position  Second Team
Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres G Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Brian Leetch, New York Rangers D Chris Chelios, Chicago Blackhawks
Sandis Ozolinsh, Colorado Avalanche D Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins C Wayne Gretzky, New York Rangers
Teemu Selanne, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim RW Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins
Paul Kariya, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim LW John LeClair, Philadelphia Flyers

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

Regular seasonPlayoffs
Mario LemieuxPittsburgh765072122
Teemu SelanneAnaheim785158109
Paul KariyaAnaheim69445599
John LeClairPhiladelphia82504797
Wayne GretzkyNY Rangers82257297
Jaromir JagrPittsburgh63474895
Mats SundinToronto82415394
Zigmund PalffyNY Islanders80484290
Ron FrancisPittsburgh81276390
Brendan ShanahanHartford/

Source: NHL.[10]

Eric LindrosPhi19121426
Joe SakicCol1781725
Claude LemieuxCol17131023
Valeri KamenskyCol1781422
Rod Brind'AmourPhi1913821
John LeClairPhi1991221
Wayne GretzkyNYR15101020
Sergei FedorovDet2081220
Brendan ShanahanDet209817
Peter ForsbergCol1451217
Sandis OzolinshCol1741317

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

Leading goaltenders

Regular season

Player Team GP MIN GA SO GAA
Martin BrodeurNew Jersey673838120101.88
Andy MoogDallas4827389832.15
Jeff HackettChicago4124738922.16
Dominik HasekBuffalo67403715352.27
John VanbiesbrouckFlorida57334712822.29
Chris OsgoodDetroit47276910662.30
Patrick RoyColorado62369814372.32
Mark FitzpatrickFlorida3016806602.36
Mike VernonDetroit3319527902.43
Garth SnowPhiladelphia3518847922.52



Eastern Conference

Western Conference



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1996–97 (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 1996–97 (listed with their last team):

Trading deadline

Hat Tricks

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Kingston, New York: 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, Illinois: Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
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