August 15 — A History of Helmets & Did It Make a Difference?

Last Night’s News 📰

(KNYZH)OV TO A ROUGH START: San Jose announced that 24-year-old defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov will miss the first few months of the NHL season with a torn right Achilles after getting hurt while participating in off-ice training. Knyzhov hoped to return to the Sharks after missing all of the 2021-22 season with a groin injury.

LIVIN’ LATVIA LOCA: Ralfs Bergmanis scored a natural hat trick as Latvia upset Czechia 5-2 in its final game of group play at the WJC to secure third place in Group A and a spot in the next round. It was Latvia’s first win in the tournament since 2012.

AMERICAN MADE: In what turned out to be a nailbiter, Team USA held off Sweden to remain perfect in Group B. Calgary Flames prospect Matt Coronado scored two goals en route to the 3-2 American victory, setting up a matchup with Czechia in the semifinals.

12 KNIGHT(S) OF HOCKEY: Later this month, the women will take center stage, as the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship will kick off on Aug. 25. Yesterday, Team USA released its roster, which includes Hillary Knight in her 12th tournament for the red, white, and blue, a USA Hockey record. 

What Difference Does It Make?

There have been plenty of headlines over an action-packed offseason in the NHL, with Nazem Kadri still poised to make attention-grabbing news—at least—when he signs on the dotted line. But has anything changed all that much? Colorado is still good, Seattle is (probably) still not, and no one in the Stanley Cup mix last year has taken much of a step back.

All of which raises the question: when it comes to impacting the upcoming season, which offseason happenings have moved the needle? Let’s look at some of the biggest headline-grabbers through the lens of their impact on the 2022-23 campaign:

Major Difference Maker: Robin Lehner’s Hip Surgery

Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last week, Vegas announced that Robin Lehner, the Golden Knights’ No. 1 goalie, will miss the season after undergoing hip surgery. While some hockey fans might have shrugged at another setback to the injury-riddled Swede or found satisfaction in Vegas enduring the repercussions from their past decisions, let’s not understate how big this is. After a crushing year out of the playoffs for a team with Cup aspirations, the Golden Knights’ attempts to run it back will depend on career backup Laurent Brossoit between the pipes.

Moderate Impact: Johnny Gaudreau to Columbus

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As far as franchise identity goes, the Columbus Blue Jackets landing the league’s second-leading scorer and most prominent name in free agency is enormous. But for all the good that Johnny Gaudreau will do in Columbus, their placement in the Metropolitan Division, unfortunately, hasn’t changed. Even a star like Johnny Hockey doesn’t offer any playoff certainties in a division featuring the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders, even if he will make the Jackets better.

Doesn’t Change Much: Tkachuk/Huberdeau Blockbuster

Matthew Tkachuk Jonathan Huberdeau (The Hockey Writers)

Yes, you read that right—we’ve labeled the most significant blockbuster trade in recent memory as not meaning much this year. Stylistically sure, the Florida Panthers look very different with Matthew Tkachuk featured up front, just as the Calgary Flames do with Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar. But really, how much of a performance difference can we realistically anticipate here? The Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy last year, while the Flames claimed the Pacific Division. Those teams were good before the trade and continue to be good.

Helmet History

Today is Craig MacTavish‘s 63rd birthday. The left-handed Canadian, who currently serves as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues, played center in the NHL for 17 seasons. In 1,093 career games split between the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Blues (most of them with the Oilers), he scored 480 points (213 goals, 267 assists). He also scored 58 points (20 goals, 38 assists) in 193 career playoff games and won the Stanley Cup four times.

However, MacTavish is probably most famous for being the last NHL skater to play without a helmet during games. In honor of it being his birthday, let’s look at a timeline of helmets in the NHL.

Craig MacTavish in 2014 (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

1928-29: George Owens of the Boston Bruins is the first NHL player to wear a helmet regularly.

1930-31: Toronto Maple Leafs owner, Conn Smythe, instructed his players to start wearing helmets. Legendary Toronto defenceman, King Clancy, flung his off a few minutes into the first game. Several other players also refused to wear them, as the helmets were unpopular among the players, fans, and media.

1933: On Dec. 12, Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins retaliated for getting tripped by hitting Ace Bailey of the Maple Leafs from behind. Bailey hit his head on the ice and nearly died. After that, helmets became more common, though the majority of players and fans still were not in favor of them.

1968: In the first period of a Jan. 13 game between the Minnesota North Stars and Oakland Seals, Minnesota’s Bill Masterton was hit by two Oakland players and hit his head hard on the ice. As with most players, he was not wearing a helmet. He suffered a brain injury and died less than two days later, sparking a renewed debate concerning helmets.

1979: The NHL made helmets mandatory for any player entering the league. However, players already in, including MacTavish drafted the year before, could opt out.

1997: On April 20, MacTavish appeared in his final NHL game (a playoff game between his Blues and the Detroit Red Wings), marking the last time a skater played a game in the league without wearing a helmet.

Player Spotlight – Jacob Trouba

Last week, the New York Rangers announced that defenseman Jacob Trouba will be the 28th captain in team history. For most fans, it was a controversial choice as most thought Chris Kreider would eventually take those honors, but his teammates are happy for the 28-year-old. We know plenty about what he has brought to the ice, but what about his life outside of hockey? Let’s check in.

Favorite Road City:


One Thing You Always Travel With:

Phone charger

 Who Was Your Favorite Player Growing Up?:

Nicklas Lidström

Which Athlete Would You Switch Places With?:

Roger Federer

What’s Your Favorite Tom Hanks Movie?:

Cast Away

Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky?:

Wayne Gretzky