August 15 NHL History
1958: Craig MacTavish, the last player to skate in an NHL game without a helmet, is born in London, Ontario. MacTavish, a center taken by the Boston Bruins in the ninth round (No. 153) of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, makes the NHL in 1979, shortly before it votes to make helmets mandatory. However, players already in the League are grandfathered and can continue to play without a helmet. MacTavish, a four-time Stanley Cup winner (three with the Edmonton Oilers, once with the Rangers) does just that. He retires after the 1996-97 season having played 1,093 NHL games and 193 in the playoffs — all without wearing a helmet.
1989: Roger Neilson becomes the 25th coach in the history of the New York Rangers when he’s hired by new general manager Neil Smith, who said he was picked because “he’s one of the greatest teachers in this league and he’s perfect for the New York Rangers at this time.” It’s Nielson’s fifth NHL coaching job.
Neilson, 53, takes the Rangers to the top of the Patrick Division for the first time since 1942. Two years later, he coaches New York to a 50-25-5 record and the Presidents’ Trophy. However, the Rangers can’t get past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in either season, and when they’re 19-17-4 at the halfway point of the 1992-93 season, Neilson is replaced by Ron Smith.
1990: The Ottawa Senators submit their official application for an expansion franchise to the NHL. Ottawa and Tampa Bay are awarded franchises by unanimous vote of the Board of Governors on Dec. 6, 1990, and begin play in the 1992-93 season, bringing the League to 24 teams.
2005: The Vancouver Canucks hire former Montreal Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault to coach the Manitoba Moose, their American Hockey League affiliate. Vigneault is 44-24-12 in his one season with Manitoba before being promoted to coach the Canucks in 2006-07. Vancouver finishes first six times in Vigneault’s seven seasons and advances to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.