August 24 NHL History
1972: The Hockey Hall of Fame inducts perhaps its most star-studded class yet, even waiving its mandatory three-year waiting period for two of the inductees.
Longtime rivals Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau are inducted after retiring following the 1970-71 season. Howe leaves the Detroit Red Wings as the owner of the NHL records for games played, goals and points. Beliveau ends his career after helping the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup 10 times; the last one comes is in 1971, when he leads all playoff scorers with 16 assists.
Howe and Beliveau are named to the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadianin 2017, as is another inductee, Beliveau’s Montreal teammate Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. Forward Hooley Smith and longtime Boston Bruins president Weston Adams are also inducted into the Hall.
Howe’s status as a Hall of Famer doesn’t prevent him returning as a player with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association in 1973. He spends six seasons in the WHA before coming back to the League with the Hartford Whalers in 1979, becoming the first member of the Hall to play an NHL game after being inducted.
1980: In a day that changes the game and helps open the NHL to the world, brothers Peter and Anton Stastny defect while playing for Czechoslovakia’s national team in Innsbruck, Austria. Quebec Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut and director of player personnel Gilles Leger arrange an escape to Vienna after a game against the Soviet Union; one night later, Peter, Anton and Peter’s wife Dariana land in Montreal. The brothers sign with the Nordiques and enjoy instant success: Peter has 39 goals and 109 points in his first NHL season, Anton also scores 39 goals and finishes with 85 points. Older brother Marian Stastny stays behind and is removed from the national team, but is able to come to North America and join the Nordiques for the 1981-82 season.