The end of the final season of the Original Six approached. All six teams played on March 12, 1967, and the results essentially set the rankings. When the season officially ended on April 2, only the second and fourth placed teams had switched positions.
As it happens, the games ended up pairing teams almost by their rank going in. The biggest news came from the top, when the Chicago Black Hawks defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs before a standing-room crowd of 16,666 at Chicago Stadium. Lured out of retirement, Glenn Hall made 39 saves for the shutout. Coach Billy Reay attributed the 5-0 win to his “team’s classic defensive performances – the back and forechecking of the forwards that in turn eased the pressure on the defensemen and the goalie.” In the scoring, Ken Hodge lodged the first two goals followed by a goal from Bobby Hull with Hodge’s assistance. After a blank second period, Lou “Boom Boom” Angotti finished off the scoring with two goals. Captain Pete Pilote told the press, “My knees were shaking out there. You can’t believe the pressure. You fellows said we had it all wrapped up, but we didn’t think so.” Score-starter Hodge said, “I’ve never seen so much desire, so much team spirit. You’d have to be blind not to see it.”
The crowds roared at the final whistle and when the announcer proclaimed, “39 shots on goal for the Chicago Black Hawks, the new National Hockey league champions!” Chicago’s victory was their 37th of the season, which equaled that of the prior season when they finished second in the League. This time, it gave them a total of 84 points, without enough games for the other teams to earn more than 83. Chicago had clinched first place for the only time since they joined the NHL in 1926, after 40 years, 3 months, and 23 days. Coach Reay cheered, “We buried Muldoon!” As the story went, the Blackhawks first coach, Pete Muldoon, put a curse on them when he was fired, saying, “This team will never finish in first place.” Chicago won the Prince of Wales Trophy, which then was given to the first-place finisher, and that meant that it had finally been won by all of the Original Six NHL teams. It was Chicago’s last chance to do so before the big NHL expansion. Hall left early after the game, with the justification, “We’ve got celebrating to do.”
At Madison Square Garden, the second and fourth-placed teams played each other before a crowd of 15,763. At 2:45 of the first period, Jean Ratelle gave the New York Rangers a 1-0 lead. Almost immediately thereafter, a 25-year-old spectator took his own shot at the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie, Lorne “Gump” Worsley. He had brought a carton of eggs and threw one down from the balcony (about 100 feet away). It hit Worsley’s right temple leaving him dazed enough to need first aid. Worsley said, “I didn’t know it was an egg until I felt the gook.” He had to leave the game, so rookie Rogatien Vachon took the ice while Charlie Hodge suited up as backup. Vachon made 23 saves but allowed one more Rangers’ goal (at 12:06 of the third). The game ended in a 2-2 draw. Meanwhile, security apprehended the egg thrower, but Worsley declined to press charges. Soon after, Worsley commented, “The doctor said it was a mild concussion and I still feel a bit dizzy.” His concussion kept him out for six weeks.
The tie was the second in two nights for the Rangers and the third in their last seven games. Still, Canadiens’ coach Toe Blake was satisfied, stating, “That’s another point ahead of Detroit.” He meant that the tie had clinched at least fourth place and a playoff spot.
Finally, the two basement teams, the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins, played each other. Boston Garden had 12,625 in attendance, the smallest NHL crowd on March 12. Detroit scored one goal in each period, with Gordie Howe starting the scoring and Norm Ullman ending it. Bobby Orr, who was about to turn 19 on March 20th, not only put the Bruins on the board but put himself in the scoring lead for defensemen (and only six goals shy of the Bruins’ goal-scoring record for a defenseman). The crowd honored him with a standing ovation. That sparked a Boston spree with three more goals in the first, two in the second, and one in the third. It seemed like Detroit’s new goalie, George Gardner, was made of holes, but in actuality, he made 32 saves, five more than Boston’s Eddie Johnston.
With a score of 7-3, the Bruins had their first victory in a month. It was their 16th victory of the season, giving them two points more than they earned all of the previous season. This loss prevented Detroit from moving up into fourth place.
Thus, after the three games held on March 12, the NHL rankings basically were decided. After the remaining eight or nine games had been played, Chicago stayed in first place with 94 points (41-17-12). Montreal moved up into second with 77 points (32-25-13). Toronto remained third with 75 points (32-27-11). New York dropped to fourth with 72 points (30-28-12). Detroit and Boston were stuck at fifth and sixth with 58 points (27-39-4) and 44 points (17-43-19), respectively. However, the final Original Six playoffs saw some upsets. Despite finally winning the Prince of Wales Trophy, Chicago failed to even make it out of the semi-finals. They were defeated by Toronto (4-2), who went on to defeat Montreal (4-2) for the Stanley Cup.
- Ted Damata, “Black Hawks Clinch 1st League Title,” Chicago Tribune, 13 March 1967, section 3, pp. 1-2.
- Robert Markus, “Hawks Down Peter Muldoon!” Chicago Tribune, 13 March 1967, section 3, pp. 1-2.
- “Rangers Tied by Canadiens in 3d Period,” Chicago Tribune, 13 March 1967, section 3, p. 2.
- “Bruins Earn 1st Victory in a Month,” Chicago Tribune, 13 March 1967, section 3, p. 2.
- Red Foley, “Rangers Tied by Habs, 2-2, But Gain Ground on Leafs,” New York Daily News, 13 March 1967, p. C26.
- Pat Curran, “Egg Belts Gump, Habs Tie,” Montreal Gazette, 13 March 1967, p. 24.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Bruins Pepper Red Wings, 7-3,” Boston Globe, 13 March 1967, pp. 23-24.
- “Krake, Schock Give B’s Hope,” Boston Globe, 13 March 1967, p. 28.
- Mike Commito, Hockey 365: Daily Stories from the Ice (Toronto: Dundurn, 2018), kindle version.