50 - The National Hockey League's Magic Number
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50 - The National Hockey League's Magic Number

Like most professional North American sports, the number 50 plays a magical role in the National Hockey League. Many milestones are based on this arbitrary number.

Like all major North American professional sports, 50 seems to be the National Hockey League’s magic number in a number of categories. It’s a milestone for team wins, team losses and player goals in a single season. It’s a milestone for career shutouts for goaltenders. Similar to hockey, baseball sets importance on a 50 homerun season and basketball gets pumped about a 50 point game. This article focuses on the first NHL teams to 50 games, wins, losses and points.

The National Hockey League played its first 50 game regular season schedule during the 1942-43 season after dropping the Brooklyn Americans and reducing down to the ‘Original Six’ teams. The 50 game schedule was maintained for the next three seasons, as well, until it was increased to 60 games in 1946-47.

The Boston Bruins were the first team to ever post fifty or more wins in a single season. This accomplishment came in 1970-71 with Boston winning 57 games over what was a 78 game schedule at the time. Ironically, after such an historic season, the team failed to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, they were eliminated before the Stanley Cup finals. The Montreal Canadiens would face the St. Louis Blues in the finals and win.

The first unfortunate team to lose 50 games or more came much earlier on in the history of the National Hockey League. During the 1953-54, the hapless Chicago Blackhawks were at the losing end of 51 games at a time when the league only played a 70 game regular season schedule. The Blackhawks won only 12 and tied 7 that season. The Hawks finished the season 37 points behind the next team up, the New York Rangers. Chicago was an inconceivable 57 points out of first place, a position held by the Detroit Red Wings that season. It was a rough era for Chicago as they won twenty or less games each season from 1953-54 to 1956-57.

The original Ottawa Senators were the first NHL team to top the 50 point plateau in a single season. They accomplished this in 1925-26 with 52 points. Definitely aiding the Senators was the increase in games that season from 30 to 36. The NHL had a distinctively different look during that era with now defunct teams like the Montreal Maroons, Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Americans active in the league. The Senators would also go the way of the Maroons, Pirates and Americans by first moving to St. Louis for a single season then disappearing altogether from the NHL. The Senators were revived several decades later and are currently still back in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs existed by were then known as the St. Pats. The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens were the only present day teams that existed in their current form in 1925-26 with the Chicago Blackhawks set to enter the league the following season and the Detroit Red Wings set to move from Victoria, British Columbia in the next season. Just like the 1970-71 Boston Bruins, the Senators would be prematurely eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

 

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