There was a time when Christmas Day games involving the Detroit Red Wings was a staple of the holiday season. These days, though, and in fact for the past 50 years, when it comes to hockey during the festive season, the NHL prefers to just say Noel.
According to Article 16.5 (b) of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement “December 24, Christmas Day, and December 26 shall be off-days for all purposes, including travel, and no Club may request a Player’s consent to practice on such days for any reason.”
Billy MacMillan of the Leafs scored the NHL's last Christmas Day Hat Trick in 1971 in Toronto's 5-3 win over the Red Wings
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 26, 2017
It’s been that way since 1972 and the players of the era prior believe it should’ve always been the case.
“The players didn’t care for playing at Christmas, but it was worse on our kids,” former Red Wings defenseman Bobby Baun told author Kevin Shea. “They’d always be confused whenever Santa came a few days early.
Baun wound up playing one Christmas game for Detroit. It was a 6-3 road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1968. But he wasn’t happy about it.
“For the players, it meant we’d miss out on seeing our kids’ smiling faces as they opened their presents,” Baun said of those holiday road trips.
Red Wings Played 38 Christmas Games
The Red Wings played 38 times on Christmas Day. The first game in 1926 was a 2-0 loss at Chicago, the first of six Christmas Day games in which Detroit was shut out. John Ross Roach, throwing a 4-0 goose egg at the Blackhawks in 1932, is the only Detroit goalie to post a Christmas shutout.
Fashioning a 3-2 victory over the Brooklyn Americans in 1941 was an overtime goal by Sid Abel at 5:02 of the 10-minute extra-session.
Detroit’s Christmas Day record is 15-18-5. At home, the Red Wings are 14-12-4, while they’re 1-6-1 on the road.
Mr. Hockey Was Mr. Holiday
Santa Claus delivers every Christmas, and so did Gordie Howe. The Red Wings icon holds forth as the NHL’s all-time scoring leader on December 25. In 21 Chirstmas Day games, Mr. Hocke was compiling 12-12-24 numbers.
In fact, Howe’s greatest single-game output of his NHL career came in an 8-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Christmas Day 1956 at Olympia Stadium. He registered three goals and three assists during the rout.
'Mr. Hockey' or 'Mr. Christmas'?
Gordie Howe leads all players in career goals, assists and points on Christmas Day and stands as just one of two players in NHL history with 10+ career goals on games played Dec. 25. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/7HrYISRnN2
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 25, 2020
Detroit players dominate the Christmas scoring list. According to NHL.com, the top five in the charts all played at least some of their NHL careers with the Red Wings. Frank Mahovlich (10-6-16) is second. Following him are Ted Lindsay (7-8-15), Norm Ullman 5-1015) and Bill Gadsby (3-12-15).
Career Boston Bruin Milt Schmidt (6-8-14) is the only player among the top nine without a connection to the Red Wings. Others among the leaders are Andy Bathgate (7-7-14), John Bucyk (7-7-14) and Red Kelly (4-10-14), all of whom were Red Wings for some portion of their NHL playing days.
Detroit Raked Leafs For Christmas
Detroit’s second-ever Christmas Day game was one to remember. Facing the Toronto Maple Leafs at Olympia Stadium in 1930, Detroit – at the time known as the Falcons – wound up drubbing Toronto 10-1.
Ebbie Goodfellow was pacing the Detroit attack with four goals. Herbie Lewis and George Hay each put two pucks past Toronto goalie Benny Grant.
The outcome remains the most lopsided victory by Detroit over the Maple Leafs.