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This Date in NHL History

Aug. 15: Neilson named 25th Rangers coach

Plus: MacTavish born; Vigneault joins Canucks organization

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor


1989: Roger Neilson becomes the 25th coach in the history of the New York Rangers. He's hired by new general manager Neil Smith, who says Neilson 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 in 1989-90; it's their first division title since 1942. Two seasons later, the Rangers finish 50-25 with five ties and win the Presidents' Trophy. However, New York can't get past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in either season, and when the Rangers are 19-17 with four ties at the halfway point of the 1992-93 season, Neilson is replaced by Ron Smith.



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 Draft, makes the NHL in 1979, shortly before the League votes to make helmets mandatory. However, players already in the NHL 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 regular-season games and 193 more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


1990: The Ottawa Senators submit their official application for an expansion franchise to the NHL. Ottawa and the Tampa Bay Lightning 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 NHL to 24 teams.


2005: The Vancouver Canucks hire former Montreal Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault to coach Manitoba, 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. He later goes on to coach the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, and in 2019 is hired to coach the Philadelphia Flyers.

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