July 25: Neilson replaces Kelly as coach of Maple Leafs
Plus: Longtime Sharks goalie Nabokov born; Propp signs with North Starsby John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor
THIS DATE IN HISTORY: July 25
1977: Roger Neilson gets his first job as an NHL coach when he's hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to replace Red Kelly.
Neilson comes to Toronto after spending 10 seasons as coach of Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League and one as an assistant with Dallas of the Central Hockey League. He leads the Maple Leafs to the Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first season, but is fired after Toronto goes 34-33 with 13 ties in 1978-79. Neilson goes on to coach seven other NHL teams and finishes his career in 2001-02. He coaches exactly 1,000 games and finishes 460-378-3 with 159 ties. Neilson's only trip to the Stanley Cup Final comes with the Vancouver Canucks in 1982; however, the New York Islanders sweep the series in four games.
Neilson earns the nickname "Captain Video" because he's one of the first coaches to use videotape to analyze opponents. He also pioneers the use of headsets with microphones to communicate with his assistant coaches. He dedicates his life to hockey and is regarded as one of the best teachers in the sport.
Neilson is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2002; he dies of cancer on June 21, 2003.
1975: Evgeni Nabokov, who holds many of the San Jose Sharks' goaltending records, is born in Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, then a part of the Soviet Union. The Sharks take a flyer on Nabokov in the ninth round (No. 219) of the 1994 NHL Draft. He comes to North America in 1997 and spends most of the next three seasons in the minor leagues before being promoted to the NHL for 11 games in 1999-00. Nabokov wins the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2000-01 (32-21-7, 2.19 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, six shutouts), is named a First-Team All-Star in 2007-08, when he leads the NHL with 46 wins, and spends 10 seasons with the Sharks. Beginning in 2011, he plays three seasons with the Islanders, then joins the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2014-15 season before announcing his retirement on Feb. 11, 2015. He has more wins (293), shutouts (50) and games played (563) than any goalie in Sharks history, and ends his NHL career with 353 wins, 59 shutouts and a 2.44 GAA.
Video: 2008 Round 2, Gm6: Evgeni Nabokov with glove save
1990: Brian Propp, one of the NHL's most consistent scorers of the 1980s, signs as a free agent with the Minnesota North Stars after 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. The veteran left wing finishes with 73 points (26 goals, 47 assists) in his first season with Minnesota, then contributes 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 23 games during the North Stars' run to the Stanley Cup Final. He retires after the 1993-94 season with 1,004 points (425 goals, 579 assists) in 1,016 NHL games, as well as 148 points (64 goals, 84 assists) in 160 playoff games.