The 1950s and the 1960s were a special time for hockey. As professional players such as Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr ran up points, all eyes were on the sport and its sensational players.
Coinciding with the early development of many prolific players, hockey games began to be televised on national networks. In a world once dominated by radio airwaves, the 1950s pulled the game of hockey into living rooms across North America. Programming such as Hockey Night in Canada, a once radio-only broadcast, kicked off its weekly televised edition in 1952. Shortly after, the CBC debuted instant replay on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. This ultimately changed the way in which we took in one of the fastest sports on Earth.
With several marquee players on the scene, the 1960s were an exciting time for hockey. Despite opening the decade with only the “Original Six” teams, the number of NHL teams doubled its size by 1967.
The league’s first 50-goal scorers also made their mark during the 1960s, despite Gordie’s best efforts in the early '50s. During the 1960s, Bobby Hull dominated the scoring, notching accolades for the league’s leading scorer in six out of the ten-year period.
Stanley Cup dominance belonged to the two Canadian teams during this exciting era. The Toronto Maple Leafs won four cups, including an impressive three-peat from ’61-’63, and the Montreal Canadiens won three cups led by the formidable combination of Bernie Geoffrion, Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard.
In an era marked by so much growth in professional hockey, it’s undoubtedly one of the most memorable eras in the sport. While dominance by the Canadian arm of the league deserved much of the respect, teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were making waves all of their own.
By the end of the decade, Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito made history recording a staggering 15 shut-outs and 38 wins.
In 1965, the NHL announced the expansion of the league from six teams to twelve. Ushering in new talent, the league expanded its reach into new markets including Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
The league expansion was complete in 1967 as twelve teams competed across two divisions for the first time in history.
The Most Iconic Goal in Hockey History
The most iconic goal in hockey history took place during this era of hockey and, while it’s a massive statement, it’s one that many believe to remain true to this day. Rounding out the decade, Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins were dominant. With only a couple of seasons in the league, Orr was only getting started in his career but was set to make a mark on history.
In the 1969 season, the famed defenseman took home the Hart, Norris, Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophies while racking up 33 goals and 87 assists across the 76 games he played that year.
Despite these impressive feats, perhaps none is more impressive than the goal that won it all in the 1969 Stanley Cup Final. In a somewhat poetic finish to a remarkable season, Orr scored the game winner while being tripped up in front of the net. He leapt and took flight in the air, resulting in one of the most iconic replays and most photographed moments in the history of sports. Listening to the replay of the Mother’s Day game, by announcer Dan Kelley, is sure to give even non-sports fans goosebumps.
In what is certainly a turning point for hockey and the National Hockey League, the 1960s were an exciting time to be a part of the action. As the league recorded its first 50-goal scorers, doubled its number of teams and introduced the world to players that are still making a mark over 60 years later, it’s an era that will forever be etched in history — the Pioneer Era.