Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Al Hill - NHL Record Five Points in His NHL Debut - 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers Al Hill jersey

After playing in Junior A hockey for the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League in the 1973-74 season, center Al Hill moved up to the Major Junior level with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canadian Hockey League for the 1974-75 season, scoring 21 goals and 57 points in a 70 game schedule. He continued to progress with a 26 goal 66 point season in 1975-76, but that was not enough for Hill to be drafted by an NHL club.

He was invited to the Philadelphia Flyers training camp and signed with the organization for the 1976-77 season after impressing with his sound fundamentals and hustle. Philadelphia assigned Hill to the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League, where he played in 63 games, scoring 13 goals and 41 points in 63 games. The Flyers, hurt by injuries to Bill Barber and Paul Holmgren, recalled Hill to make his NHL debut on this date in 1977 against the St. Louis Blues at The Spectrum in Philadelphia.

Hill Flyers 3
Hill made his NHL debut on this date in 1977

Hill wasted no time in making his mark in the NHL, scoring the first goal of his career just 36 seconds into the game, firing a 40 foot slapshot past Yves Belanger, who made the start in goal for St. Louis. Hill was assisted by Bob Kelly and Terry Murray.

Philadelphia's 1-0 lead stood for ten minutes until Red Berenson scored for the Blues at 10:38, but just 55 second later Hill struck again for the second goal of the period, and his career, with assists from Rick MacLeish and Gary Dornhoefer at 11:33.

Hill Flyers 1
Hill made his NHL debut wearing #37

Reggie Leach extended the Flyers lead to 3-1 at the 17 minute mark with assists to Hill, his third point of the period coming as he skated the puck behind the net and fed Leach in front after a dump in by Joe Watson.

That was enough for Blues coach Emile Francis, who replaced Belanger with veteran Eddie Johnston in goal for the start of the second period.

At the 5:55 mark of the second period, Hill completed what is likely the fastest Gordie Howe Hat Trick from the start of a career when he fought the Blues Bob MacMillan.

Hill Flyers 2
Hill had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick just 26 minutes into his NHL career

Bob Dailey extended the Flyers advantage to 4-1 with a goal from MacLeish at 6:28 and then Mel Bridgman made it 5-1 with his goal at 14:19 from captain Bobby Clarke and debutante Hill, his fourth point of the game.

Bruce Affleck cut the margin to 5-2 at 15:42 as the second period would end with Philadelphia leading by three.

Less than a minute into the third period, Clarke scored his 21st goal of the season at 57 seconds with an assist from Hill and Kelly. Hill's third assist of the game gave him an NHL record which still stands, as combined with his two first period goals, his 5 points were the most ever scored by a player during his first NHL game.

All Hill scoreboard
The Spectrum scoreboard announced Hill's record

St. Louis attempted a comeback, with goals by Berenson at 13:31 and Bob Hess at 14:59, but Wayne Stephenson in goal for Philadelphia held the Blues off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game to give the Flyers a 6-4 win.

"I didn't think too much of it at the time," Hill recalled years later. "I really wasn't that type of player, and [the record] was just one of those things. Everything went my way that night. I played a little bit on all four lines in that game and the puck just seemed to find me."

Hill Five points gesture
Hill celebrating his 5 point NHL debut

When asked about his rookie phenom, Flyers head coach Fred Shero remarked. "I didn't even know we had him on the team!"

(In addition to Hill's five points, we also suspect that the game may very well have set a record for the most players named Bob taking part, as the Blues had Bob Gassoff, Bob Plager, MacMillan and Hess, while the Flyers roster had Dailey, Kelly, Clarke and Bob Ritchie for a total of eight Bobs on the night!)

Hill played three more games without scoring another point before he was sent back down to the Indians, but now armed with a story to tell his Springfield teammates!

Hill would end up playing in 4 more games for the Flyers that season with a grand total of one assist to add to his unexpected and remarkable 5 point debut.

He would play nearly the entire 1977-78 season with the Maine Mariners of the AHL, scoring 91 points in 80 games from 32 goals and 59 points to lead the Mariners in scoring while finishing third overall in the AHL. The Mariners would then go on to win the Calder Cup in five games over the New Haven Nighthawks. In addition, Hill would see action in 3 games for the Flyers, but did not register a point.

For the 1978-79 season, Hill would divide his time between the Mariners, scoring 25 points in 35 games, and the Flyers, playing in 31 games while contributing 16 points.

Hill Flyers 
Hill would set a career best scoring mark in 1979-80

Hill would play exclusively in the NHL for the next three seasons with the Flyers, setting an NHL career highs with 16 goals and 26 points in the 1979-80 season and nearly equaled that with 25 points in 1980-81. For the 1981-82 season, he was limited to 41 games while on pace for a fine season with 19 points.

Hill Flyers 1
Hill had three straight seasons in the NHL from 1979-82

He signed with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent in November of 1982 and played 78 games for their minor league affiliate, the Moncton Alpines of the AHL, scoring 22 goals and 44 points that season. He returned to the Maine Mariners for the 1983-84 season, with 24 points in 51 games as well as 18 points in 17 playoff games, good for third on the team in playoff scoring as the Mariners defeated the Rochester Americans in five games for Hill's second Calder Cup championship with Maine.

Hill Hershey Bears
Hill played five seasons with Hershey,
which included winning a Calder Cup

He was resigned by the Philadelphia organization for the 1984-85 season and was assigned to the Hershey Bears for the entire year, contributing 41 points in 73 games. He would spend the final four seasons of his career with Hershey, highlighted by a 17 goal, 57 point season in 1985-86.

In 1986-87, Hill played 76 games for Hershey and was recalled for 7 NHL games by Philadelphia as well as playing in 9 playoff games for the Flyers. The following season of 1987-88, he played the final 12 games of his NHL career with Philadelphia, scoring once.

His final season as a player saw him spend the entire season with the Bears, scoring 33 points in 62 games and ending his career with an additional 8 playoff games.

Hill completed his NHL career with 221 games played with 40 goals and 55 assists for 95 points and one enduring NHL record.

"It's not a bad thing to be known for," Hill stated. "Someone might come along and match it or beat it, but that game is something I'll always remember."

Hill also played 655 games in the AHL, scoring 149 goals and 286 assists for 435 points, putting his combined total as a pro at 530 points. He was also a member of two Calder Cup winning teams in Maine in 1978 and 1984.

He transitioned into coaching the very next season with Hershey before becoming an assistant coach with the AHL's Binghamton Rangers for three seasons, which included a mid season move up the the NHL when Binghamton's Ron Smith took over for Roger Neilson in 1992-93. For the next two seasons, Hill was back with Binghamton, only now as their head coach. He then spent two seasons as an assistant with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL and one as the head coach of the United Hockey League's B.C. Icemen.

Today's featured jersey is a 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers Al Hill jersey as worn by Hill during his best overall NHL season of 16 goals and 26 points.

The Flyers made their NHL debut in 1967-68 with similar jerseys, only with one color numbers and no names on the back. The numbers were outlined in black starting in 1970-71, names arrived on the back of the home white jerseys in 1972-73 and the road orange ones in 1977-78. They arrived at today's featured style in 1978-79 when the stripes running down the sleeves were widened enough to fully contain the numbers. This version of their jersey lasted three seasons until the waist stripes were removed with the arrival of the controversial CCM Pro Guard long pants, more commonly, but inaccurately, known as "Cooperalls".

Philadelphia Flyers 1979-80 F jersey
Philadelphia Flyers 1979-80 B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1983-84 Maine Mariners Al Hill jersey as worn by Hill during the season the Mariners won the Calder Cup as AHL champions.

While an affiliate of the Flyers, the Mariners used the same jersey template as their parent club, complete with their Flyers influenced crest.

Maine Mariners 1983-84 F jersey
Maine Mariners 1983-84 B jersey

Today's video section is a look at Hill's five point debut.

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