|1967–68 NHL season|
|League||National Hockey League|
|Duration||October 11, 1967 – May 11, 1968|
|Number of games||74|
|Number of teams||12|
|Top draft pick||Rick Pagnutti|
|Picked by||Los Angeles Kings|
|Season champions||Montreal Canadiens|
|Season MVP||Stan Mikita (Black Hawks)|
|Top scorer||Stan Mikita (Black Hawks)|
|Playoffs MVP||Glenn Hall (Blues)|
|Runners-up||St. Louis Blues|
The 1967–68 NHL season was the 51st season of the National Hockey League. The league expanded to 12 teams, putting the new six in the newly created West Division, while the original six were all placed in the newly created East Division. The regular season schedule was expanded to 74 games per team. The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup against the new St. Louis Blues, in four games.
This season saw the NHL expand from the "Original Six" teams by adding six new franchises, including the St. Louis Blues, California Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Los Angeles Kings. On December 8, 1967, the California Seals were renamed the Oakland Seals before being renamed again to the California Golden Seals in 1970. As a result of the expansion, the League reorganized its teams into two divisions, placing the Original Six teams into the East Division and the expansion franchises into the West Division. The NHL, furthermore, increased its regular season schedule from 70 to 74 games per team  with each team playing 50 games against opponents within its own division (10 against each divisional opponent) and 24 games with teams in the opposite division (4 games per opponent). The newly created Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was awarded to the team that finished first in the West Division during the regular season, the Prince of Wales Trophy was likewise awarded the East Division first-place team. A new format for the playoffs would also be introduced which would see the top four teams in each division qualify for the post-season with the first and third and the second and fourth place teams in each respective division pairing off in a divisional semi-final series. The winners of the latter would then compete in their respective divisional final series and a berth in the Stanley Cup finals. All series would be best-of-seven contests.
This season, the NHL also added a new player award called the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, named in honour of Bill Masterton who died on January 15, 1968, after sustaining an injury during a game (the first time an NHL player had ever died directly as a result of an on-ice injury).
The minimum age of players subject to amateur draft was changed to 20.
There were a large number of holdouts this year. Three New York Ranger players, including Rod Gilbert, Arnie Brown and Orland Kurtenbach were fined $500 by their team. However, Ed Van Impe of the Flyers refused to sign his contract, followed by Earl Ingarfield and Al MacNeil also refused to sign, then Tim Horton of Toronto, Norm Ullman of Detroit and Kenny Wharram and Stan Mikita of Chicago. Led by Alan Eagleson, the new National Hockey League Players' Association was up and running.
The Canadiens stumbled out of the gate. In their first west coast road trip, the Seals beat them 2–1 and the Kings beat them 4–2. The Habs lost quite a few more and were in last place by December. But by January, Jean Beliveau began to score and others were inspired also. The Habs got very hot, winning 12 consecutive games and then put together 10 more wins to take the East Division lead. Paced by Gump Worsley, who had 6 shutouts and a 1.98 goals against average and backstopped the team to the fewest goals allowed in the league, managed to keep first place thereafter. Worsley, for the first time, made the first all-star team.
Boston obtained Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield in a blockbuster trade with Chicago. This trade, as shown over time, heavily favored the Bruins. This, coinciding with the rise of Bobby Orr, led to an improvement in Boston's play, and the Bruins led the league in scoring behind Esposito's 84 points and made the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Though he missed action with a knee injury, Orr still won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman.
By contrast, the Chicago Black Hawks fell into a tailspin, and despite the scoring heroics of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, were hard pressed to make the playoffs. Mediocre team defense and goaltending was the culprit.
Roger Crozier felt the strain of goaltending and walked out on Detroit. He came back, but the Red Wings finished last anyway, despite a potent offense led by Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Norm Ullman. Even a late season trade of Ullman and Paul Henderson for Toronto star Frank Mahovlich and future Blues star Garry Unger was too little, too late. However, on March 24, 1968, Mahovlich became only the 11th player to score 300 goals as he scored both his 300th and 301st goals in a 5–3 win over the Boston Bruins.
Meanwhile, the defending Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs, still steady on defense in front of elder statesman Johnny Bower and backup Bruce Gamble, had numerous problems. Mahovlich spent time in hospital with a nervous breakdown, and the season was marred by contract disputes and tension with the high-strung coach, Punch Imlach. A late season charge failed to win a playoff berth.
In the West Division, the Philadelphia Flyers became the first regular season champion of the expansion clubs. While their offense was poor (career minor-league Leon Rochefort led the team with just 21 goals), ex-Bruins' goaltenders Bernie Parent and Doug Favell showed surprising form. Behind such hardnosed players as Gary Dornhoefer, Ed Van Impe, Larry Zeidel and Forbes Kennedy, the team showed the first glimmers of the "Broad Street Bullies" of future years.
The Los Angeles Kings were a team that writers predicted to finish last in the new West Division. Owner Jack Kent Cooke had purchased the American Hockey League's Springfield Indians for $1 million to bolster the Kings roster. Surprisingly, the Kings finished second, just one point out of first. Bill Flett scored 26 goals, while Eddie Joyal scored 23 goals, adding 34 assists for 57 points and was the second leading scorer in the West Division. Among the expansion teams, the Kings had the best record against the established teams, going 10–12–2 vs. the Eastern Division.
Oakland, predicted to finish first, fell far short of the mark, amidst poor attendance. Defenceman Kent Douglas, a former Calder Memorial Trophy winner, played far below expected form and was traded to Detroit for Ted Hampson and defenceman Bert Marshall. The Seals finished last in the West Division.
Glenn Hall may have been deemed too old by the Black Hawks, which left him unprotected in the expansion draft, but not for the St. Louis Blues, who rode his five shutouts to a third-place finish. A surprising benefit was their leading scorer, previously unheralded Red Berenson (with only 45 points in 185 previous NHL games) who exploded into stardom, more than doubling his career total in only 55 games.
By contrast, the Pittsburgh Penguins finished fifth, led by former Ranger star Andy Bathgate. Behind an elderly roster—nine of their top ten scorers and both of their goaltenders were over thirty—they could neither muster much offense nor defense.
The Minnesota North Stars had their bright moments despite finishing fourth in the West Division. On December 30, 1967, Bill Masterton and Wayne Connelly each scored goals in a 5–4 upset win over the Boston Bruins. On January 10, Connelly—who would finish the season with 35 goals to lead his team and the West Division—had a hat trick in a 6–4 win over the West Division power, the Philadelphia Flyers and Masterton was the architect on all three goals.
Tragedy struck the league on January 14, 1968. In a game at the Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Oakland Seals were in town to play the North Stars and Bill Masterton led a rush into the Oakland zone. Two defenceman, Larry Cahan and Ron Harris braced for the old fashioned sandwich check and as Masterton fired the puck into the Seals zone, the two hit Masterton hard but cleanly. Masterton flipped backwards and hit his head on the ice. He was removed to a Minneapolis hospital where doctors were prevented from doing surgery by the seriousness of the head injury. Early on the morning of January 15, 1968, Bill Masterton died. He was the first player to die as the direct result of injuries suffered in an NHL game, the only such incident in a senior game since 1907.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Note: Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold
|2||New York Rangers||74||39||23||12||226||183||+43||90|
|4||Chicago Black Hawks||74||32||26||16||212||222||−10||80|
|5||Toronto Maple Leafs||74||33||31||10||209||176||+33||76|
|6||Detroit Red Wings||74||27||35||12||245||257||−12||66|
|2||Los Angeles Kings||74||31||33||10||200||224||−24||72|
|3||St. Louis Blues||74||27||31||16||177||191||−14||70|
|4||Minnesota North Stars||74||27||32||15||191||226||−35||69|
|Quarter-finals||Semi-finals||Stanley Cup Final|
|4||Chicago Black Hawks||1|
|2||New York Rangers||2|
|4||Chicago Black Hawks||4|
|W3||St. Louis Blues||0|
|3||St. Louis Blues||4|
|3||St. Louis Blues||4|
|4||Minnesota North Stars||3|
|2||Los Angeles Kings||3|
|4||Minnesota North Stars||4|
|1967–68 NHL awards|
|Prince of Wales Trophy:
(East Division champion)
|Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:
(West Division champion)
|Art Ross Trophy:
(Top scorer, regular season)
|Stan Mikita, Chicago Black Hawks|
|Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
(Perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication)
|Claude Provost, Montreal Canadiens|
|Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
|Derek Sanderson, Boston Bruins|
|Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
|Glenn Hall, St. Louis Blues|
|Hart Memorial Trophy:
(Most valuable player, regular season)
|Stan Mikita, Chicago Black Hawks|
|James Norris Memorial Trophy:
|Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins|
|Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
|Stan Mikita, Chicago Black Hawks|
(Best goaltending record, regular season)
|Rogatien Vachon & Gump Worsley, Montreal Canadiens|
|Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
|Thomas F. Lockhart, Walter A. Brown, General John Kilpatrick|
|First Team||Position||Second Team|
|Gump Worsley, Montreal Canadiens||G||Ed Giacomin, New York Rangers|
|Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins||D||J. C. Tremblay, Montreal Canadiens|
|Tim Horton, Toronto Maple Leafs||D||Jim Neilson, New York Rangers|
|Stan Mikita, Chicago Black Hawks||C||Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins|
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings||RW||Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers|
|Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks||LW||Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins|
Note: GP = Games played; G Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; PIM = Penalty Minutes
|Stan Mikita||Chicago Black Hawks||72||40||47||87||14|
|Phil Esposito||Boston Bruins||74||35||49||84||21|
|Gordie Howe||Detroit Red Wings||74||39||43||82||53|
|Jean Ratelle||New York Rangers||74||32||46||78||18|
|Rod Gilbert||New York Rangers||73||29||48||77||12|
|Bobby Hull||Chicago Black Hawks||71||44||31||75||39|
|Norm Ullman||Toronto Maple Leafs||71||35||37||72||28|
|Alex Delvecchio||Detroit Red Wings||74||22||48||70||14|
|Johnny Bucyk||Boston Bruins||72||30||39||69||8|
|Kenny Wharram||Chicago Black Hawks||74||27||42||69||18|
Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts
|Gump Worsley||Montreal Canadiens||40||2213||73||1.98||19||9||8||6|
|Johnny Bower||Toronto Maple Leafs||43||2239||84||2.25||14||18||7||4|
|Doug Favell||Philadelphia Flyers||37||2192||83||2.27||15||15||6||4|
|Bruce Gamble||Toronto Maple Leafs||41||2204||85||2.32||19||13||3||5|
|Eddie Giacomin||New York Rangers||66||3940||160||2.44||36||20||10||8|
|Glenn Hall||St. Louis Blues||49||2858||118||2.48||19||21||9||5|
|Rogie Vachon||Montreal Canadiens||39||2227||92||2.48||23||13||2||4|
|Bernie Parent||Philadelphia Flyers||38||2248||93||2.48||16||17||5||4|
|Seth Martin||St. Louis Blues||30||1552||67||2.59||8||10||7||1|
|Denis DeJordy||Chicago Black Hawks||50||2838||128||2.71||23||15||11||4|
The NHL began tracking the plus-minus statistic this season. It measures the difference between the number of goals scored by a player's team while a player is on the ice against the number of goals scored by the opposing team. Power play goals do not count toward the statistic; it does include short-handed goals scored by the opposing team during power plays.
The following is a list of notable players who played their first NHL game in 1967–68 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):
The following is a list of notable players who played their last game in the NHL in 1967–68 (listed with their last team):