The 1952–53 NHL season was the 36th season of the National Hockey League (NHL) which lasted from October 9, 1952 to April 16, 1953.
The NHL almost had a seventh franchise as the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League applied for a franchise.
They were accepted with the proviso that they deposit $425,000 to show good faith, and prove they had sufficient working capital to consort with the other NHL teams. They could not come up with the working capital and transfer of applicants stock to Cleveland residents. As a result, the Barons were told to apply at a later date.
Sid Abel was signed by Chicago to be player-coach.
What was rumoured became fact in September when Arthur M. Wirtz and James D. Norris became the new owners of the near bankrupt Chicago Black Hawks.
James E. Norris (the owner of the Detroit Red Wings since 1932 and father of James D. Norris, Chicago owner) died of a heart attack on December 4, 1952 and his daughter Marguerite became the owner, becoming the first female owner of an NHL franchise since Ida Querrie owned the Toronto St. Patricks in 1923 when her husband Charlie transferred his stock in the team to her to avoid paying Eddie Livingstone any money in Livingstone's lawsuit against him.
NHL on-ice officials changed to orange-coloured uniforms in March 1953. The officials had worn cream-coloured uniforms which were not distinguishable from some team's home-ice uniforms.
For the fifth straight season, the Detroit Red Wings lead the league in points.
Gordie Howe won the Hart Trophy over Al Rollins, but on the strength of Rollins' goaltending, Chicago made the playoffs for the first time since 1946.
The first television broadcast in Canada of an NHL game occurred on October 1 of this year. It was a French language broadcast of a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings with the Canadiens winning 2–1.
The French language telecast was produced by 24-year-old Gerald Renaud.
On November 1, 1952, the first English language broadcast aired, with Foster Hewitt calling the action, starting in the second period because Conn Smythe was concerned that it would cut into the crowds at the arena. Smythe (the Leafs' managing director) sold the Leafs' television rights for a paltry $100 per game.
On October 9, 1952, Gump Worsley made his NHL debut in goal for the New York Rangers at the Detroit Olympia and lost 5–3, as Ted Lindsay scored in a tip-in on the power play for Worsley's first goal against him.
The Production line scored 3 goals that night as Alex Delvecchio & Gordie Howe also had goals. Marty Pavelich scored what proved to be the winning goal.
On November 8, 14,562 fans were in attendance at the Montreal Forum when the Canadiens beat Chicago 6–4. Elmer Lach scored his 200th career goal. Fifty seconds later after Emile "Butch" Bouchard fed him the puck, Rocket Richard rifled a puck past Al Rollins for his 325th goal, breaking Nels Stewart's record for career goals.
It was ten years to the day since Richard had scored his first NHL goal. "Old Poison" sent the following telegram: "Congratulations on breaking record. Hope you will hold it for many seasons. Best of luck to you and rest of team."
When Terry Sawchuk was injured in practice, the Red Wings brought up Glenn Hall and he made his NHL debut on December 27 and played well in a 2–2 tie with Montreal. Hall then picked up his first career shutout January 7, blanking Boston 4–0.
Red Wings General Manager Jack Adams got into some trouble on January 18 when, after a 3–2 loss to Montreal, he entered the officials room and argued with referee Red Storey. Dick Irvin (the coach of Montreal) was very upset over this and NHL president Clarence Campbell agreed, fining Adams $500.
Gump Worsley got his first career shutout January 11 when the New York Rangers defeated the Canadiens 7–0 in Montreal.
"Butch Bouchard Night" was held on February 28 and he was presented with a car and a TV set. Detroit spoiled the night with a 4–3 victory.
There was consternation in Toronto when Max Bentley suddenly vanished and was reported back at his home in Delisle, Saskatchewan, Canada. Conn Smythe convinced him to return and he did, playing the remaining games of the schedule.
Ted Lindsay scored 4 goals on March 2 as Detroit pummeled Boston by a score of 10–2.
Gordie Howe scored 49 goals to nearly tie Rocket Richard's record. Howe was held off the scoresheet in the final game of the season by Richard's Canadiens. Howe set a new points record for the season with 95 points and won the Art Ross and Hart trophies.
In a major upset, the first-place Detroit Red Wings was defeated in the semi-final by the Boston Bruins in six games.
In the other semi-final, the fourth-place Chicago Black Hawks, making their first playoff appearance in seven years, took a 3–2 series lead after losing the first two games to the second-place Montreal Canadiens, but they could not finish the job, losing in seven games.
In the final, the Boston Bruins could not continue their winning ways and they lost to Montreal in five games.
After the Final, the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League applied to play a Stanley Cup challenge. The NHL governors turned down the challenge, stating that the Cleveland club operated in a league of lower standing.
|Prince of Wales Trophy:|
(Best regular-season record)
|Detroit Red Wings|
|Art Ross Trophy:|
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings|
|Calder Memorial Trophy:|
(Top first-year player)
|Lorne "Gump" Worsley, New York Rangers|
(Most valuable player)
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings|
|Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:|
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
|Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings|
(Goaltender of team with best goals-against record)
|Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings|
(Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, PTS = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes)
|Gordie Howe||Detroit Red Wings||70||49||46||95||57|
|Ted Lindsay||Detroit Red Wings||70||32||39||71||111|
|Maurice Richard||Montreal Canadiens||70||28||33||61||112|
|Wally Hergesheimer||New York Rangers||70||30||29||59||10|
|Alex Delvecchio||Detroit Red Wings||70||16||43||59||28|
|Paul Ronty||New York Rangers||70||16||38||54||20|
|Metro Prystai||Detroit Red Wings||70||16||34||50||12|
|Red Kelly||Detroit Red Wings||70||19||27||46||8|
|Bert Olmstead||Montreal Canadiens||69||17||28||45||83|
|Fleming Mackell||Boston Bruins||65||27||17||44||63|
(Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts)
|Terry Sawchuk||Detroit Red Wings||63||3780||120||1.90||32||15||16||9|
|Gerry McNeil||Montreal Canadiens||66||3960||140||2.12||25||23||18||10|
|Harry Lumley||Toronto Maple Leafs||70||4200||167||2.39||27||30||13||10|
|Jim Henry||Boston Bruins||70||4200||142||2.46||28||29||13||7|
|Al Rollins||Chicago Black Hawks||70||4200||175||2.50||27||28||15||6|
|Chuck Rayner||New York Rangers||20||1200||58||2.90||4||8||8||1|
|Lorne Worsley||New York Rangers||50||3000||153||3.06||13||29||8||2|
The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1952–53:
- Jerry Toppazzini, Boston Bruins
- Glenn Hall, Detroit Red Wings
- Marcel Bonin, Detroit Red Wings
- Ed Litzenberger, Montreal Canadiens
- Jacques Plante, Montreal Canadiens
- Harry Howell, New York Rangers
- Dean Prentice, New York Rangers
- Gump Worsley, New York Rangers
- Andy Bathgate, New York Rangers
- Ron Murphy, New York Rangers
- Ron Stewart, Toronto Maple Leafs
The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1952–53: