The 1956–57 NHL season was the 40th season of the National Hockey League (NHL) which lasted from October 11, 1956 to April 16, 1957 where 6 teams each played 70 games.
On October 1, 1956, it was announced that Dick Irvin had resigned as coach of Chicago due to ill health. He was suffering from bone cancer and had been ill for two years and had been hospitalized in Montreal.
Irvin had been several days late to training camp and Tommy Ivan took over as coach. Later in the season, it was reported that Irvin had undergone minor surgery for anemia at Ross Memorial Hospital. Irvin died on May 15, 1957.
Ted Lindsay (Detroit's star left wing) became the fourth player to score 300 career goals on November 18, 1956 when he picked up two goals in an 8–3 pasting of the Montreal Canadiens. The other players to reach this prestigious mark were Nels Stewart, Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe (who played opposite Lindsay for most of the latter's career).
On January 5, 1957, the Rangers and the Black Hawks played an afternoon game at Madison Square Garden where the Rangers beat the Black Hawks 4–1. This game was broadcast on the CBS network where Glen Skov spoiled Lorne "Gump" Worsley's would-be shutout with a goal in the third period.
Montreal beat Toronto 2–1 at the Forum in Montreal on January 10, 1957 and moved into first place. The game was hard-fought and referee Frank Udvari found it necessary to rule with an iron hand that angered the fans.
Fans thought he was calling chippy penalties against the Habs and deliberately failing to call hooking and holding penalties by the Maple Leafs. The blow-off came in the last two minutes of the game. Maurice Richard received a high-sticking penalty.
At 18:14, knowing his Maple Leafs were in danger, Toronto coach Howie Meeker pulled goaltender Ed Chadwick for six attackers. Dick Duff scored the tying goal and Richard went berserk and commenced a heated argument with Udvari, banging his stick on the ice. He might have attacked Udvari if his teammates hadn't restrained him.
Fans threw programs, paper cups, hats and other debris and the game was held up. When it did resume, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion set up Don Marshall for the winning goal with a mere six seconds left to play.
Although the fans were pleased with the outcome, an angry hum commenced as the players & officials left the ice and Udvari had to be escorted to his dressing room by police & ushers.
A large part of the crowd now directed its attention to NHL President Clarence Campbell seated in his box seat and he became the target of jeers and threats.
The situation began to show some of the aspects of the Richard Riot of two years previous when Richard had been suspended for an attack on an official. It was at least 30 minutes before Campbell was able to leave under police protection.
Terry Sawchuk had been playing well and was a candidate for the Hart Trophy until he came down with mononucleosis. He came back too soon and by January 16, he announced his retirement from hockey, a temporary one as he would be back in Detroit next season.
Glenn Hall wasn't as good as the previous season, but led the Detroit Red Wings to first place. Hall had played only two games prior to 1955–56, but had shown such promise Sawchuk was sent off.
At the start of this season, the NHL changed the way power plays work.
Prior to this season, a team could score as many goals as they wanted in a two-minute power play with the penalised player remaining in the penalty box.
The NHL changed it so that when a goal is scored on a two-minute power play, the power play finished. The reason for this was because the Montreal Canadiens were so dominant on the power play, the NHL needed a way of ensuring parity.
The previous season saw the Canadiens score 26% of all the league's power play goals. Oddly enough, the number of power play goals league-wide actually increased from 251 to 265 after the rule changed. Montreal, though, scored 10 fewer power play goals.
|Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular season champion)
|Detroit Red Wings|
|Art Ross Trophy:
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings|
|Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
|Larry Regan, Boston Bruins|
(Most valuable player)
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings|
|James Norris Memorial Trophy:
|Doug Harvey, Montreal Canadiens|
|Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
|Andy Hebenton, New York Rangers|
(Goaltender of team with the best goals-against average)
|Jacques Plante, Montreal Canadiens|
|First team||Position||Second team|
|Glenn Hall, Detroit Red Wings||G||Jacques Plante, Montreal Canadiens|
|Doug Harvey, Montreal Canadiens||D||Fern Flaman, Boston Bruins|
|Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings||D||Bill Gadsby, New York Rangers|
|Jean Beliveau, Montreal Canadiens||C||Ed Litzenberger, Chicago Black Hawks|
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings||RW||Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens|
|Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wings||LW||Real Chevrefils, Boston Bruins|
(Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes)
|Gordie Howe||Detroit Red Wings||70||44||45||89||72|
|Ted Lindsay||Detroit Red Wings||70||30||55||85||103|
|Jean Beliveau||Montreal Canadiens||69||33||51||84||105|
|Andy Bathgate||New York Rangers||70||27||50||77||60|
|Ed Litzenberger||Chicago Black Hawks||70||32||32||64||48|
|Maurice Richard||Montreal Canadiens||63||33||29||62||74|
|Don McKenney||Boston Bruins||69||21||39||60||31|
|Dickie Moore||Montreal Canadiens||70||29||29||58||56|
|Henri Richard||Montreal Canadiens||63||18||36||54||71|
|Norm Ullman||Detroit Red Wings||64||16||36||52||47|
(Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts)
|Jacques Plante||Montreal Canadiens||61||3660||122||2.00||31||18||12||9|
|Glenn Hall||Detroit Red Wings||70||4200||156||2.23||38||20||12||4|
|Terry Sawchuk||Boston Bruins||34||2040||81||2.38||18||10||6||2|
|Don Simmons||Boston Bruins||26||1560||63||2.42||13||9||4||4|
|Ed Chadwick||Toronto Maple Leafs||70||4200||186||2.66||21||34||15||5|
|Al Rollins||Chicago Black Hawks||70||4080||222||3.17||16||39||15||3|
|Lorne Worsley||New York Rangers||68||4080||217||3.24||26||28||14||3|
The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1956–57:
- Larry Regan, Boston Bruins
- Moose Vasko, Chicago Black Hawks
- Ralph Backstrom, Montreal Canadiens
- Phil Goyette, Montreal Canadiens
- Frank Mahovlich, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Bob Pulford, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Bob Baun, Toronto Maple Leafs
The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1956–57 (listed with their last team):
- Cal Gardner, Boston Bruins
- Harry Watson, Chicago Black Hawks
- Marty Pavelich, Detroit Red Wings
- Gerry McNeil, Montreal Canadiens
- Ted Kennedy, Toronto Maple Leafs