Brian Gionta’s leadership skills were recognized in his first season with the Montreal Canadiens, earning an ‘A’ in a year where the team went with the three alternates and no captain. It was a prelude to his permanent nomination as captain to start the 2010-11 season. Perhaps it has something with being born on Jan. 18.
Former NHL captain (several times over) and current Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is arguably the most notable birthday boy on this day. Others to blow out the candles on this day include ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz, actor Kevin Costner, the late Gilles Villeneuve and the late John Hughes.
What else happened on this day? Here is a selection of events.
In 1958, Willie O’Ree breaks NHL ground when he becomes the first black player to make his league debut. Called up by the Boston Bruins, the African-Canadian is thrown right into the fire as he faces the rival Montreal Canadiens. While the Bruins post a 3-0 win, it would be a fairly quiet night for O’Ree. It would also be a brief first taste of the NHL, as he would be returned to the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Hockey League two days later.
In 1973, the New York Islanders snap a pair of dubious streaks. Without a win in their previous 12 games overall and their previous 20 on the road, the Isles escape with a wild 9-7 triumph over the Boston Bruins. Prior to that night, the team hadn’t tasted victory since Dec. 23, 1972 against the Minnesota North Stars. Their previous road win stretched all the way back to Nov. 1 versus the California Golden Seals.
In 1975, Barry Manilow celebrates his first No. 1 hit on the pop charts with the single, “Mandy.” It’s the start of a stellar career that sees the singer surpass 75 million records sold.
In 1993, Martin Luther King Day is celebrated for the first time in all 50 states.
In 1996, Major League Baseball owners vote unanimously in favour of a change to the schedule for the following season. It is decided that the American and National Leagues will no longer meet for the first time in the World Series; instead, the two will meet during the regular season, with the debut of interleague play.
In 2009, General Motors caps off a weeklong auction of historic cars from its Heritage Collection. Among the nearly 200 vehicles sold are a 1996 Buick Blackhawk concept car, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 COPO Coupe and a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette convertible. The auction came at a time when the company was facing major financial difficulties; however, the New York Times pointed out after the fact that it was not unusual for large-scale companies to hold such auctions.
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