January 14, 1943: The Habs Alex Smart Becomes The FIrst Rookie To Record A Hat Trick In His NHL Debut
On January 14, 1943, after being called up from the minors for a one game stint with the Canadiens, Alex Smart recorded a hat trick in a 5-1 victory over the Blackhawks in Montreal. The left winger was the first rookie to tally three goals in his NHL debut. Smart finished that day with four points as he picked up another point on an assist. As you can tell by the score it was all Canadiens in this one, Joe Benoit put the Habs on the board with a goal early in the first then Gordie Drillon added another before the period came to an end with Smart picking up the assist. The score remained at 2-0 until there was a minute to go in the second period, the 24 year old Smart lit the lamp twice in that final minute of that period and was on his way to making history. The historic third goal came midway through the third on a play that was assisted by Glen Harmon, a couple of minutes later Chicago added a goal but it was too little too late for them as Smart made a debut to be remembered. All the goals scored against the Hawks came with Bert Gardiner in net and while it was a game that Smart would be sure to remember, it was one that Gardiner would have loved to forget. This game proved to be one of the only great moments in the NHL sun for Smart who played in just 8 games with the Habs scoring a total of 5 goals and 2 assists, he would spend his career in the minors before retiring in 1951. His career might have been short but he accomplished something that had never been done before and to date only three other rookies have matched the hat trick performance of Alex Smart in their debut. It took more than 30 years for the feat to be matched for the first time, it came from the stick of Quebec Nordiques winger Real Cloutier in 1979, then Fabian Brunnstrom of the Dallas Stars did it in his debut in 2008 before Derek Steppan of the New York Rangers joined the club in 2010.