Skip to main content

Who has made history as the first goal scorer at current NHL arenas?

On Thursday, Anthony Mantha became one of the few players to christen an arena with its first NHL goal. On Tuesday, a Coyote or Golden Knight will join him. But who else is part of the club?

On Thursday, Anthony Mantha put his name in the history books.

In the first period of the Red Wings’ home opener against the Wild, with Detroit on a five-on-three man advantage, Mantha parked himself in front of Minnesota netminder Devan Dubnyk as the puck was worked around the zone, and after Martin Frk uncorked a one-timer that was stopped by Dubnyk, Mantha was right there to chip home the game’s opening goal. With that, Mantha became the first player to score a goal at the Red Wings’ new home, Little Caesars Arena.

While it may not be a milestone that means as much to the individual player as, say, reaching the 500-point plateau or scoring their 100th goal, it’s one of those rare instances where it’s a feat that can’t be repeated. Others will score hat tricks, have four-goal games or bang home an overtime winner at Little Caesars Arena, but there is only one first goal. And that first goal belongs to Mantha from now until the end of time.

Mantha won’t be the only player to achieve such a mark this season, however, as Little Caesars Arena isn’t the only barn opening its doors this season. All the way across the country in Las Vegas the Golden Knights are getting set to step foot on the T-Mobile Arena ice for the first regular season game in franchise history. And, barring a 0-0 game that’s solved in a shootout, someone in that contest on Oct. 10 will likewise put their name in the history books as the first goal scorer at one of the league’s modern-day arenas.

But who will Mantha and the to-be-determined goal scorer join in the history books? Here’s a look at every first goal scorer at every current NHL building:

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (NYR): Bill Cook, New York Rangers — Nov. 16, 1926

That Cook scored to open Madison Square Garden likely came as no surprise at the time. He led the league with 33 goals in the 1926-27 season and won three goal-scoring crowns during his NHL career. Cook was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1952.

SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME (CGY): Jari Kurri, Edmonton Oilers — Oct. 15, 1983

Kurri needs no introduction. He was Wayne Gretzky’s wingman on the high-flying Oilers teams of the 1980s and his pure scoring ability was untouchable during his prime years. The goal he scored to open up the Saddledome was one of 52 he notched in his first of four-straight 50-goal years.

HONDA CENTER (ANA): Aaron Ward, Detroit Red Wings — Oct. 8, 1993

Just about the last guy one would think scored the opening goal at an NHL rink. That’s not because Ward wasn’t an every day NHLer or worthy of the honor, but more because he only scored 44 goals in his entire 839-game career. His tally was the only one he managed in a five-game stint with the Wings in 1993-94.

SAP CENTER (SJ): Al MacInnis, Calgary Flames — Oct. 14, 1993

There’s a fair chance this shot made the twine touch the end boards. MacInnis’ famed slapshot made him one of the most feared shooters in league history. His goal to open the SAP Center, then known as the San Jose Arena, was one of 28 he had on the year.

SCOTTRADE CENTER (STL): Craig Johnson, St. Louis Blues — Jan. 26, 1995

Once the lockout was over, the Blues were finally able to open the doors to the Kiel Center, and Johnson, a rookie, found himself in the lineup come the home opener. Talk about right place, right time for a bit of history, too. Johnson’s goal was one of 11 he would score as a Blue.

UNITED CENTER (CHI): Joe Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks — Jan. 25, 1995

Picking Murphy to score the first goal at the Madhouse on Madison wouldn’t have been a choice too out of left field. He was right in his prime and had been a consistent scorer throughout his career. His 23-goal campaign was part of what would have been a 40-plus goal year in a full season.

TD GARDEN (BOS): Sandy Moger, Boston Bruins — Oct. 7, 1995

Moger had two goals in his entire first year as a Bruin and he played 18 games as Boston opened up TD Garden. Amazingly, one of those goals was the first in the building’s history, which gives Moger, who spent only five seasons in the league, a nice feather in his camp.

ROGERS ARENA (VAN): Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings — Oct. 9, 1995

‘Stevie Y’ did it all. He won an MVP. Won a Conn Smyhte. Has a Selke to his name. He has three Stanley Cups. He’s scored more than 600 goals in his career and registered more than 1,700 points. And he has the first-ever goal at Rogers Arena, formerly known as GM Place.

BELL CENTRE (MTL): Vincent Damphousse, Montreal Canadiens — March 16, 1996

The Canadiens are one of the rare teams to open a new building mid-season. Matter of fact, they moved into their new home right at the tail end of the 1995-96 season. And in the first night there, Damphousse, who scored nearly 200 goals in the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, netted the first goal in the building’s history.

WELLS FARGO CENTER (PHI): Brad Smyth, Florida Panthers — Oct. 5, 1996

Smyth’s career spans 88 games and saw him score 15 goals and 28 points. So, if you were to run down the Panthers’ roster on the opening night of the Philadelphia Flyers’ new barn, he’d have been among the last players chosen to score. Yet, here we are.

KEYBANK CENTER (BUF): Slava Kozlov, Detroit Red Wings — Oct. 12, 1996

The third Red Wings entry on the list, and yet another to score the first goal in an opposition building. Kozlov opened up the Keybank Center, then known as the Marine Midland Arena, with a tally for the visitors. 

AMALIE ARENA (TB): Brian Bradley, Tampa Bay Lightning — Oct. 20, 1996

Bradley was a near-point per game player for the Lightning and one of the team’s first go-to scorers. Near the tail end of his career, though, his production was dropping off and his health was always in question. That didn’t stop him from potting the first goal in the Lightning’s building, though.

CANADIAN TIRE CENTRE (OTT): Andrei Kovalenko, Montreal Canadiens — Jan. 17, 1996

In the early part of his career, Kovalenko was a consistent 20-goal threat with some serious upside, so to see him net the first tally at the Ottawa Senators’ arena wasn’t all that surprising. If it weren’t for a mid-season trade, though, he wouldn’t have even been in town.

CAPITAL ONE ARENA (WSH): Steve Washburn, Florida Panthers — Dec. 5, 1997

Five seasons, 93 games and 29 points. Sounds a bit like Smyth, doesn’t it? And oddly enough, Washburn, too, was playing for the Panthers when he scored the first goal in an opponent’s brand new building. Once the 1997-98 season was over, Washburn played only 16 more games in the NHL.

BRIDGESTONE ARENA (NSH): Ray Whitney, Florida Panthers — Oct. 10, 1998

Lovingly refereed to as ‘The Wizard,’ Whitney seems like exactly the type of player who would be on this list. He has sneakily impressive career totals — 385 goals, 1,064 points in 1,330 games — and was as consistent as they come. One season removed from his breakout year, Whitney kicked off the campaign in Nashville with the first goal scored at home against the Predators.

BB&T CENTER (FLA): Jassen Cullimore, Tampa Bay Lightning — Oct. 9, 1998

Cullimore falls into the Aaron Ward category. Not altogether surprising that he was around to open up another team’s barn, but seriously surprising that he’s the one who actually netted the first goal. Cullimore scored 26 goals in 812 games, but one of those is a tally that put him in the history books.

AIR CANADA CENTRE (TOR): Todd Warriner, Toronto Maple Leafs — Feb. 20, 1999

Not Mats Sundin. Not Sergei Berezin. Not Steve Thomas. Not even Steve Sullivan. Nope, it was Todd Warriner, who scored nine goals in 53 games that season, who scored the first goal in Air Canada Centre history. Warriner would end up in the AHL and then Europe in shortly thereafter.

PEPSI CENTER (COL): Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche — Oct. 13, 1999

It’s probably hard to believe at this point, but the home side’s star players actually can be the ones to open the scoring in a new building. That’s what Colorado got with Hejduk, and he did it in a year that really established him as part of the future of the franchise. During the 1999-00 campaign, he set then-career bests with 36 goals and 72 points.

STAPLES CENTER (LA): Anson Carter, Boston Bruins — Oct. 20, 1999

Carter was starting out his first 20-goal campaign with the Bruins when he walked into the Staples Center, a building he would later call home for a short period, and notched the first goal in the arena’s history.

PNC ARENA (CAR): Andrei Kovalenko, Carolina Hurricanes — Oct. 29, 1999

Sound familiar? It should. Kovalenko also scored the first goal, and the first for the Hurricanes, at Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena, which later became the RBC Center before the recent chance to its current name.

NATIONWIDE ARENA (CBJ): Bruce Gardiner, Columbus Blue Jackets — Oct. 7, 2000

Add this to the list of players whose claim to fame is the goal that opened a building. Gardiner had a lengthy career, much longer than that of Smyth or Washburn who appear before him on this list, but Gardiner scored only 34 goals. One of those was the inaugural Blue Jackets goal in their home building.

XCEL ENERGY CENTER (MIN): Peter White, Philadelphia Flyers — Oct. 11, 2000

White had a 220-game career, but scored 23 goals and 60 points. He was often bouncing up and down from the AHL to the NHL, but he got in a full campaign with the Flyers in 2000, and the timing was just-so that he was in the lineup to score the first goal in front of Minnesota’s fans as they welcomed back NHL action.

AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER (DAL): Cliff Ronning, Nashville Predators — Oct. 5, 2001

The Stars had Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Pierre Turgeon, Sergei Zubov. Need we go on? Dallas had a high-powered offense, surely enough to be the holders of the first goal in their new home, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, one of the first standout Predators, Ronning, owns the first tally in Dallas’ arena.

GILA RIVER ARENA (ARI): Scott Walker, Nashville Predators — Dec. 27, 2003

Another club in the desert and another original Predator with the first goal. Nashville went into Glendale once the Coyotes opened up their new home and Walker christened the red light with a tally.

PRUDENTIAL CENTER (NJ): Andrej Meszaros, Ottawa Senators — Oct. 28, 2007

It’s strange to consider Meszaros actually scored some goals during his career seeing as he was an expert at putting his body in front of pucks instead of blasting them on goal. Lo and behold, he managed to tee one up at the start of the 2007-08 campaign and welcome the Devils to their new rink with a goal against.

PPG PAINTS ARENA (PIT): Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers — Oct. 7, 2010

This is delightful in an of-course-it-was-a-rival kind of way. Much like Kurri scoring for Edmonton in Calgary’s first game at the Saddledome, Briere, a thorn in the Penguins’ side during his time as a Flyer, made sure to take the first-goal honor away from anyone in Pittsburgh colors.

BELL MTS PLACE (WPG): Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens — Oct. 9, 2011

Many remember Nik Antropov’s goal later in the Jets’ first game back in Winnipeg. After all, the city had waited, oh, 15 years for NHL hockey to return. But it was actually Cammalleri who scored first to draw the ire of the Winnipeg crowd.

BARCLAYS CENTER (NYI): Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks — Oct. 9, 2015

A goal that no one saw because of the poor sightlines at Barclays. We kid, we kid. Anisimov’s goal against the Islanders was his first as a Blackhawk, but those in New York will remember it more for being the first goal against the club once they shifted to Brooklyn.

ROGERS PLACE (EDM): Patrick Maroon, Edmonton Oilers — Oct. 12, 2016

A sign of what was to come from Maroon, one could say. He came out of almost nowhere last season to score 27 goals and 42 points, and the first of his bushel of tallies came when he tipped home a point shot to score the first ever goal at Rogers Place.

LITTLE CAESARS ARENA (DET): Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings — Oct. 5, 2017

T-MOBILE ARENA (VGK): TBD — Oct. 10, 2017

Most would guess someone like Max Domi or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Maybe David Perron or Reilly Smith. But judging by the names on this list, let’s go with the Coyotes scoring first and Kevin Connauton getting the tally. That sounds about right.

Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.


Seattle Kraken

2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Outlook: Seattle Kraken

It was historic for all the wrong reasons. Do the Kraken offer any fantasy options worth your while?


This Season Could Be Matt Dumba's Last With The Minnesota Wild

Are the trade rumors surrounding Matt Dumba finally going to come to fruition? Let's take a look.


Bluelines: Three Most Interesting Teams in the NHL

Stan Fischler takes you through the three most interesting teams in the NHL, breaks down Ed Snider's genius, recaps his Yays and Boos, and so much more in this week's Bluelines.