1979-80 was the first year of the WHA expansion in the National Hockey League. When the World Hockey Association ceased operations after the 1978-79 season, the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL with depleted rosters.
It was the first year since Phil Esposito scored 55 goals in 1972-73 that the league leader finished the season with less than 60. It also marked the only time in NHL history that three players tied for the goal scoring lead, all with 56.
Charlie Simmer – Los Angeles Kings
Today, the Rocket Richard Trophy is awarded to the player in the NHL with the most goals during the regular season. Previous to 1998-99, the goal scoring leader was not honoured with any hardware. In 1979-80, the Rocket Richard Trophy would have went to Charlie Simmer of the Los Angeles Kings. Although there were three tied atop the NHL, Simmer scored his 56 in just 64 games.
Playing on the Triple Crown Line with the great Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor helped Simmer reach the same goal total in the following season. These were the only two 50 goal seasons in Simmer’s injury hampered career. Between 1974-75 and 1987-88 played just 712 of a possible 1,200 regular season games and scored 342 goals. Simmer was originally drafted by the California Seals. Although with the Seals and Kings, Charlie also played for the Cleveland Barons, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins during his career.
Danny Gare – Buffalo Sabres
Danny Gare of the Buffalo Sabres scored his 56 goals in 76 games. It was the second of two times that Gare would reach the 50 goal plateau over his 13 year NHL career, scoring exactly 50 for the Sabres in 1975-76. Danny finished his career with 354 goals in 827 regular season games. He was a second round pick of the Sabres in 1974 and also played for the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers.
Blaine Stoughton – Hartford Whalers
Blaine Stoughton played the full 80 schedule for the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80. It was his first of two 50 goal seasons, scoring 52 for the Whalers in 1981-82. Stoughton was originally the seventh overall pick at the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played just 34 of 526 NHL games with the Penguins.
Blaine played major league pro hockey from 1973-74 to 1983-84. In the NHL, he played for the Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Whaler and New York Rangers. Stoughton had a three year stint in the WHA from 1976-77 to 1978-79, playing for the Cincinnati Stingers, Indianapolis Racers and New England Whalers. Blaine scored 52 goals for the Stingers in his first year in the World Hockey Association.