Saturday, August 8, 2009
Born in Hamilton, Ontario on this date in 1947, NHL Hall of Famer Ken Dryden was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1964, but chose instead to attend Cornell University in the United States to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. While at Cornell he helped The Big Red to three ECAC tournament championships and the 1967 NCAA title. In addition, he also played for the Canadian National Team at the 1969 World Championships, beginning a brief, but significant, international hockey career.
When Dryden refused to report to the Bruins, his rights were traded to the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of players who would never make it to the NHL. Dryden would make his NHL debut in 1971, seven years after being drafted, and play in just six regular season games, but his 1.65 goals against average would earn him the starting job as the Canadiens moved into the playoffs.
First up for the Canadiens were the heavily favored Boston Bruins, the same Bruins that Dryden had refused to play for. The Bruins were not only defending Stanley Cup Champions, but finished the regular season with an NHL best 121 points, 24 more than Montreal, but also feature the top four leading scorers that season (Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk and Ken Hodge all with over 100 points, while only one other player in the entire league had over 95) and six of the top eight!
Game 2 would feature one of the most remarkable comebacks in NHL history, as the Canadiens, who had trailed at one point 5-1 would get one back before the end of the second period ended and then score five times in the third to win 7-5 before going on to win the series in seven games.
The Canadiens would next face the Minnesota North Stars. The Canadiens would take the series 4 games to 2 to move to the finals to face the West Division winners, the Chicago Blackhawks.
The series would go the full seven games, with Chicago taking Games 1 & 2, with Montreal holding serve at home to even the series. The teams would once again trade games with the home team taking Games 5 & 6 to send it to a seventh and deciding game in Chicago.
Chicago would take a 2-0 lead by the halfway point of the game, but Jacques Lemaire would score from center ice to cut the deficit to 2-1. Henri Richard would score late in the second and two and a half minutes into the third to give Montreal a 3-2 lead while the rookie Dryden would shut down the Blackhawks the rest of the way to secure the Cup on the road, only the second team to ever do so in a Game 7. Dryden would be named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, still with only 6 games of NHL regular season experience on his record.
During his first full NHL season in 1971-72, with a Stanley Cup victory already under his belt, Dryden would be named the winner of the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
His international resume would continue to grow, as as he would be named to Team Canada for the historic 1972 Summit Series, the first of it's kind for NHL professional players versus the Soviet Union. Dryden would finish with a 2-2 record, with both victories coming in Moscow in Games 6 and the decisive final Game 8, which featured Paul Henderson's historic late goal to give Canada bragging rights.
The Canadiens would go on to win five more Stanley Cups with Dryden in goal in 1973 and then four in a row from 1976 to 1979. Dryden would also be named the winner of the Vezina Trophy five times, back when it was awarded to the goaltenders of the team with the fewest goals against over the course of a season, in a career that would last only seven full seasons, as he sat out the 1973-74 season in a contract dispute, a year he would use to finish earning his law degree.
Dryden would retire at the age of 32 with a .790 winning percentage, a 2.24 goals against average and total 258 wins and 46 shutouts against only 57 losses.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and had his number 29 retired by the Canadiens in 2007.
Since leaving hockey, he has written several hockey books, including The Game and Home Game. For a time he did color commentary for hockey during the Olympics in the 1980's, including working with Al Michaels during the "Miracle on Ice" game between the USA and the Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980.
He became President of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997 until 2003 and in 2004 Dryden was elected to the Canadian Parliament.
Today's featured jersey is a 1979 NHL All-Star Ken Dryden jersey. That season the NHL broke from the usual East vs. West format in 1979 and instead, played a three game series versus the Soviet Union National Team in New York at Madison Square Garden called The Challenge Cup. The team was made up of NHL players from a variety of countries, not just Canadians as was the case in 1972.
The NHL All-Stars won Game One 4-2 behind the goaltending of Ken Dryden, but lost Game Two 5-4, also with Dryden in goal. Game Three was a walkover for the Soviets by a 6-0 score, with Gerry Cheevers in net for the NHL, giving the Soviets the cup, which they would famously display before a 10-3 exhibition game victory versus the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden just prior to the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
Since the Soviet Union wore their road red jerseys for each game, the NHL only wore their light colored home jerseys, so there is no road jersey of this style to be found. This is the oldest All-Star jersey style in my collection. The NHL logo on the front and shoulders are a fully embroidered patches and the name and numbers are all sewn on, a very nice level of quality for a jersey from this era.
Here is a pair of video tributes to the career of Ken Dryden.
The Canadiens dynasty of the late 70's is featured in this brief video.
Here is part one (of five) of Ken Dryden's jersey number retirement ceremony.
Finally, highlights from Game One of the 1979 NHL Challenge Cup, in which Dryden was the winning goaltender.