Sunday, January 10, 2010
Born on this date in 1938, Frank Mahovlich would go on to have a 22 year professional career in both the NHL and WHA.
Mahovlich joined the Maple Leafs for three games in 1956-57 and during his first full season of 1957-58 would score 20 goals, beating out Bobby Hull for the Calder Trophy. Three seasons later Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach would put him on a line with Red Kelly and Bob Nevin. The three of them would be the team's top three scorers that season, with Mahovlich's 48 goals setting a Maple Leafs record that would stand for 21 years.
Mahovlich, "The Big M", would lead the Maple Leafs in goal scoring during the next three seasons in which the Maple Leafs would win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.
He would lead the Maple Leafs in scoring in 1964-65 and again in 1965-66 before the Mahovlich and the Maple Leafs would win another Stanley Cup in 1967, the fourth of his career.
"It was truly amazing that we won again in 1967. When I look back at that team, I wonder how the hell we did it. A lot of the players were new to the team since our win in 196. About eight or nine guys were around 40 years old. You can't find eight players that old in the entire NHL today! It gives you an idea of their talent, and that was in the six-team era," said Mahovlich.
Twice during his career in Toronto, Mahovlich would be hospitalized for depression and stress, a reaction to the negative way he was treated by the Maple Leafs fans during his time in Toronto and his conflicts with the Maple Leafs coaches and management.
"In Toronto, we always had problems that we couldn't solve. There was always something going on. It's amazing that we won four Stanley Cups while I was there. As players, we had no control over these problems. Punch Imlach practiced us too hard. We left our game on the practice rink half the time. Despite having great teams, we placed first only once in the regular season. I think that the management orchestrated a lot of the criticism I faced from the fans. I was relieved to be traded from Toronto in 1968, but I always lived there and still do. I wear my Stanley Cup ring from the Maple Leafs every day," said Mahovlich.
In need of a change of scenery more than just about any player ever, Mahovlich would be traded to the Detroit Red Wings on March 3, 1968 in a blockbuster trade that would send four players to Detroit with four heading back to Toronto in return, including Paul Henderson.
"... Toronto never understood me or my game. I would have been better off being traded earlier. My career blossomed after I left Toronto. Detroit and Montreal didn't contain me with rules or restraints. They said, "You're talented, go do your thing."
During his first full season in Detroit Mahovlich would set a career high in goals with 49 while playing on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. He would also get to play some with his younger brother Peter Mahovlich, "The Little M".
A season and a half later in 1970-71, Mahovlich was on the move once more as Detroit entered a rebuilding phase, this time being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens, where he was reunited with his younger brother Pete who had joined Montreal in the season before.
The move to Montreal was a good one for Mahovlich, as he would finish the season by adding another Stanley Cup to his resume after contributing a league leading 14 goals and 27 playoff points.
"The 1971 playoffs were the highlight of my career. The record I set for the most points in a playoffs for a Montreal Canadien, 27 points, still stands more than 25 years later," Mahovlich stated.
The following season of 1971-72 saw Mahovlich set a career high with 96 points from 43 goals and 53 assists.
Before the next NHL season began, Mahovlich was a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.
In 1972-73, he would come close to equalling his point total from the year before with 93 and would then add another 23 points in 17 playoff games as the Canadiens would capture another Stanley Cup.
One more season in Montreal would see Mahovlich close out his NHL career by scoring 80 points to finish with 1181 games played, 533 goals and 570 assists for 1103 points and six Stanley Cups.
For 1974-75, Mahovlich would accept a lucrative offer to join the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association and participate in the 1974 Summit Series, which matched the stars of the WHA against the Soviet Union. Offensively, his two seasons with the Toros were successful, with 82 points in 1975 followed by 89 in 1976.
The Toros would relocate to Birmingham, Alabama of all the unlikely places, and be renamed the Bulls. The Bulls seemed more inclined to fight than score in order to attract fans. The aging Mahovlich was put on a line with tough guys Frank "Never" Beaton and Dave Hanson, one of the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot. Naturally, his point production plummeted, and when asked by a reporter what was wrong, Mahovlich brilliantly replied, "I don't know, but I seem to play better with Howe and Delvecchio."
He retired at age 40 in 1978 with WHA totals of 237 games, 89 goals and 143 assists for 232 points, giving him over 600 goals, 700 assists and 1300 points combined as a professional in his 22 seasons.
Mahovlich was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981 and would later be appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Today's featured jersey is a 1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs Frank Mahovlich jersey. It's possible to date this jersey to the 1963-63 season by looking at the details of this classic wool sweater. While this same basic sweater with this striping pattern and crest had been in use by the Maple Leafs since 1938, the Maple Leafs added the tie-neck collar in 1958 and the sleeve numbers arrived in time for the 1962-63 season. The following year saw another modification, with the maple leaf logo receiving a white outline, making the 1962-63 season the only one with the exact combination of the tie-neck collar, sleeve numbers and crest with no outline.
This is a perfect example of the kind of research and detective work that we find so enjoyable about jersey collecting.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens Frank Mahovlich jersey as worn during the season Mahovlich won the last of his six Stanley Cups of his Hall of Fame career.
Today's featured video is the "Legends of Hockey" profile on Frank Mahovlich, featuring Frank himself.
Our next video is a recap of Frank's career, told at 1000 miles per hour by Paul Hendrick, who really should consider weekend work as an auctioneer. Follow along if you can.
Finally, a real treat, footage of Frank as a Birmingham Bull!