Friday, January 7, 2011
While attending Bowling Green University from 1973-74 to 1976-77, goaltender Mike Liut was named to the CCHA First All-Star Team twice and named the CCHA Player of the Year in 1977. Also while at Bowling Green, Liut was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft.
Liut chose instead of join the Cincinnati Stingers of the rival World Hockey Association for the 1977-78 season and played in 27 games as a backup.
For 1978-79 he took over as the number one goalie for the Stingers and won 23 games in 54 appearances in what was the last season of the WHA.
His rights were reclaimed by the Blues as part of the provisions of the merger between the NHL and WHA and Liut was immediately installed as the Blues starter, a position he held down for the next five seasons. He introduced himself to the NHL with 32 wins in his first season to lead the league and 33 wins the next, which led to a runner-up finish in the Hart Trophy voting for league MVP. He was however, awarded the 1981 Lester Pearson Award for league MVP as voted by the players. He also appeared in the 1981 NHL All-Star Game where he was named the game's MVP.
On the heels of his outstanding regular season, Liut was named the starting goaltender for Team Canada for the 1981 Canada Cup, where he led Canada to the finals with a 4-1-1 record in six games.
For the next three seasons with the Blues Liut played strongly and averaged 25 wins per season. He was on his way to a repeat of those numbers when he was traded to the Hartford Whalers midway through the 1984-85 season.
As the Whalers lead goaltender Liut continued his solid play, leading the league in shutouts with four in 1986-87, no mean feat during the high scoring 1980's. In his first season with the Whalers, Liut recorded 27 wins and then topped 30 for the third time in his career with 31, followed by 25 more in 1987-88.
In the 1989-90 season Liut led the league with the lowest goals against average of 2.53 despite a late season trade to the Washington Capitals. For the final two seasons of Liut's career he shared time with incumbent Don Beaupre before being forced to retire due to back problems.
Throughout his career he became recognized for both his #1 sweater he wore during his entire career, as well as his distinctive snow white mask, which remained unadorned throughout his NHL career despite his flashy mask worn while in the WHA.
Liut finished his career with 294 wins and 25 shutouts in 14 NHL seasons in addition to the 31 wins and 4 shutouts he recorded in the WHA.
Today's featured jersey is a 1984-85 Hartford Whalers Mike Liut jersey. This would be the only season Liut would wear this specific style of jersey, as the next season Pucky the Whale would disappear for good from the shoulders of the jerseys and the green stripe at the bottom of the jersey would also vanish, making the bottom of the sweaters white from then on.
Today's video selection is a run down of the 1988-89 Hartford Whalers and their many pornstaches.
Here is video of Liut in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Note the "birdcage" helmet he's wearing rather than his trademark mask, as well as the short-lived Blues jerseys with the team name on the front, worn only for three seasons starting with 1984-85, the year Liut was traded to Hartford.