Thursday, March 10, 2011
Dennis O'Brien played his junior hockey with the St. Catharines Black Hawks in the Ontario Hockey League in 1968-69. The defenseman was then selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft in the second round, 14th overall.
He spent the entire 1969-70 season honing his craft with the Iowa Stars of the Central Hockey League, the only season that edition of the Stars would exist. While with Iowa, he was credited with 20 points from 2 goals and 18 assists in 72 games while amassing a league leading 331 penalty minutes, 73 more than the notorious Andre "Moose" Dupont.
During the following season of 1970-71, O'Brien split time between the minor league Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League and made his NHL debut with the North Stars of the NHL. He played exactly 27 games with each team and scored his first NHL goal on his way to a total of three for the season. When the North Stars qualified for the playoffs, O'Brien got his first taste of postseason play with nine games for the North Stars.
Now established as a genuine NHLer, O'Brien would play six full seasons on the Minnesota blueline. His stay at home, hard hitting defensive style would not earn him many points, but it would make him a steady, reliable member of the North Stars defensive corps. In five of his six seasons in Minnesota, O'Brien would play at least 70 games five times with a high of six goals and 24 points in 1976-77.
O'Brien would begin his eighth season with the North Stars in 1977-78 but after 13 games he was claimed on waivers by the Colorado Rockies on December 2, 1977. He would see action in 16 games for the Rockies before being traded to the Cleveland Barons on January 12, 1978. He would log 23 games in Cleveland prior to again being placed on waivers. Then on this date in 1978, O'Brien became the first player in NHL history to be with four different NHL teams in one season when he was claimed by the Boston Bruins.
Once with Boston his situation was again settled, as there was still enough time to play in the Bruins final 16 games of the regular season and contribute to the Bruins playoff effort, as Boston made it all the way to the 1978 Stanley Cup Finals.
After all the movement from team to team to team to team the previous season, O'Brien must have been relieved to play the entire 1978-79 season with the Bruins, save for a pair of games with the Rochester Americans in the AHL.
O'Brien briefly laced up his skates for one final season in 1979-80 with three games with the Bruins and six games with the Binghamton Dusters in the AHL before retiring.
His final stats were 592 games played, scoring 13 goals and 91 assists for 122 points and 1,017 penalty minutes, with his highest being 187 in 1975-76.
Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Cleveland Barons Dennis O'Brien jersey as worn during his record setting season during which he became the first player to play for four different NHL teams in a single season. To date, only one other player has equalled that amount, Dave McLlwain in 1992, who coincidentally joined his fourth team on the same date of March 10th.
The Barons only existed for two seasons, yet there are detail differences between the jerseys used both years. This particular jersey does not have the state of Ohio shaped sleeve patches, which contained the arm numbers during the Barons first season. Additionally, the sleeve numbers were relocated to the red shoulder areas for their second and final season. Also, the sans-serif font for the player names was changed to a serifed font as seen on today's featured jersey.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1970-71 Minnesota North Stars Dennis O'Brien jersey as worn during his rookie season in the NHL. The North Stars wore this particular style from the start of their second season of 1968-69 through 1971-72 and always without names on the back.
Today's video clip is a pretty intense fight between the Cleveland Barons and the Boston Bruins, two of the clubs Dennis O'Brien played for in 1977-78.