Friday, January 20, 2012
Born on this date in 1950 in Winnipeg, Chuck Lefley began his career with his hometown Winnipeg Rangers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1965. There, the center racked up 39 points in 46 games to earn league rookie of the year honors as the Rangers would go on to win the Turnbull Cup as league champions. He would follow that up with a 25 goal, 46 point season in 1966-67.
Rather than join a team higher up the junior ranks for the following season, Lefley instead chose to become a member of the Canadian National Team, whom he played for over the course of the next three seasons, which included his participation in the 1969 World Championships, Canada's final participation in the World Championships until 1977 due to a dispute over the amateur status of players from Soviet Bloc countries.
After three seasons with the national team, Lefley played in seven games for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, impressively scoring 6 goals and 12 points. That spring he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 6th overall in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft.
He would spend the vast majority of the 1970-71 season in the American Hockey League with the Montreal Voyageurs, scoring 35 points in 48 games. He would also make his NHL debut with a single game with the Canadiens as well as one playoff game later that year, which was enough to earn Lefley his name on the Stanley Cup despite only two games of NHL experience as the Canadiens would claim the title following a seven game series against the Chicago Black Hawks!
Lefley would play 16 games with the Canadiens, scoring his first NHL points with a pair of assists, but once again spent most of his time with the Voyaguers in the AHL, who had now been relocated to Nova Scotia. During the post season, the Voyageurs would defeat Springfield, Boston and Baltimore while Lefley came in third in team scoring with 14 points in 15 games as Nova Scotia captured the Calder Cup as league champions.
Lefley would become a full-time member of the Canadiens in 1972-73, registering his first 20 goals season with 21 on his way to 46 points as part of the powerhouse Montreal roster. During the playoffs, Buffalo fell first, followed by Philadelphia before Chicago fell victim once again, giving Lefley the second Stanley Cup of his career, only this one slightly more earned with
8 points in 17 games.
The 1973-74 season saw Lefley raise his career highs to 23 goals and 54 points. He played in 18 games with Montreal in 1974-75, but his scoring touch had gone away, with just 1 goal and 3 points at the time of his trade to the St. Louis Blues.
While the Montreal lineup was stacked with future hall of famers on the verge of their latest Stanley Cup dynasty, the Blues welcomed Lefley's offensive skills to their roster. Given ample playing time and responsibility, he equalled his 23 goals from the previous season while playing 17 less games than the year before.
The 1975-76 season would prove to be the best of Lefley's career, as he would register 43 goals, 20 more than any other season of his career. The 43 goals would place him in the top ten in the NHL and his 85 points would lead St. Louis in scoring as well as setting club records in both categories in the process.
He would play one more season, but lack the drive and excitement he had brought to his game the previous season. He point totals would drop precipitously, finishing with just 11 goals and 41 points. He would surprise everyone by walking away from his contract and retiring at the end of the season with plans to return to his farm in Manitoba.
If that were not surprising enough, he really caught everyone off guard at the following season when he played for Jokerti Helsinki in Finland, a very uncommon move in the 1970's for a North American player. Of their 36 games, Lefley appeared in 24, scoring 11 goals and 12 points, equalling his NHL goal total from the year before.
He travelled even further east for the 1978-79 season, joining his older brother and defenseman Bryan Lefley as members of Dusseldorfer EG (now better known as the DEG Metro Stars) in West Germany, where in 26 games he scored 17 goals and 22 points, clearly a shoot first mentality as evidenced by just 5 assists! Bryan, who had been with the Colorado Rockies the previous season, would remain in with Dusseldorf for another season before finishing his career with SC Bern in Switzerland.
He returned to St. Louis for the 1979-80 season to resurrect his NHL career, but a hard hit in training camp separated his shoulder, which limited him to 28 games for the season. He returned to the Blues for the 1980-81 season, but decided his career was over after just two games, retiring for good this time.
His final NHL totals were 407 games played, 128 goals and 164 assists for 292 points as well as 13 points in 29 playoff games and his name on the Stanley Cup twice.
Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 St. Louis Blues Chuck Lefley jersey. This was the second version of the Blues dark jerseys, as their original ones had the colors on the stripes reversed. Names were added permanently in 1977-78 and colored shoulders, matching the style of their white jerseys, came in 1979 and remained in use through 1984.