Thursday, January 5, 2012
Born to be a Montreal Canadien, Serge Savard was born in Montreal in 1946 and played his junior hockey for the Montreal Junior Canadiens from 1963-64 to 1965-66, where the defenseman's best season was a 47 point effort from 56 games in 1964-65.
The following season must have been a culture shock of the highest degree, as the French Canadian found himself in the Central Hockey League as a member of the Houston Apollos. Savard was named CHL Rookie of the Year when he scored 32 points in 68 games, but also stood his ground while being tested during his first season of professional hockey with 155 penalty minutes. He would never get half that many minutes again in his 17 year career. He would also make his NHL debut with Montreal with a pair of games that season as well as appearing in a single playoff game with the Quebec Aces of the AHL.
Savard would crack the Montreal lineup the following season and never return to the minors again. As a rookie in 1967-68, the season of the great NHL expansion, he registered 15 points in 67 games, including his first NHL goal. He would also get his first taste of playoff action, which was to become a regular part of his career going forward. Savard played in 6 of Montreal's 13 playoff games, as the Canadiens swept the expansion St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup, earning the rookie his name on the cup for the first time.
With the confidence of a full season behind him now, Savard doubled his point total in 1968-69 with 8 goals and 23 assists for 31 points, but really shone in the playoffs, as he racked up 4 goals and 10 points in 14 games as Montreal rolled to a second consecutive Stanley Cup and Savard became the first defenseman to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
Savard raised his goal total to 12 and matched his point total with 31 in 1969-70, but the Canadiens missed out on the postseason due to losing a tiebreaker in the standings. Savard did however, play in his first NHL All-Star game that season.
He was limited to just 60 games over the next two seasons in part due to a severely broken leg which he later broke again, quite nearly the only blemish on his otherwise durable nature, as 12 times in 16 seasons he would play upwards of 64 games, with 9 of those being 71 or more.
Back healthy once again, Savard played first in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, playing in 5 of the series 8 games, during which Canada won 4 and tied 1 as Savard likes to point out!
Savard then saw action in 74 games with the Canadiens, setting a new career high with 39 points but he really came alive in the playoffs with 11 points in 17 games as Montreal won the fourth Stanley Cup of Savard's career, as they also won the title in 1971 when Savard missed the majority of the season due to injury.
After a down year offensively, with just 18 points, Savard rebounded in 1974-75 with a career best 60 points coming from 20 goals and 40 assists, both also career highs.
The 1975-76 season saw Savard score 47 points and help Montreal earn another Stanley Cup. Before the next NHL season could get underway, Savard suited up for Team Canada again during the 1976 Canada Cup, which the Canadians would win.
Montreal was now in the midst of a dynasty, as they would win their second of four consecutive Stanley Cups in 1976-77, followed by their third and fourth in 1978 and 1979. Following the 1978-79 season, Savard was named the recipient of the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship. That season would also see Savard compete in the 1979 Challenge Cup, a series of games against the Soviet Union which was held in lieu of the customary all-star game.
Savard would play two more seasons with Montreal while serving as the team captain before briefly retiring until being convinced to return to the ice with the Winnipeg Jets, who desired his veteran leadership on their young squad.
Savard played 47 games on his return to the NHL in 1981-82, which saw a 48 point improvement in the standings for the Jets, and a 76 games in 1982-83, which included his 1,000th NHL game on this date in 1983, making him just the 45th player in league history to reach that milestone.
Savard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986 and had his #18 retired by Montreal in 2006. He stayed active in the Canadiens organization, later spending 12 seasons as the Canadiens general manager, a time period which included two Stanley Cup championships.
Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 Winnipeg Jets Serge Savard jersey. The Jets adopted a new jersey style upon their entry into the NHL in 1979-80 and continued to wear it for 11 seasons throughout the 1980's.
One unique element of this jersey is the extra thin font used for the names on the back.
The template for this jersey was actually originally used by the New York Rangers for two seasons under the management of John Ferguson. After being let go by the Rangers in 1978, Ferguson became the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and reprised the exact same jersey template for the Jets beginning with their inaugural NHL season in 1979, with the only differences being the font for the name and numbers and, naturally, the team logo. The Jets would use this style all throughout the 1980's.
Bonus jersey: Due to the length of time Savard spent with the Canadiens and the eight championships clubs on which he played, it is only fitting to include a 1974-75 Montreal Canadiens Serge Savard jersey. from the year Savard set career highs in goals, assists and points, with 60. This jersey features a lace up collar and has the sleeve numbers contained within the blue arm stripe, which Montreal did from 1966 to 1978.
This particular style with the lace up collar and sleeve number placement was used from 1966-67 to 1974-75 until the Canadiens changed to a v-neck collar.
Notice the back numbers are not centered on the blue chest stripe, a common misconception with Canadiens jerseys.
Today's first video segment is the Legends of Hockey biography of Savard.
Next, is a tribute to Savard on the occasion of having his #18 retired by the Canadiens.
Here, Savard's #18 raises to the rafters later in the ceremony. Notice the current Canadiens players all wearing #18 Savard captain's jerseys with a special commemorative patch for the occasion.