Friday, March 9, 2012
Mike "Shakey" Walton first played junior hockey with the St. Michael's Majors in 1961-62 with a team that eventually won the Memorial Cup.
Walton with the St. Michael's Majors
The St. Michael's program was discontinued following their successful season and the players transferred to the Neil McNeil Catholic Secondary School, where Walton scored 22 goals in 38 games as the Maroons won the Metro Junior A League championship.
For the 1963-64 season Walton joined the Toronto Marlboros, where he finished second in team scoring with 41 goals and 92 points in 53 games which he followed up with 26 points in 12 playoff games as the Marlboros brought home the second Memorial Cup of Walton's young career.
He spent a year with the Tulsa Oilers for seasoning in 1964-65 and continued his impressive offensive output with 40 goals and 84 points in 68 games.
He spent the majority of the 1965-66 season with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (35 goals and 86 points in 68 games) as well as making his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing time in 6 games including scoring his first NHL goal.
He divided his time between the Americans (36 games) and Maple Leafs (31) the following season before sticking with the Maple Leafs in time to participate in the postseason, where he scored 4 goals and 7 points in 12 playoff games as Toronto would win the Stanley Cup, giving Walton the third major championship of his five year career.
Walton poses with the 1967 Stanley Cup
He would skate for the Maple Leafs full time in 1967-68 and register the only 30 goal season of this NHL career on his way to a 59 point season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Mike Walton
Walton would play two and a half more seasons with Toronto, but butted heads with first Punch Imlach and later Johnny McLellan, which led to his eventually being traded to Philadelphia who immediately traded him the same day to the Boston Bruins halfway through the 1970-71 season.
Although he started quite slowly, he regained his confidence and scoring touch in 1971-72 with 28 goals and 56 points as well as another 12 points in 15 playoff games as the Bruins swept to the Stanley Cup championship, Walton's second in five years.
His time with the Bruins would also allow him to develop a friendship with teammate Bobby Orr. The two would eventually become roommates while on the road with and even form a business partnership in the form of the Orr-Walton Sports Camp for kids each summer.
Walton would play one more season with the Bruins, which unfortunately would be best remembered by a frightening accident at the team hotel in St. Louis, when, during some horseplay, Walton was attempting to avoid being soaked by a teammate wielding a bucket of water, he tripped and crashed through a plate glass door, suffering severe cuts which required 200 stitches and resulted in the loss of five pints of blood, which put his life in jeopardy for a time. He would recover in time to finish the season, during which he played in 56 games, scoring 25 goals and 47 points.
Lured by the money offered by the upstart WHA, as well as the role of the top gun of the second year Minnesota Fighting Saints, Walton left the Bruins and arrived in Minnesota. There, he instantly excelled as the team's offensive leader, taking like a duck to water with the wide open style of play in the WHA.
Freed of such things as defensive responsibilities, Walton began scoring at a prolific pace, highlighted by a hat trick on March 3rd in a 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Sharks, four goals in a 8-6 win against the New England Whalers three days later on March 6th for his second consecutive hat trick, which was followed by another four goals on this date in 1974 for his third consecutive hat trick in a 9-5 victory over the Quebec Nordiques, which extended Walton's scoring streak to 16 straight games.
Walton left his opponents in his wake in 1973-74.
As always with any Fighting Saints photos, be sure to note the clear
dasher boards in St. Paul, which were unique to rinks in all of North America
His "hat trick of hat tricks" all came at home and included 11 goals in 3 games as well as setting team records for most goals in a period (3 on March 9th) and most goals in a game (4 on March 6th, which he equalled the very next game on March 9th).
By the end of the 1973-74 season Walton had scored a team record 6 hat tricks on his way to a league leading 57 goals. In addition, he earned 60 assists for 117 total points, which not only led the Fighting Saints, but the entire WHA to earn Walton the Bill Hunter Trophy as the league's scoring leader.
Paul Shmyr demonstrates some of the tactics used against Walton
in the WHA, this being a textbook example of hooking
Walton would also set team records for the most shorthanded goals with 9, the most game winning goals with 7 and the most multiple goal games at 14. He would also set records for most points in a period with 4, most points in a game with 6, set on this day as he completed his third consecutive hat trick. Additionally, his 60 assists were also a team record. He then racked up 10 goals and 18 points in 11 playoff games.
During the playoffs, the Fighting Saints defeated the Edmonton Oilers in five games before engaging in an all out slugfest war with the Houston Aeros, a series which saw Houston win in six games, closing out the Fighting Saints in St. Paul, which Walton did not take very well, for after the game was over, Walton, skates and all, marched straight to his car, with his blades making sparks on the concrete as he went, hopped in and drove to a nearby watering hole to drown his sorrows in full gear!
His second season with Minnesota was nearly as successful, with Walton scoring 48 goals and 93 points plus an additional 10 goals and 17 points in 12 playoff games. His final season with the Fighting Saints had Walton at 31 goals and 71 points through 58 games (a pace of 43 goals and 98 points) when the Fighting Saints folded mid-season due to their financial difficulties.
Now a free agent, Walton returned to the NHL, finding a place with the Vancouver Canucks, putting up 8 goals and 16 points in just 10 games with his new club. He was limited to just 40 games in 1976-77, scoring 31 points while healthy.
He established a new personal best in while in the NHL with 66 points in 1977-78, thanks in part to 29 goals, one short of his best season back in 1968 with Toronto.
Walton played for the St. Louis Blues (22 games), Rochester Americans (1 games), Boston Bruins (14 games), the New Brunswick Hawks (7 games) and the Chicago Black Hawks (26 games) - all during the 1978-79 season!
Walton would play one final season as a professional, traveling to Europe for 20 games with Cologne EC in West Germany, where he scored 12 goals and 31 points to close out his career.
Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Minnesota Fighting Saints Mike Walton jersey as worn during his prolific season during which he led the WHA in scoring, besting the likes of defending WHA scoring champion Andre Lacroix, Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull.
The Fighting Saints began their inaugural season with a large oval shaped "S" logo on their home white, road blue and gold alternate jerseys before introducing a new set of sweaters with the "little saint" logo, which was applied to a white and blue set of jerseys. The new logo was never worn on their gold sweaters.
The new style of jersey would remain in use and unchanged for the rest of the Fighting Saints all to brief history and is at the top of our list for our favorite jerseys of all time, thanks in part to one of the greatest logos in hockey history.
Note the details of the logo on this jersey, as the Little Saint does not have a halo, does not have the name "Saints" in the "S" on his chest and is wearing white skates, all details done incorrectly on the vast majority of modern reproductions of Fighting Saints jerseys on the market today. However, our friends at Vintage Minnesota Hockey have taken the time to hit all the marks properly with their uniquely accurate version of the Fighting Saints jersey, thanks to their research using actual game worn jerseys. Click here for the Little Saint version, and they also offer the original "S" logo version as well.
In our video section today, coach Harry Neale interviews a few of the Fighting Saints roster prior to Walton's record setting season. Goaltender John Garrett's suit and bow tie along are worth your time as he does some early time in front of the TV cameras prior to his current broadcasting career. Walton would go on to exceed the prediction of 50 goals.
Here is a more recently produced video on the Fighting Saints, during which Walton himself verifies the story about leaving the rink in full gear and heading to the bar, as well as the arrival of the real life Carlson Brothers, who inspired the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot.