None of the players Montreal selected between 1963 and 1967 ever played in the NHL, but in 1968 goaltender Michel Plasse ended that streak. In 1969 it was decided that this would be the final year of the Canadiens provision as well as the teams sponsoring junior clubs, as going forward all players 20 and older would be eligible for a universal draft.
With one last chance to uncover some overlooked talent, the Canadiens struck gold when they chose Rejean Houle and Tardif. Houle would eventually play for the Canadiens from 1969 to 1973 and again from 1976 to 1983.
Tardif, born on this date in 1949, would play the majority of the season with the Montreal Voyageurs of the American Hockey League, amassing 27 goals and 58 points in 45 games. He would also see action with the Canadiens in 18 games, scoring 3 goals in the process.
Tardif would never play another game in the minors, as he established himself as a regular in the Montreal lineup beginning with the 1970-71 season. Playing time was at a premium in a lineup filled with future Hall of Famers and All-Stars such as Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer, Peter Mahovlich, Jacques Lemaire, Henri Richard and Frank Mahovlich, but Tardif held his own with 49 points in 76 games in a season which concluded with a Stanley Cup championship.
Tardif raised his point total to 53 in 1971-72 and nearly matched it with 50 points in 1972-73, a season which saw Tardif once again have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Change was afoot in the world of hockey however, as that same season saw the debut of the rival World Hockey Association, who made a splash by signing no less a talent than Bobby Hull. Aggressively looking to stock their rosters, the WHA came calling and Tardif elected to join the upstarts when he signed with the Los Angeles Sharks, who he led in scoring in 1973-74 with 40 goals and 30 points. Tardif was also chosen for Team Canada in the 1974 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, registering 2 assists in 5 games.
The Sharks finished 8th out of 12 in attendance that season, but last in the standings. For 1974-75, they were sold to new owners and relocated to Detroit, becoming known as the Michigan Stags. The whole affair was a dismal failure, and the team folded in mid-January. Fortunately for Tardif, he was gone by then, having been traded to the Quebec Nordiques in December.
Despite his late arrival, Tardif finished fourth in team scoring with 72 points in 53 games. His 38 goals, when combined with his earlier 12 for the Stags, gave him and even 50 for the season, good for sixth in the league. Life in Quebec was a far cry from Detroit, as the Nordiques made it all the way to the Avco Cup Finals that season.
Now fully settled in Quebec, Tardif tore through the WHA with a stunning 71 goals (only the second professional to ever score 70 goals in a season) and 77 assists, leading the league on both categories to win the WHA scoring title with 148 points, 25 clear of Hull, the first to 70. Tardif's playoffs were ended by an on-ice attack by Rick Jodzio of the Calgary Cowboys, which left Tardif with serious head injuries and and Jodzio charged in court with bodily harm with intent to injure as there were fears that Tardif had suffered brain damage in the assault.
Tardif was named team captain for the 1976-77 season but being limited to 62 games that year saw his point total sag to 109, but still good enough for second on the Nordiques. In the post season, Tardif was able to play in 12 of the team's 17 games as the Nordiques would eventually capture the WHA championship, the third championship of his career.
Back to full health in 1977-78, Tardif again led the WHA in scoring with a career best 154 points from 65 goals and 89 assists, again both league leading totals. The 1978-79 season saw another 40 goal season with 41 goals and 96 points, the final season of the WHA.
Under some highly restrictive terms, the Nordiques became one of four surviving WHA teams granted entry as expansion franchises in the NHL. The high flying Nordiques were gutted by the terms of the expansion deal, but Tardif was one of the few players Quebec was allowed to protect.
With the Nordiques struggling to find their way in the NHL, Tardif's point totals would plummet from the stellar levels he achieved in the WHA, but were still quite respectable. Over the final four seasons of his career, Tardif would score a high of 39 goals and 70 points in 1981-82.
His final combined career totals were 963 games played with 510 goals and 557 assists for 1,067 points with his 316 WHA goals the most in league history and 666 points second overall. He was also named the WHA's Most Valuable Player in 1976 and 1978, the two seasons he would win the scoring championship. Tardif also played in the WHA All-Star Game as well as the NHL's All-Star Game in 1982. His #8 was retired by the Nordiques in 1983.
Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Quebec Nordiques Marc Tardif jersey as worn during the Nordiques final season of the WHA as Tardif scored 41 goals to finish as the league's all-time leading goal scorer.
The jerseys used by the Nordiques in the WHA were a far cry from today's high tech "systems", as they were a light weight mesh with screen printed cresting, names and numbers about at the level of today's beer leagues. Note the thinning of the number 8 on the back due to wear and repeated washings.
Keen eyed readers will notice the white logo with red trim rather than the more familiar red crest used from 1980-81 while members of the NHL.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1977 WHA Eastern Conference All-Star Marc Tardif jersey as worn during the East's 4-2 win over the West in Hartford. This would be the only time this exact style was worn, as the 1974 and 1975 versions had a blue background to the main crest and the format of the game was different in 1976, 1978 and 1979, which dictated different jersey styles.
For our French speaking readers, a video about the Jodzio incident which left Tardif injured and Jodzio in court. Note the presence of the police on the ice at one point!
Next up, a rockin' highlight package of Marc Tardif, including ultra-rare footage of him while with the Michigan Stags as well as wearing early Nordiques jerseys and holding the Avco Cup as their team captain.
Finally, an interview with both Hull and Tardif before Game 7 of the 1977 Avco Cup Finals, won by the Nordiques for their only championship.