Friday, October 18, 2013
Andy "Spuds" Hebenton made his professional hockey debut with the Cincinnati Mohawks of the American Hockey League in 1949 and moved to his native Canada the following season to play for the Victoria Cougars in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which was renamed the Western Hockey League for the third of Hebenton's five seasons with the Cougars.
While with the Cougars he won a President's Cup as league champion in 1951 and established himself as a reliable player known for not missing any games.
The 1950-51 WHL champion Victoria Cougars
He would play in every game of his final three seasons in Victoria. His personal best season with the Cougars was his last in 1954-55, when he was named to the league's First All-Star Team following his 46 goal, 80 point season.
Based on that success, his rights were purchased by the New York Rangers of the NHL for the 1955-56 season.
He continued his streak of consecutive games with the Rangers, playing in all 70 games for eight straight seasons while in Manhattan. His best season as a Ranger was 1958-59, when he scored 33 goals and 62 points. At the conclusion of the season Hebenton was named the recipient of the 1959 Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. While with the Rangers, he averaged less than 10 minutes in penalties per season. He was rewarded for his fine season with a spot in the 1960 NHL All-Star Game.
Hebenton was claimed by the Boston Bruins in the waiver draft for the 1963-64 season and once more played in every one of Boston's 70 games, giving him a streak of 630 straight NHL games, breaking all records for NHL games played up until that time.
Following his one season with Boston, his rights were sold to the Portland Buckaroos of the WHL for the 1964-65 campaign. His offensive game returned while in the WHL, reflected by his 34 goals and 74 points in a season where he yet again played in every game possible. He also competed in 10 playoff games and scored 13 points as the Buckaroos captured the Lester Patrick Cup as 1965 WHL champions. Following the season Hebenton was awarded the Fred Hume Cup for being the Most Gentlemanly Player in the WHL.
The 1964-65 WHL champion Portland Buckaroos
He returned to Victoria for the next two seasons, this time with the Victoria Maple Leafs, where he would capture his second consecutive championship in 1966 while extending his consecutive games streak to 1,062 consecutive professional games which began back in 1951.
Hebenton's streak, which remains the record for the longest streak in professional hockey history, would come to an end on this day in 1967 owing to the passing of his father when he went home to Winnipeg for the funeral. After missing two games, Hebenton was back in the lineup to begin a new streak, as he played in all 70 of the Buckaroos remaining games.
His point totals would begin to climb following that season, as he went from 45 to 77 then 78 and finally 81 in 1970-71 for his personal best of his career. Additionally, he began a run of five consecutive Fred Hume Cup awards from 1970 to 1974, giving him six in all. During this run of success, the Buckaroos would capture another league championship, this time in 1971.
The 1970-71 WHL champion Portland Buckaroos
Eventually he would play ten seasons in the WHL after the conclusion of his NHL career and his second games played streak would reach 510 games giving him a combined total of having played in 1,572 out of a possible 1,574 games! Unfortunately, the WHL would cease operations after the 1973-74 season due to increased competition from the battle between the NHL and the World Hockey Association, which depleted the WHL's talent pool and placed teams in many of the WHL's traditional markets, like San Francisco/Oakland, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Vancouver.
Hebenton's career would wind down with four games with the Seattle Totems of the Central Hockey League in 1974 after 26 seasons of professional hockey, a mark of longevity exceeded by only the legendary Gordie Howe. He would continue to play in semi-pro hockey with the Portland Buckaroos, who had moved to the Western International Hockey League for one season and then the Pacific Northwest Hockey League, which folded before the end of it's season, which brought Hebenton's playing days to a close at the age of 46
His final NHL totals were 630 (consecutive) games, 189 goals and 202 assists for 391 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 1958-59 New York Rangers Andy Hebenton jersey. The Rangers jerseys began play in their first season in 1926, wearing essentially the same jersey style, which underwent some evolutionary changes until 1951 when this particular style with the lace up collar was adopted for use through the 1962-63 season.
I'm not even sure how to introduce this next video, but it does feature five minutes of Rangers footage from 1961 (if you even survive the first 40 second intro) that includes Andy Hebenton with the most unique commentary of any video we've posted since Marie Pier's French commentary on the Canadiens. It's up to you to decide if it's sheer genius or five minutes of your life you will never get back...
Actually, the longer it went on, the more we enjoyed it. It's rather like if Howard Cosell and Rick Jeanneret had an illegitimate offspring who drank to excess.
Here is a feature on the Portland Buckaroos, with some classic footage that is really a joy to see followed by some former Buckaroos talking about their time in Portland.