Another of the regular features on Hockey Hermit’s NHL Hockey Blog will be Legends of Hockey. I will pay tribute to some of the greatest players in NHL history and help to make sure the feats of these legendary hockey players are never forgotten.
For the first installment of my Legends of Hockey feature I thought I should choose a member of hockey’s winningest franchise, and one of the most tradition-steeped teams in all of sport. I am referring to the Montreal Canadiens of course.
With 100 Years of NHL hockey history under their belts the Montreal Canadiens have seen plenty of superstars grace their rosters, so I had my pick of legendary hockey players to choose from. In the end I decided to go with a player whose NHL career was far too short, and had he played a couple of decades like most NHL stars would no doubt have set many NHL records that would still stand today.
Few images in hockey are more enduring than this one of Ken Dryden relaxing in his crease with his arms propped up on his goal stick. Such was the dominance of the Montreal Canadiens throughout much of the 1970s that Dryden spent a lot of time in this pose. However, Montreal’s incredible offensive arsenal should not overshadow the accomplishments of Dryden. Ask any goalie in the NHL and they’ll tell you that the toughest saves to make are those that come after a prolonged period without any shots. Somehow, despite the lengthy intervals between shots Dryden managed to stay sharp and mentally focused, making spectacular saves when he was called upon.
Ken Dryden’s career was sadly brief for Montreal Canadiens fans. It did not end because Dryden was injured or ill, but rather because he felt he’d accomplished what he wanted to in the game of hockey and it was time to move on to a new challenge. In fact, Dryden only played 7 complete seasons in the NHL, a paltry total compared to many of the great goaltenders in NHL history. Yet despite his relatively brief career Ken Dryden is one of the most decorated NHL players in the history of the sport. He captured 6 Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, a Calder trophy as rookie of the year (the season after he won the Conn Smythe), and 5 Vezina trophies. Not too shabby for a goalie who only appeared in 397 career games. Even more impressive was his winning percentage. Of those 397 games, Dryden only came out on the losing end a mind-boggling 57 times! His career winning percentage was .743 and he had 46 shutouts. Had he played as long as Terry Sawchuk, Patrick Roy, or Martin Brodeur he would have easily been the career leader in all major goaltending stat categories.
Not only was Ken Dryden an all star goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, following his rookie season with the club he was chosen, along with Tony Esposito, to represent Canada in the legendary Summit Series between Canada and the Soviets for world hockey supremacy. Dryden played four games in the series. After losing his first 2 starts in Canada, Dryden showed his mettle under pressure by winning both games he played in the Soviet Union, including backstopping Canada to a 6-5 victory in the crucial 8th game to give the Canadian team the series victory.
Yes, Ken Dryden’s career was too short, but in that time he gave both Canadiens and Canadian hockey fans many thrills, and his great career has since been honored by both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Montreal Canadiens, who retired his #29 in January of 2007. He is a true legend of the game, and his name will live on as one of the greatest goalies to ever play the sport of hockey.
Video Footage Of Ken Dryden’s 1971 Conn Smythe Winning Playoff Drive