To write that I am elated about this is a gross understatement. It was recently announced that legislation was introduced to honor Jackie Robinson with a Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to civil rights and sports. This is the highest award the U.S. Congress can bestow upon an individual. There is already a similar bill before Congress proposing a national day to recognize Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments. This great American’s legend will live forever, as it rightfully should!
Story of the Week
On skates, he was as solid as a fire hydrant, and not much bigger. But Marcel Dionne had quick acceleration along with an aggressive run-and-gun style that put him in the spotlight at a young age. As a teenager in Ontario’s junior league, he won two consecutive scoring championships.
Even when fully grown, Dionne stood just under 5-8, but NHL scouts ranked him with Guy Lafleur, his perennial rival in Quebec. The Canadiens selected Lafleur as the number-one pick in the 1971 NHL entry draft, and the Red Wings quickly snapped up Dionne with the second pick.
Dionne had an auspicious rookie year, with 28 goals and 49 assists, but he found himself on a team in turmoil. There were problems at the top of Detroit’s organization, and they filtered down. Dionne was suspended twice for arguing with his coach. But with all the team turmoil, Marcel managed to rack up 366 points in four seasons. He finished behind Orr and Espositio in the 1974-75 scoring race.
Discouraged by the losing atmosphere in Detroit, he tested the free-agent market, and ultimately jumped to the L.A. Kings in 1975. He soon was aware of the fact that he was a high scorer on a non-playoff team. While the Kings enjoyed little success during Dionne’s almost 12 seasons there, he was an offensive force. He broke the 50-goal plateau six times. And in the 1979-80 season, he tied Wayne Gretzky with 137 points.
Dionne’s most coveted achievement was winning the Pearson Award in 1979 and 1980. It is the league MVP award as voted by the league’s players. He centered a line with Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer, and although this line played in the NHL’s hinterland (it truly was) of L.A., this line gathered notice as one of the league’s best. (Before Gretzky came to town, you could buy any seat at the Forum, and sit anywhere you wished; this wasn’t exactly Hockeytown USA.)
Dionne and the Kings were at odds regarding that old subject, money, and Marcel effectively demanded to be traded. He later claimed that his request was a bluff, a contract negotiation ploy, but the Kings, to his dismay, sent him to the New York Rangers. Although Dionne adjusted to the move, the Stanley Cup ring he genuinely coveted never materialized. Marcel came to the end of the line while with New York, and retired in 1989.
The little man left a big mark. He retired as second in NHL career goals and points. 550 of his 730 career goals were scored as a member of the L.A. Kings, and after his retirement, the Kings retired his number 16 jersey. Marcel Dionne was one exciting and talented hockey player.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who owns the record for most hits by a major leaguer in one game? On 9-16-75, Rennie Stennett of the Pirates got 7 hits against the Cubbies at Wrigley Field.
Trivia Question of the Week
What former NFL player danced with the Chicago City Ballet? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.