Forgotten mustachioed NHL aces of the 1980’s

When Joe Pelletier of GreatestHockeyLegends.com challenged me and other bloggers to pay tribute to a favorite retired hockey player to mark the upcoming Hockey Hall of Fame inductions, I thought it was a great idea. I also thought: “Wow, who am I going to pick?”

Growing up in British Columbia in the 1980’s and 90’s, my two favorite Canucks were Petri Skriko and Pavel Bure (with honorable mentions to the likes of Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl, Cliff Ronning, and Jyrki Lumme). However, I wanted to cover fresh territory, and I knew I didn’t have time this week to do the kind of in-depth tribute I’d want for Skriko or Bure.

Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Guy Lafleur were two other possibilities, but I decided to save my stories about those Montreal Canadiens greats for another time.

Then it occurred to me: instead of focusing on just one guy, why not feature a particular type of player that won’t be under the spotlight in Toronto this weekend?

I went with a species that no longer exists, but used to be an NHL mainstay. Just like the pipe organ at the Chicago Stadium, the powder-blue jackets on Hockey Night in Canada, and the portrait of the Queen at the Winnipeg Arena.

I’m talking about the forgotten mustachioed NHL aces of the 1980’s.

But why? Why?

Because it amuses me. And really, it goes back to my childhood.

I was never a true, hardcore hockey card collector. Oh, I picked up my share in elementary school, but I wasn’t neatly filing them away in some scrapbook and hoping they’d appreciate in value. I was picking them up off the school playground and narrowly avoiding having my fingers stepped on during the wonderful tradition of “Scramble,” in which one kid stands at the top of the school steps, announces whom he’s “scrambling,” and then hurls that player’s hockey card toward the outstretched hands of the masses below.

Hence, the vast majority of my cards are slightly scuffed or bent, and come from the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee series.

That year, mustachioed aces graced many a card. And they had truly unironic mustaches. Not like George Parros’s self-described porn star look. Not like Bryan McCabe’s current redneck goatee. Not like Olli Jokinen and Ville Peltonen’s abortive attempts at a retro-themed good luck charm last season.

No, these ’staches were the real deal.

Accordingly, I’ve tried to “keep it real” here. For this article, I arbitrarily decided that no possessors of mustaches who have already been honored enough would make the cut (ahem) here. I wanted names that were hot topics of conversation back when they played, but are rarely mentioned or thought about nowadays (unless you happen to be a major fan of the player’s particular team, or are just obsessive-compulsive, or have a peculiar sense of humor).

In fact, I would apply stricter, more defined standards than the Hockey Hall of Fame itself in terms of deciding who got in and who was trimmed out.

WHO WOULDN’T QUALIFY

Won a Stanley Cup (too much reflected fame)
Still playing deep into the 1990’s or new millennium (too recent)
Played in a Canadian city (too easy to remember from Hockey Night in Canada)

Sorry, Lanny McDonald, Glenn Anderson, Mike Gartner, Bryan Trottier, Denis Savard, Wendel Clark, Michel Goulet, and Stephane Richer.

No rock-solid stay-at-home defensemen who drop the gloves every once in a while. This is about forgotten mustachioed aces, scoring mustachioed aces.

Sorry, Rod Langway and Rod Buskas. (Rod Buskas must like that pairing!)

WHO WOULD QUALIFY

Not in the Hockey Hall of Fame or likely to be inducted soon
Never won a Stanley Cup
Must have finished in the Top Ten in league scoring or scored 50 goals at least once
Must be Canadian (it’s not about doing things the Don Cherry way: I’m going for an overall feel here, and besides, who were the notable mustachioed European NHLers of the 1980’s anyway, besides Kent Nilsson?)
Must have possessed a significant, 1980’s-style mustache

And with these (not overly fuzzy) criteria in mind, I dug into the YouTube vault to give the forgotten mustachioed NHL aces of the 1980’s their due.

Ladies and gentlemen, HockeyAdventure.com presents the ‘Stached Six. Not in any particular order.

It was supposed to be the ‘Stached Seven, but unfortunately, it seems John Ogrodnick’s lawyers (much like Prince’s lawyers) have been busy purging all the Ogrodnick content from everyone’s favorite video file-sharing site. Thus, you are denied moving pictures of the man who potted 55 goals and 50 assists in 1984-85 to lead the Red Wings in scoring (that Yzerman kid had just 89 points that year) and finish seventh in the overall NHL derby. That put Ogrodnick ahead of better-known ’stachers like Denis Savard (105), Bernie Federko (103), and Mike Gartner (102), as well as a fellow who now works for an organization noted for its opposition to facial hair–the current coach of the New Jersey Devils, Brent Sutter (102).

1. Tim Kerr

Want the key numbers? 54, 54, 58, 58. Those were Kerr’s goal totals each year from 1983-84 to 1986-87. Sure, most of his tallies were whacked in from in front of the net, Phil Esposito-style. Maybe the Windsor, Ontario native wasn’t the greatest skater or the most artistic stickhandler. But even in the goal-happy 80’s, few other players recorded four straight seasons of 50-plus goals, except for the legendary likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Marcel Dionne, Mike Bossy, and Michel Goulet.

Enjoy this classic Kerr four-goal outburst (unless you’re a Rangers fan).

2. Dennis Maruk

How often do you think about this guy? And yet in his best season with Washington, 1981-82, his 60 goals and 76 assists for 136 points eclipsed the best numbers ever put up by Jari Kurri (135: OK, just by a whisker), Dale Hawerchuk (130), Mark Messier (129), and Joe Sakic (120), just to name a few legends. At least Maruk got into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame.

Nice career highlights package with an emphasis on skills and ’stache.

3. Blaine Stoughton

Fifty-six goals and 100 points for the Hartford Whalers in Gordie Howe’s swan song season of 1979-80 is nothing to sneeze at, even if your mustache tickles. All YouTube served up was from Stoughton’s WHA days, so be content with this glimpse of the future owner of the Austin Ice Bats.

Cincinnati Stingers, anyone?

4. Mike Rogers

The centerpiece of Hartford’s “Stash-Dash-Bash” line with Stoughton and Pat Boutette. Made the Top Ten in NHL scoring in both 1979-80 AND 1980-81. And if you were born in the 1980’s or later and have no idea how “Brass Bonanza” goes, you probably haven’t heard of Mike Rogers. Well, he is not to be confused with Mister Rogers.

WHA time again. The Houston Aeros are no match for Mike Rogers.

5. Rick Kehoe

“Rick” was a powerful NHL name in the 1980’s. Not only did you have Rick Kehoe winning the 1981 Lady Byng Trophy with a run of 55 goals and 6 PIM, but then Rick Middleton was next in line for that honor in 1982. Of course, you also had Rick Vaive giving Toronto fans false Stanley Cup hopes with his three consecutive 50-goal seasons, and Rick Tocchet emerging as a prototypical power forward with Philadelphia later in the decade. But getting back to those Lady Byngs, who’s going to argue that this longtime Pittsburgh Penguin wasn’t ultimately the least-known of all the winners in the 1980’s? Sometimes, the mustache conceals more than it reveals.

1980: Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton
1981: Rick Kehoe, Pittsburgh
1982: Rick Middleton, Boston
1983: Mike Bossy, N.Y. Islanders
1984: Mike Bossy, N.Y. Islanders
1985: Jari Kurri, Edmonton
1986: Mike Bossy, N.Y. Islanders
1987: Joe Mullen, Calgary
1988: Mats Naslund, Montreal
1989: Joe Mullen, Calgary

Rick Kehoe scores Pittsburgh’s OT winner on April 10, 1982 versus the New York Islanders in Game Three of the first round.

6. Charlie Simmer

Back-to-back 56-goal seasons, anyone? Kovalchuk? Ovechkin? Heatley? Come on, hotshots! Grow some hair on your upper lips.

Sadly, the following clip of Simmer appearing as a commentator on Flames TV doesn’t show his mustache in all its Triple Crown Line glory–and be patient, it takes a while to get to him. But at least we kicked off this journey, which is now sadly coming to an end, with a shot of Simmer (top) in the classic 1980’s Los Angeles Kings uniform, and it’s sheer unsheared delight.

In retirement, Simmer showed his taste for a warm climate by coaching in San Diego and color commentating in Anaheim and Phoenix.

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