The Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast
#62 Robin Burns: From Pittsburgh Penguins and KC Scouts LW to Hockey Visionary and Inventor

#62 Robin Burns: From Pittsburgh Penguins and KC Scouts LW to Hockey Visionary and Inventor

December 22, 2019

He might be hockey's most interesting man.

Episode 62 of the Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast features Robin Burns — one of the most entertaining and impactful people to ever play in the NHL.

As a left wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kansas City Scouts in the 1970s, Burns was know as a fun guy, a natural comedian and the life of the party.  But Robin was also a visionary, who would eventually pioneer one of the most important hockey equipment innovations: the visor.

After rising to president of Micron skate company, Robin founded a long shot startup called ITECH in the basement of his Montreal home. ITECH would grow into one of the three biggest hockey companies in the world. 

This was just one of many successful business endeavors for Robin, who,  in his spare time, would also become an agent for several NHL coaches, including his cousin Pat Burns.

We’ll follow Robin’s incredible journey from his youth in Montreal and the Montreal Junior Canadiens, to the American Southwest, Hershey, Pittsburgh and Kansas City and right through his inspirational rise to the top of the hockey business mountain. 

Despite his entrepreneurial success, Robin remains a humble self-effacing guy and one of the best storytellers in hockey.

Inspiration for the Robin Burns episode courtesy of upcoming show guest Troy Treasure, author of "Icing on the Plains" ... "The rough ride of the NHL Kansas City Scouts."

Host:  Mark Willand

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#61 Denis Herron: Vezina-Winning Goaltender; Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kansas City Scouts

#61 Denis Herron: Vezina-Winning Goaltender; Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kansas City Scouts

December 12, 2019

Denis Herron won both the Vezina and Jennings Trophy during a stellar 14-year NHL career.

Goaltender Denis Herron is our guest on episode 61 of the Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast.

From 1972 to 1986 Denis played 14 NHL seasons, which included the three stops with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a "trial by fire" stint with the expansion Kansas City Scouts and three solid campaigns in Montreal, where he won both the Vezina and Jennings league trophies.

We cover a lot of ground with Denis and he tells great stories about former teammates, coaches and GM’s.  Denis also reveals which player was —  in his words — “the most talented player by far he ever played with.”  (Just a hint it’s not Mario Lemieux or Guy Lafleur).

We greatly appreciate all of you who have subscribed, rated and reviewed the PHA podcast on iTunes and Apple Podcasts.  You have helped make the show become more visible to fans around the world.  In fact, we are now ranked among the top hockey podcasts in the US and Canada. 

Host:  Mark Willand

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#60 Dennis Maruk: The Forgotten 60-Goal Man of the Washington Capitals. OT: Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins and more.

#60 Dennis Maruk: The Forgotten 60-Goal Man of the Washington Capitals. OT: Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins and more.

December 7, 2019

Only 20 men in NHL history have scored 60 or more goals in a single season.

A sometimes forgotten member of this select club is an undersized, take-no-prisoners centre named Dennis Maruk. And it’s only fitting that Dennis is our guest on episode 60 of the Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast.

As a junior in the OHA, Maruk was the one of the greatest players in London Knights history, but his 5-8 height scared off NHL teams until the second round of the 1975 Draft, where he was chosen by the woebegone California Seals.  After a standout rookie season in Oakland, Maruk and his mates moved to Cleveland,  where he continued to star while the franchise floundered.

After just two seasons in Ohio, the Cleveland Barons were merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978, but Maruk was dispatched to Washington after 2 just games.  It was in DC where Maruk would emerge as one of the NHL’s premier centers, scoring 50 goals in 1980-81 and following that with the incredible 60-goal, 76-assist campaign in 1981-82.

Maruk led the improving Caps in scoring in 1982-83, but was traded back to Minnesota and slotted as the team’s 3rd line center.  Amidst reduced playing time, Maruk adjusted to his new role would become one the Stars top post-season performers in the notorious “Chuck Norris” Division in the 1980s.

As chronicled in his riveting 2017 autobiography with author Ken Reid, Maruk’s post playing days took him from hockey superstar to behind the wheel of a service ship in the Gulf of Mexico,  to carrying bags as a bellhop at an Aspen hotel, to setting up furniture for Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, to working as a farmhand for musician John Oates.

And ultimately Maruk’s life path took him to a life-and-death decision at edge of the Grand Canyon.

Dennis is a great interview and you’ll love his recollections of a fascinating career and life.  Among the teammates, coaches and opponents we discuss are:  Gilles Meloche, Bob "Hound" Kelly, Ryan Walter, Jean Pronovost, Kent Nilsson, Herb Brooks, Charlie Simmer, Bryan Murray and more.

After our talk with Dennis, stick around for "PHA Overtime" with this week's news and notes from our Facebook pages featuring the Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins, World Hockey Association and Pro Hockey Alumni as well as a postscript to the Maruk interview.

Host:  Mark Willand

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#59 NY Rangers Goalies with Author George Grimm.  OT: Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins, WHA and More

#59 NY Rangers Goalies with Author George Grimm. OT: Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins, WHA and More

November 28, 2019

Ed Giacomin, Gilles Villemure, John Davidson are just a few of the goalies George Grimm features in his new book "Guardians of the Goal."

Episode 59 of the Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast looks back at the great NY Rangers goalies of the 1960s and 70s and features an overtime session with classic hockey news and notes.

Today’s guest is author and NY Rangers historian George Grimm, whose outstanding new book — “Guardians of the Goal” - is a comprehensive guide to everyone who has ever played goal for the New York Rangers.

This book is a must-read for hockey fans. Although the book is painstakingly researched, it is also entertaining and fast-paced. I learned a lot reading this Guardians of the Goal and you will, too. I highly recommend it!

In our discussion we focus on Rangers goalies of the 60s and 70s like Gilles Villemure, Ed Gaicomin, John Davidson and more. We also sneak in a great Vaclav Nedomansky story, as well.

Guardians of the Goal is available on amazon.com. The link is in the show notes.

As many of you know in addition to to the PHA social media sites, we also have other popular classic hockey Facebook sites: Hartford Whaler Nation, The Boston Bruins Alumni and the WHA Hockey. Now and then, I’ll take a look back at the past week on all these sites and pick out the highlites to discuss on the show.

On this episode we’ll remember two wild WHA Thanksgiving stories from Birmingham Alabama, featuring Whalers Coach Harry Neale in 1976 and the Cincinnati Stingers in 1977 as they found the Birmingham Bulls and their fans to be inhospitable Turkey Day hosts. We’ll also discuss some interesting details of Bobby Orr’s final game as a Boston Bruin this week in 1975.

Finally, we’ll take a look back at the hockey life of NHL alum Bill McCreary, who passed a way this week at the age of 84.

Host:  Mark Willand

Get Guardians the Goal on Amazon

 

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#58 Steve Baker - New York Rangers Goaltender 1979-83

#58 Steve Baker - New York Rangers Goaltender 1979-83

November 23, 2019

Goaltender Steve Baker had some great moments for the early 80s New York Rangers.

Episode 58 of the Pro Hockey Alumni features  goaltender Steve Baker, who  played with the New York Rangers between 1979 and 1983.

Baker was a standout at Union College coached by legendary Ned Harkness.  He was drafted by the Rangers with the 44th pick overall in the 1977 NHL Entry Draft.

He began his NHL career losing only one of his first ten games in 1979–80.  He later gained great acclaim in the 1981 playoffs, when the upstart Rangers upset the LA Kings and the St. Louis Blues to advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals with Steve as their starting goalie.

Steve was selected to represent the USA in he 1981 Canada Cup, where he served as Tony Esposito's backup.  Steve offers some great insights on playing with Tony O.

Steve played for five Hall of Fame coaches during his career —  Harkness, Fred Shero, Herb Brooks, Craig Patrick and Bob Johnson — and he talks about the impact each had on his career an his life.  He also has fun memories of Gordie and Colleen Howe from the New England Whalers 1978 Training Camp.

Injuries curtailed Steve’s NHL career but he quickly embarked on a successful career as a media executive.

Today, Steve is the Chief Hockey officer of 3Ice Hockey.

3ICE IS A NEW AND TOTALLY INDEPENDENT 3-ON-3 PROFESSIONAL ICE HOCKEY LEAGUE IN NORTH AMERICA.

BASED ON THE 3-ON-3, FULL-SIZED RINK, OVERTIME FORMAT, 3ICE IS UNIQUELY DESIGN TO GIVE FANS THE SPEED, SKILL AND EXCITEMENT THEY LOVE 100% OF THE TIME.

https://3ice.com/

 

Host:  Mark Willand

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#57 Joe Watson: Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup Champion

#57 Joe Watson: Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup Champion

November 16, 2019

From Smithers B.C. to NHL All Star and Flyers Stanley Cup Champion

Episode 57 of the PHA Podcast features the man who has been a Philadelphia Flyer since day one: Joe Watson —- who delivers over an hour of amazing and humorous hockey stories about his remarkable 14-year NHL career with the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Rockies.

A two-time NHL All Star and a member of the BC Hockey HOF and the Flyers HOF, Watson’s unlikely journey from Smithers BC to two-time Stanley Cup champion is truly fascinating. And, you’ll learn a lot ,too. For example did you know that Joe was once a prospect for the New York Yankee baseball team?

Joe’s NHL career began as a roommate of rookie Bobby Orr with the Boston Bruins in the six-team NHL in 1966-67. He was then selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1967 expansion draft as the league expanded to 12 teams.

The hard-hitting Watson was an anchor on the blueline for a Flyers club, which progressed from a solid expansion team in the late 1960s to the notorious Broad Street Bullies of the of 1970s.

Stay tuned for an interesting discussion that includes insights on Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bobby Orr, Fred Shero, Rick MacLeish, Barry Ashbee, Bob “Hound” Kelly, Dave “The Hammer” Shultz, Ed Snider and, of course, Joe’s younger brother Jimmy who joined the Flyers in 1972 and became an NHL all star, as well.

After a horrific leg injury abruptly ended his career in 1978 , Joe embarked on a successful 41-year business career with the Flyers and Comcast Sports — and he and the Flyers Alumni have devoted countless hours to growing youth hockey in the Delaware Valley. It’s genuine salt-of-the-earth guys like Joe Watson that make this game great. And it’s why we love hearing their stories.

 

Host:  Mark Willand

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#56 A Tribute to Dean Prentice and A Review of the Rangers-Bruins Alumni Weekend.

#56 A Tribute to Dean Prentice and A Review of the Rangers-Bruins Alumni Weekend.

November 11, 2019

Remembering 22-year NHL and five time All Star Dean Prentice

Welcome to episode 56 of the pro hockey alumni podcast — a special edition of the show in which we’ll look back at the life and career of 22-year NHL veteran Dean Prentice, who passed away on Nov. 3rd, 2019. 

Between 1952-53 and 1973-74, Dean Prentice played in 1,378 regular season National Hockey League games with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars. Over that time, he scored 391 and assisted on 469 for 860 points.

Dean scored 20 or more goals with all five teams he played for and appeared in five NHL All Star games.  He was a second team NHL All Star in 1959-60 after  scoring a career-high 32 goals with the Rangers.

While with the North Stars, Dean was one of the first NHL players to publicly commit his life to Christianity and he and his wife, June, continued to be ambassadors for Christianity long after Dean’s playing career ended.

In addition, I’ll review the recent weekend Alumni series between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers — a home-and-home battle that featured six Hockey Hall of Famers.  I was there for all of it, and I thought you might want to hear some of the behind-the-scenes insights from a great weekend of classic hockey.

Among the legends who appeared for these charity games were HOFers Brian Leetch, Brad Park, Ray Bourque, Glenn Anderson, Jean Ratelle and Joey Mullen.

Special thanks to Lou Nanne, Hockey Ministries International and the Warrior for Life Fund for their contributions to this episode.

Host:  Mark Willand

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#55 Gary Smith Part 2:  Tales from Chicago, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg

#55 Gary Smith Part 2: Tales from Chicago, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg

November 8, 2019

Episode 55 of the PHA Podcast features part 2 of our two-part discussion with Gary"Suitcase" Smith, one of the NHL’s premier goaltenders — and most fascinating characters — of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the episode, Gary gives us amazing and humorous insights into the second half of his career with eye-opening tales from his days with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars and the Winnipeg Jets. As he did in part one, Gary delivers an honest no-holds-barred look at his life in big league hockey.

Also know as “Axe” for his stick-wielding ways, Gary was the co-winner of the Vezina Trophy in 1971–72 with Chicago , an NHL All Star in 1975 with Vancouver and a AVCO Cup champion with the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.

If you love classic hockey, you’ll love this discussion with Gary Smith. He holds nothing back and reveals sensational never-before-told stories from hockey’s classic era.

#54 Gary “Suitcase” Smith Part 1 - Toronto Maple Leafs and Oakland Seals

#54 Gary “Suitcase” Smith Part 1 - Toronto Maple Leafs and Oakland Seals

November 1, 2019

The inside scoop on the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs and the California Seals from one hockey's most colorful characters.

Episode 54 of the PHA podcast features part one of our two-part discussion with Gary"Suitcase" Smith, one of the NHL’s premier goaltenders  — and most fascinating characters — of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the episode, Gary gives us amazing and humorous insights into his first two big league stops in Oakland and Toronto as well as his junior career with the Toronto Marlboros. 

Also know as “Axe” for his stick-wielding ways, Gary was the co-winner of the Vezina Trophy in 1971–72 with Chicago , an NHL All Star in 1975 with Vancouver and a AVCO Cup champion with the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.  In addition to his on-ice accomplishments, Gary is remembered as a fun-loving and colorful netminder, who was popular with teammates and fans alike.

If you love classic hockey, you’ll love this discussion with Gary Smith.  He holds nothing back and reveals sensational never-before-told stories from hockey’s classic era.  You'll enjoy his recollections of many hockey legends including Harry Howell, Carl Vadnais, Don Cherry, Punch Imlach and many more.

 

 

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#53 Mark Mowers 7-year NHL Pro with Detroit, Boston, Nashville and Anaheim.

#53 Mark Mowers 7-year NHL Pro with Detroit, Boston, Nashville and Anaheim.

October 24, 2019

Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Zdeno Charo, Patrice Bergeron and Nicklas Lidstrom are among his HOF teammates 

Episode 53 of the the Pro Hockey Alumni Podcast has a Boston Bruins focus.

First we’ll talk with Mark Mowers — a 7-year NHL forward with Nashville, Detroit, Boston and Anaheim — about his playing career and his current role as a scout for the Minnesota Wild.

Before embarking on his pro career, Mowers was a Hobey Baker finalist and two-time All Hockey East selection during his days as a University of New Hampshire Wildcat. Mark was also a prolific scorer in the IHL and AHL before adopting a checking role in the NHL

In addition to talking about his role with his respective NHL teams, Mark shares interesting insights on legendary teammates such as Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and many more.

Following our discussion with Mark, we’ll talk with The Voice of the Boston Bruins Alumni — the Emmy Award winning John Horrigan, who’ll discuss his role with the B’s Alumni and the upcoming charity game between the Bruins legends and the New York Rangers Alumni.

We’ll conclude the show with former Bruins D Frank Simonetti, who discusses the origins of the Warrior For Life Fund and how that charity has teamed with the Bruins Alumni, The Bruins Foundation and the Navy Seals Foundation to assist military and their families.

 

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