A horde of professional statisticians with a ruler follows Alexander Ovechkin’s every move. Given the American sports tradition’s focus on all kinds of achievements, not only goals are counted, but also shots, power goals, empty-net goals, and all this to publish news a la “Ovechkin sees “He became the first player in NHL history to, from November 17-20, score five times during Mercury retrograde.”
New historical exercises on Ovechkin’s role in the NHL:
Ovechkin is a “beast”, but shorter than Hasek? In the United States they named Ovi’s exact place in hockey history.
However, there is one record that Ovi will never break: this is the achievement of Dennis Maruk. At one point, it was Maruk who became the first person in Washington history to score 50 goals, and the next season, 60 at once. The young Ovechkin broke this sniper achievement at the age of 22, which became one of his first records, but even surpassing the result with glasses is too much for him. In the 1981/1982 season, Maruk scored 136 points (60+76), setting a Capitals club record. Although Ovechkin’s four different regular seasons rank second through fifth on the list of the capital’s best seasons, in his best regular season he cleared “only” 112, and now it is unlikely that he will reach 100 again .
Maruc’s career is well described by the title of the book he wrote: “The Unforgettable Story of the Forgotten Sniper Who Scored 60 Times.” One of the best forwards in NHL history, Marcel Dionne, was in charge of writing the prologue and you can already guess why: both forwards played almost their entire careers in weak teams and were not very tall (both are 173 cm tall) . “Dennis and I proved that height doesn’t matter in hockey. We played in the dirty, tough era of hockey, we weren’t the greats, but it didn’t matter. Chris Pronger, six feet tall, said we could sneak between his legs. He or Eric Lindros are German Shepherds: big, strong, they’ll bite you once but leave you alone. “Dennis and I are pit bulls: if they bite, they don’t stop.”
Maruk writes in his book with a smile that his story is nothing like the beginning of the careers of other star players: he first stepped on the ice when he was six years old and didn’t like it: it was too cold. and the ice was too slippery. However, the future player’s family had six more children, and they all ran with sticks on the ice; At the age of eight, Maruk finally gave in and quickly took a liking to it. “I loved scoring: if the goalkeeper stopped, he could break my stick on the side. I had a stormy character and the coaches calmed me down more than once by sending me to the reserve,” the forward writes.
The transition to the youth category was also easy for Dennis: he immediately became one of the top scorers in the youth league. Once, Maruk’s junior team played against Washington, lost 5-8, and the future legend of the capital scored a hat-trick. “I’m sure at that moment they looked at me and thought, this little guy is scoring for us!” -Maruk writes in his memoirs. Despite his scoring exploits, the striker was not selected with the required number 18: the coaches considered him too small. However, a year later, Maruk was immediately picked in the second round; this was done by California, who had lived a short and unsuccessful life. “The first thing I had to know was: Where the hell is Oakland?” – the striker jokes (well, or not jokes).
In terms of hockey, Oakland was in a pretty indecent place: in eight seasons of its existence, the team never surpassed 30 wins in a season and never won a playoff series. However, even on such a team, no one guaranteed anything to the diminutive newcomer, and he followed the advice of his friend, who had already played in the NHL. It was Dave Hutchinson, who had accumulated fifteen hundred penalty minutes in his 500 games in the league, and he, without tricks, advised Maruk to go to the strength department, fight as hard as possible, not be ashamed of dirty tricks and try to hit to everyone on the training ground.
The first NHL training camp surprised the forward: the atmosphere was as relaxed as possible, veterans from California came to prepare for the season with 9-10 kilos of excess weight, and after training it was mandatory to go together to a bar. In this context, the approach of the daring newcomer was different. “I followed Hutchinson’s advice and I was a jerk. Already in my first season I tried to hit everything that moved, showing my character even in a banal confrontation. I was neither Gretzky nor Esposito nor Orr: I could only survive in the NHL by being an asshole. If that bothered people, well, it was the only way to create space,” Maruk writes. It’s fitting that one of his former teammates later called Dennis the most selfish hockey player he ever had to play with: 878 penalty minutes in 888 games partially confirm this.
However, this was the last season for California, which soon became the Cleveland Barons. The life of the old team in the new place lasted even less – two years. However, in both seasons Maruk was this team’s top scorer and continued to surprise his rivals with his speed. The agile forward could end up in the Rangers: in the middle of the season, Cleveland almost withdrew from the championship due to terrible debts, and the rich in New York offered the Barons 1 million dollars for the three best players, including Dennis. However, the league allowed Cleveland to finish the season, breaking a thread with the world, which the hockey players were not very happy with: they understood that this team was not viable.
Dennis Maruk on Team Canada
Photo: RIA Novosti
Cleveland teamed up with the Minnesota North Stars, but Maruk only played two games in his new spot and soon left for Washington. The first years of the “capital”’s existence were a fierce nightmare. In the first four seasons they won a total of 60 games and the team was missing at least some kind of star for viewers to follow: in the era before big television deals, box office receipts were a key factor in the team income. Viewers loved Maruk everywhere, for his fighting qualities, his talent as a sniper, and his ability to score in the minority.
However, for a long time, Maruk was not enough to reach the playoffs, although Washington selected well and managed to attract Mike Gartner to the team, who in the American capital would become one of the best snipers in history. Because the capitals did not make the playoffs year after year, Maruk went to the national team for the World Cup four times; our press immediately began celebrating the arrogant, undersized forward. However, the level of talent on those teams was so high that Dennis played there on the fourth line, which did not prevent him from scoring two points against the USSR team in the 1981 World Cup.
The early 80s became the most productive era for the NHL, and this only benefited Maruk with his style of play. That era periodically produced heroes for a season or two, but the outbreak of the Washington center can hardly be considered accidental. Although in the company of Gretzky, Lemieux, Esposito and other people with 60 or more goals per season, he may look like Dmitry Kharatyan in the famous joke, this was no coincidence.
However, in the sensational 1981/1982 season, many things emerged. Maruk highlights the role of his partners, whose names may now be forgotten. On the left flank played one of the youngest captains in the NHL, Ryan Walter, who played excellent defense and reduced the load on Maruk in his zone, and on the right was newcomer Chris Valentine, who, after a great first season, it disappeared immediately. to the abyss of hockey. Perhaps this was a case where two players made the most of the game against each other. Maruk praised Valentine for reading the game and making smart passes.
“I wouldn’t consider myself one of the best snipers of those years, I just worked a lot on the little things. For example, he always asked the goalkeepers a lot of questions, finding out where they were looking when the opposing striker got into position. He made a great movement, he could give the puck a lot of speed and thanks to this he caught the goalkeepers off guard more than once. He had a short stick, the puck stayed close to me, like Johnny Gaudreau. Thanks to this I was able to shoot from where the goalkeepers were not expecting,” Maruk said in an interview with The Score website.
Many things happened that season: the scoring average jumped to eight goals per game, the only championship of its kind in the post-war era. Washington very often played on the power play, where Maruk was unstoppable: in uneven lineups, the forward scored 57 points, almost double what he had the previous year. It is true that even the presence of the fourth leading scorer in the league did not help Washington get to the playoffs, even taking into account that 16 teams out of 21 got there. The capitals lost 12 games of the first 13, changed coaches, but They still lacked quality defensive players: they conceded more goals than they scored. However, Maruk in his memories still took responsibility for this result.
That year, the All-Star Game was held in Washington; Naturally, Maruk was chosen there and, among other participants of the star weekend, he went to dinner with Ronald Reagan. “I mumbled something like: Hi, I’m Dennis, I play here for the Capitals, after which everyone was invited to the table. At some point, Reagan decided to joke and announced that the United States traded Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton, but the country had to give him the state of Texas; We laughed out loud. At that time, he didn’t quite understand that he was sitting at the same table with the President of the United States. Years later I realized it wasn’t a bad accomplishment for Dennis of Rexdale,” Maruk later said.
Let’s remember Gretzky’s unattainable record:
“I feel so sorry for the goalkeepers.” How Gretzky set a record that will never be broken
It is true that Maruk’s achievements largely took a backseat. First, almost all the press attention was diverted to Gretzky, who had an incredible season with 212 points. Secondly, Washington, which had not yet made the playoffs, was too unpopular: the team was fifth from the bottom in the NHL attendance table.
Mike Gartner later recalled that at a two-hour autograph session at the mall, he was approached by…0 people. Even her luxurious mustache, which looked extravagant even in that era of mustache fashion, did not help Maruk become a superstar. It is significant that even Sports Illustrated magazine, which compiled a rating of her best supralabial hair, misspelled the striker’s surname: “Marus.”
But the forward’s stay in Washington after that proved to be short-lived. In the summer of 1982, the capital made an exchange, which is still considered key in the history of the team, which due to his failures was close to moving. Washington acquired defenseman Rod Langway and future NHL Iron Man Doug Jarvis from Montreal, who helped radically rebuild the team’s defense: the first won two Norris in the capital, the second, Selke. In the trade, the Caps also gave away Walter, leaving Maruk without his top linemate and the man he would later call the best hockey player he ever played with.
Washington coach Brian Murray believed that Maruk played too carelessly in defense, so he transferred the forward to the left flank of the attack and reduced his playing time. It is significant that Maruk, with 81 points, still became the team’s leading scorer, but he earned a “-22” in utility, and this while playing on a team that finished the season with an extra goal difference and reached to the playoffs for the first time. Defense-first Murray was unhappy, and because of this, Maruk was traded back to Minnesota. The striker himself was very surprised: he later said that just a week before the exchange he met with the coach and general manager, who told him that in the new season they would return to his usual position.
In Minnesota, the first center position was already assigned to Neil Broten, and Maruk remained in supporting roles; However, with the North Stars he played in the conference finals for the first time in his career. For three full seasons in the new and old team, Maruk never surpassed the 60-goal mark and ended his career at the age of 33: several knee injuries took the forward out of big hockey.
Maruk after retirement
Photo: James Allan/Getty Images
After finishing his playing career, Maruk worked as a children’s hockey coach and for some time even worked in roller hockey. At 43 years old, the forward played several games in the WPHL minor league. As Maruk recalled, his rivals tried to call him an “old fart” and asked him if he would lose some more teeth. However, the main question “how many games do you have in the NHL, son?” forced the provocateurs to remain silent.
Of course, Maruk also keeps an eye on Washington: At one point, Ovechkin called him to apologize for breaking his sniper record. However, Dennis has no regrets: “Ovechkin once told me that he wouldn’t match my points achievement, but records are set to be broken. Who knows? It’s nice to see a player who turns on the red light as often as Ovechkin: I shoot fast, but he shoots even faster.”
The most recent of Ovechkin’s records:
“Gretzky has 894 empty-net goals.” Why is Ovechkin’s new “minor” album important?
Despite his achievements, Maruk considers the highlight of his career to be the NHL. He only regrets one thing: he played in the youth league and did not go to study at the NCAA, where he could have gained invaluable life experience.