Thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame for Don's bio.
A defense partner variously to Ted Green and Bobby Orr, Awrey once went 153 games without scoring a goal. But by then he was lucky to be playing at all. An increasingly degenerative back became intolerably painful during his high school days. He eventually regained full health and he tried out for the Niagara Falls Flyers the year after his brother, Bob, had played for the team.
Slowly but surely Awrey made his mark on Hap Emms and Milt Schmidt, the Boston decision-makers, and soon he was blocking shots and delvering bone-crushing checks for the Bruins. He made his NHL debut in 1963-64 after graduating from the Flyers in the OHL, though it was still three years before he made the Bruins full-time.
Awrey's timing could not have been better, as he was with the team when Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito arrived to make the team a Cup contender. Awrey was part of the two Boston Cup wins in 1970 and 1972, and was named to Team Canada's roster for the historic Summit Series, though he played just two of the eight games.
He won a final Stanley Cup with Montreal, sort of, in 1976. Sort of because although he played the full regular season with the team, he didn't dress for the playoffs. Rules at the time stipulated a player had to be in the lineup in the playoffs to have his name engraved on the Cup, so Awrey missed the boat on a third carving but has since been officially recognized as a Stanley Cup Champion for the third time by the NHL.
He finished his career playing with Pittsburgh, the Rangers, and Colorado.
In just about any other era, Brad Park would have been considered the best defenseman of his generation. He had size and played aggressively, taking care of business in his own zone. Offensively, he was a pinpoint passer and a deceptive stickhandler, abilities which made him a natural and potent power-play threat. He had the skating speed and the instincts to join the rush, providing his team with a fourth attacker. But Park played at the same time as Bobby Orr, the greatest blueliner of any era, and later in his career his stellar achievements were second to Denis Potvin's dominating play with the powerhouse New York Islanders. Park was the runner-up six times for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defender and earned a berth on the league's All-Star Team seven times. He was an easy choice for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
He wasn't very physically strong in his teenage years and, unlike Orr, who was touted as a star from an early age, Park would sneak up on the hockey world rather than define it. One of his schools, the Catholic Neil McNeil high school, furnished the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Association with many of its young prospects. In 1965 Park and all but three of his teammates were invited to the Marlboros' training camp. Still physically small, Park escaped the notice of the Toronto coaching staff. He was preparing to play in the Junior B ranks when the Detroit Red Wings invited him to a junior camp. The Toronto Maple Leafs organization, which ran the Marlboros, got word of the invitation and put Park on its protected list. He joined the Marlies for most of the 1965-66 season.
Park gained weight, putting just under 200 pounds on his 6' frame, and his skating and puckhandling developed to the point that in the summer of 1966, just before the NHL Amateur Draft, he was considered a sure bet for the professional leagues. Park and his family were more modest and he expressed hopes of ending up with the Maple Leafs. Instead, he was chosen second overall by the New York Rangers.
Park stayed with the Marlies for two more seasons, becoming an outstanding defenseman and making the league's All-Star Team in 1968. At his first training camp with New York, he was shy and reluctant to mix openly with the more experienced Rangers. He was assigned to the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League, where he played 17 games before returning to the NHL to stay. He scored his first goal in a game against the Boston Bruins, though it meant little as New York was already leading 8-0. Park, with his characteristic dry humor, called his first goal the game's "clincher."
After a solid rookie season, Park established himself as one of the top defensemen in the league in his second year. He earned the respect of his teammates and the fans in New York, and soon the whole league was talking about his savvy and poised play. Park was named to the NHL's First All-Star Team alongside Orr and placed second to the Bruins star in voting for the Norris Trophy. He was the youngest Ranger ever to earn a place on the league's first team.
Park's offensive numbers improved in each of his first four years with the Rangers. He was chosen to play for Canada in the Summit Series in 1972 and was impressive on the blue line for the embattled Canadians, finishing with five points in eight games. For the next several seasons, Park, whose Rangers had redeveloped into one of the league's better teams, was regularly compared to Orr, who was struggling with knee problems but still revolutionizing the position with his outstanding play.
Park was an expert at taking forwards out of the play and away from the middle of the rink. Opponents would feel as though they'd beaten the defender to open ice, only to find they no longer had a good view of the net. Though Park had knee problems of his own, many hockey people predicted his career would stretch further than Orr's.
Back in 1972 Brad was a very youthful 24-year-old when he was named most valuable defenseman of the Summt Series.
Thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame - who inducted Brad in 1988 as an honoured member - with Brad's bio:
That prediction would come true. Due to his poor knees, Orr missed 10 games in the 1975-76 season. He would play only a few more over the next three years before leaving the game. The man the Bruins brought in to replace him was Park, the result of one of the biggest trades in NHL history. On November 7, 1975, Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais were sent to the Rangers for Joe Zanussi, Jean Ratelle and Park, who left New York as the team's all-time leading scorer for defensemen. In Boston, Park was a natural fit, his offensive skills meshing perfectly with the team's style of play. He enjoyed some his finest individual seasons with the Bruins and brought the club to the Stanley Cup finals in two consecutive seasons, 1977 and 1978, though the team failed to capture the title either time. Twice Park was second in the voting for the Norris Trophy while he played in Boston, beaten out both times by the emerging Denis Potvin of the Islanders.
In 1983 Park signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. He spent two seasons with the Wings, and though he had slowed a step, he proved he still had a unique sense of the game and the passing skills to take advantage of the openings he saw - he collected 53 assists in 1983-84. He retired from play following the 1984-85 season and coached the lowly Wings for half of the next season, winning only nine of 45 games before stepping aside.
Born on July 4, 1940 in Sarnia, Ontario, Pat Stapleton has lived a champion’s life and today he continues to inspire our youth to be champions too and live their lives at the highest level.
Pat has been a part of 15 championship teams. A perennial All-Star at every level of hockey he ever competed in and has played alongside and against the greatest players of all-time.
Pat played three years for his hometown Junior B Sarnia Legionnaires starting as a 15-year-old. In his second season Pat helped lead them to a Western Junior B title and followed that up with an all-Ontario Sutherland Cup championship leading his team in scoring despite being a defenseman.
Pat then played Junior A hockey with the St. Catharines Teepees for two seasons helping teammates Stan Mikita, Chico Maki and Vic Hadfield to a regular season championship before winning the Memorial Cup the following year backstopped by the incredible Roger Crozier.
After a solid year with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, Pat was claimed by the Boston Bruins in the Inter-League Draft. The Bruins were part of the Original Six NHL at that time and was able to give Pat a valuable 18-month trial before sending him to the minors.
Pat excelled for two years with the regular season and playoff champion Portland Buckaroos of the Western Hockey League. Pat played center and defense winning the Hal Laycoe Cup as Most Outstanding Defenseman.
Pat was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a day where he was claimed on the Interleague Draft by the Chicago Black Hawks.
Pat then joined the Hawks full time the next year where he performed brilliantly for 8 seasons. As a Hawk Pat was voted to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1966 and duplicated this honour in 1971 and 1972. He played with the Hawks until the end of the 1972-73 season and helped the squad reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1971 and 1973.
Despite his small 5’ 7” stature Pat’s quick hands and lightning reflexes, combined with a hard, accurate shot, made him one of the most effective point men in the NHL. Defensively, he was a master of the poke-check and was able to consistently steer opponents away from the goal.
In 1967 the Hawks captured the Prince of Wales Trophy, emblematic of finishing in first place - the first time Chicago had finished first overall in 50 years in the six-team league.
The Hawks repeated again in 1970 with another Prince of Wales Trophy. After expansion the Hawks were moved to the Western Conference and defenceman Bill White joined the team beginning in the 1970-71 season. Pat and White became an elite tandem helping the Hawks win three consecutive Campbell Conference Championships in 1971, 72 and 73.
Pat and White played an important role for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR where they competed together in seven of the eight games leading all players in the historic series in plus/minus.
Prior to the 1973-74 season, Pat made the jump to the new World Hockey Association where he signed with the Chicago Cougars as player-coach winning the Dennis A. Murphy Trophy as the league’s top defenseman as well as being named to the WHA First All-Star Team and capturing the Eastern Division Championship. In 1974 Pat along with Ralph Backstrom, Dave Dryden and Rod Zaine became team owners of the Chicago Cougars.
Before the start of the next season, Pat competed in the 1974 Summit Series that pitted the USSR against the top Canadian players from the WHA where Pat served as team captain on a club including Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull alongside former Team Canada 72 teammates Frank Mahovlich and Paul Henderson.
Before retiring from the game, Pat moved on to the Indianapolis Racers and the Cincinnati Stingers where he led the Racers in scoring in the 1975-76 season. After hanging up his skates Pat remained with Indianapolis for one more season as head coach becoming Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier’s first professional coach.
Pat retired from his remarkable professional career playing 1100 games in the NHL and WHA over 18 seasons and coaching in another 199 games. Pat holds or shares NHL and WHA records for most assists in a game by a defenseman with six. Pat was also the first defenseman in NHL history with 50 assists in a season.
Pat has been married to his wife Jackie for 59 years. They raised a family of six children, three daughters and three sons and have been blessed with thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Jackie and Pat’s son Mike is a veteran of 731 NHL games.