By Jeff Freier on March 3rd, 2010 1:43 PM
We all know about the great athletes in New York sports history – Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, Mark Messier, Walt Frazier – and even the busts – Ed Whitson, Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Stephon Marbury, Scott Gomez. But what about the slightly-to-highly-above-average athlete? The kind-of-great but not all-timer? They may not have been Hall-of-Famers, but they were All-Stars, fan favorites, cogs on a championship team or maybe even just pretty darn good. They’re the little brother that didn’t hog all the attention. But they’re certainly worth talking about and remembering. So when do they get their due? Well, now they will. Here is a series of the not-quite-legendary in New York sports history.
The analysts on MSG’s Hockey Night Live, Butch Goring, Ron Duguay and Ken Daneyko, are three disparate personalities and were three completely different players, playing for different teams and playing different positions, but they all made their mark in New York sports history (ok, and New Jersey). From the gritty, down-to-earth Goring, to the flashy male-model-like Duguay, to tough-guy, toothless Daneyko, they won seven Stanley Cups between them (sorry Ron), and each had a long, successful career.
Butch Goring was the “final piece of the puzzle” for the Islanders dynasty when he was acquired from Los Angeles in 1980 for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. After a decade with the Kings, where he scored over 20 goals in nine straight seasons (with a career-high 37 in 1977-’78), Goring came to Long Island and was the veteran the club needed to push them over the top, and led them to four consecutive Stanley Cups. That first spring with the Islanders, he recorded 19 points in the playoffs, and then followed that up in 1981 with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His reputation as a clutch player was already cemented, though, back in 1976, when he scored overtime goals in two separate playoff games for the Kings in their series vs. the Bruins.
He was a relentless hard worker, who was known for killing penalties, winning face-offs and being defensive minded, but most of all (or maybe least of all), he was known for his unique, crazy homemade helmet that he wore going all the way back to his childhood. The St. Boniface, Manitoba, native amazingly only totaled 102 career penalty minutes in 1,107 games – it’s the fewest in history for players who played over 1,000 games. He took one minor penalty four different seasons in his career. Besides being the MVP of the playoffs, he also won the Lady Byng and Bill Masterson awards (both in 1978) and played in the 1980 All-Star game. After spending parts of six seasons on Long Island, and finishing his career with half a season in Boston, he called it quits, with a total of 375 goals, 513 assists, for 888 points. He briefly coached the Bruins and the Islanders. And like Dave DeBusschere and Gary Carter, he’ll forever be known as that last important component to a championship team.
The hair. You say the words “Ron Duguay” and the first thing you think of is long, curly hair. Duguay was Jon Bon Jovi before Jon Bon Jovi. He was hanging out at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol (who put him on the cover of Interview magazine). He was in Sasson Jeans commercials (with teammates Phil Esposito, Anders Hedberg and Dave Maloney). He was a sex symbol. He was a swingin’ Manhattan disco cool cat. But he was also a hockey player.
The Sudbury, Ontario, native was the 13th overall pick in the 1977 draft, and made his debut as a 20 year old for the Rangers that year. He scored 20 goals that season, and then improved to 27 and 28 goals the next two years. He had his best year with the club in 1981-’82, when he tallied 40 goals and 36 assists, and made the All-Star team. He was, of course, part of the underdog team that beat the Islanders and made it all the way to the 1979 Stanley Cup finals, losing to Montreal in five games. After six season with the Blueshirts, Duguay was traded to Detroit, where he racked up a career-high 89 points in 1984-’85. He then went to Pittsburgh, back to the Rangers and finished his career with the LA Kings. In 12 NHL seasons, he scored 274 goals, assisted on 346, for a total of 620 points. He made the playoffs every year but one (with his best performance coming in 1981, with 17 points in 14 games). After leaving the NHL, he played in Germany and even tried professional roller hockey. His golden-boy looks and signature hair overshadowed the fact that he was an old-fashioned hard worker on the ice. But if he would have been forced to wear a helmet, the Ron Duguay mystique wouldn’t have been the same.
Goring had his helmet, Duguay had his hair and Ken Daneyko had his teeth. Or rather lack thereof. His toothless grin is one of the great images in NHL history. Known as Mr. Devil, Daneyko was tough as a handful of rusty nails and as fierce a competitor as there ever was. And he was a winner. The burly defenseman was a part of all three Devils Stanley Cup champion teams, going out on top, when he retired after the 2003 Cup victory.
A Windsor, Ontario, native, Daneyko was a first-round pick of New Jersey in the 1982 draft. He made his NHL debut in 1983, and played parts of 20 seasons, all with New Jersey, and was on 14 playoff teams. He didn’t contribute much on offense – his best scoring year was in 1989-’90 with six goals and 15 assists (for his career he scored 36 goals with 142 assists) – but that wasn’t his job after all; his was to keep the other team from scoring. He once went 255 consecutive regular season games without scoring. What he could do, though, was rack up the penalty minutes. Five times he collected over 200 penalty minutes and totaled 2,519 for his career. He was tough in front of the net and was often used as a shadow. He won one major award in his career – the Bill Masterson Trophy, in 2000, after persevering over a little glug-glug-glug problem (he missed much of the ’97-’98 season when he voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse program). He was a selfless, team-first player, and New Jersey rewarded him by retiring his #3 in 2006. If you don’t like Ken Daneyko, you don’t like hockey.