Maruk still content to fly under radar

MIKE KOREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Dennis Maruk might have had the quietest 60-goal season in NHL history.

The then-Washington Capitals forward just happened to do it when some guy wearing No. 99 was on his way to a record 92 in 1981-82.

One of only 19 NHL players to score 60 goals in a season, the former London Knight was just one of the guys recently at a charity event in Kingston, where he stopped to sign some autographs and mingle with the fans like many of the other ex-pros with far fewer goals to their names. (The biggest star probably was a local lad named Doug Gilmour, who was a goalie for a day.)

It's safe to say other members of the 60-goal club would receive rock-star treatment at such an event -- guys like Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux or Phil Esposito. But the diminutive Maruk always has sort of flown under the radar, partially because he played for non-powers like the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons, Minnesota North Stars and the Capitals. He made only four playoff appearances in his 14-year career.

"A lot of people I've talked to have said it's too bad you played on those teams," said the Torontonian, 53.

"But to be there and get there was what was most important. It really wasn't a concern who I played for. I made it to the National Hockey League and was able to play against some great players. I played against Bobby Orr, Marcel Dionne and Phil Esposito at the end of their careers. And, of course, the great Flyers, Islanders and Gretzky.

"It has been a great, great ride for me. Yeah, I would have loved to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I always wanted to. Or, the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Original Six teams. But they can only have 20 guys on a team, so I was satisfied where I was."

Now coaching a minor midget team in Toronto and working for an advertising-marketing company, Maruk had back-to-back 50-goal seasons with the Caps, scoring 50 in 1980-81 before netting 60 the following year -- seasons that ended with Washington missing the playoffs.

The next season, Maruk helped the Capitals qualify for the playoffs for the first time, but he was dealt to Minnesota the following year. Maruk still holds the record for most points by a Capital in a season -- 136 in that 1981-82 season.

Last season, Alexander Ovechkin broke Maruk's team record for goals in a season when he scored 65. The pair talked several times during Ovechkin's big season.

"He called and said 'I'm sorry I broke your record,' " Maruk said. "I said 'Don't be sorry, I was cheering you on.' "

Maruk ended up with 878 points in 888 NHL games. Not bad for a guy who almost quit the sport at the age of 16 when he was traded to the Knights from his hometown Toronto Marlboros.

"My oldest sister told me to just go try it. I'm glad I did."


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