Monday, February 23, 2009

Gretzky's Calder Trophy

The 1979/80 Calder Trophy race for rookie of the year was a fairly wide open race with many candidates right down to the wire. Ray Bourque won the award as he broke the record for points by a rookie defenseman. This was of course Wayne Gretzky’s “rookie year” in the NHL and had he been eligible for the Calder it would have been no contest.

A few of the fine rookies that season were, Mike Foligno, Pete Peeters, Brian Propp and Paul Reinhart. None of these gentleman however, were even close to the Great One’s 137 points.
According to a 1980 Hockey News item, there was a precedent set well before the WHA/NHL merger that excluded WHA “veterans” from the Calder Trophy. Four years earlier, the NHL triumvirate of Clarence Campbell, Bryan O’Neill and Ron Andrews had excluded 22 year old Pat Hickey and 20 year old Wayne Dillon from the rookie voting. Both players were signed from the Toronto Toros by the New York Rangers following a 95 point year by Dillon and 69 from Hickey. They would score 45 and 36 points respectively in their first NHL season of 75/76, hardly a threat to Bryan Trottier’s fantastic Calder winning year.

Other young stars that were affected by this Calder banning were Michel Goulet, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Craig Hartsburg, Rob Ramage and Rick Vaive. Amongst these, only Goulet and Gartner would have been even remotely considered to challenge Bourque and the others.
So, in fact, it wasn’t Gretzky that changed the Calder Trophy eligibility, it was a pair of WHA Toros.

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