Thursday

Larry Playfair

One would think that the name Play fair would indicate that Larry was a gentle player on the ice. Well, far from it. On the ice Larry was one of the toughest blue liners in recent history of the NHL. It didn't take long for this punishing hitter and great fighter to have his opponents avoiding him. Off the ice however, few were nicer than Larry.

A native of Fort St. James, British Columbia, a town about 600 miles north of Vancouver, grew up with four brothers and one sister. Already as a junior Larry was an imposing 6'3" - 6'4". He first played for the Langley Thunder Hawks of the BCJHL and then for Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL. During his second season for Portland (77-78), Larry collected a hefty 402 minutes but also made the All-Star team.

NHL scouts liked what they saw and Buffalo drafted him in the 1st round, 13th overall in 1978. Larry got to play in 26 games for Buffalo as a rookie in 1978-79. He immediately displayed his bruising style of play that became his future trademark in the NHL.

As a rookie he naturally made a few mistakes and was sent down to Hershey (AHL) to further polish his play. In his first NHL game and first shift against Boston he was welcomed to the NHL by a John Wensink elbow that knocked him out cold.

Larry had a very good training camp in 1979 and became one of the steadiest defensemen in Buffalo. He was often paired with Mike Ramsay, and together they formed a very reliable defensive duo. At times he was used as a left wing when the Sabres needed some muscle up front.

Larry went on to lead the Sabres in penalty minutes for six straight seasons (1979-85) and was the Sabre nobody wanted to mess with. He was the first Sabre to reach the 1000 penalty minute mark in a career as well as the first to break the 200 PIM plateau in one season, which he did twice. He also set a club record for most PIMs in one season, 258 in 81-82.

Larry was extremely popular with his teammates and fans. He won both the Buffalo News Seventh Player Award (most inspirational player) and the Silver Stick Award (the player who best exemplifies the love of the game).

Despite his popularity he was traded to Los Angeles on January 30, 1986 together with Sean McKenna for Ken Baumgartner, Brian Engblom and Doug Smith. His play in Los Angeles was the same as in Buffalo. Heavy hitting and a few scraps along the way.

Less than three years later Larry was traded back "home" to Buffalo where he played until he retired in 1989-90. His 89-90 season lasted only 4 games until he had to retire due to chronic back injuries.

Larry will not be remembered for any offensive flare but rather for his punishing hits and heavy blows with his fists. He was a fierce competitor who earned every minute and shift in the NHL.

In retirement Larry Playfair has been extremely busy with the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association and its many charitable causes.

6 comments:

JD,  10:28 PM  

My favorite Sabres line of all time was one formed at the end of a particularly nasty game against the Bruins: Lindy Ruff, Val James and Larry Playfair! As I recall, the puck never got dropped! Scary Larry really didn't get harassed much because other players were afraid of him, but I met him once and he was really the nicest guy you'd ever want to know. He still lives here in Buffalo.

Johnny K 10:09 AM  

Larry is my all time favorite Sabre. He was fun to watch, and his type of play really got the crowd into the game. I met Larry a few times, and He is probably one of the nicest guys you would ever want to know. " Beers at the bowling Alley in N.T." As I told him once when I was a kid, "Larry, Your the Greatest"

Johnny K 10:09 AM  

Larry is my all time favorite Sabre. He was fun to watch, and his type of play really got the crowd into the game. I met Larry a few times, and He is probably one of the nicest guys you would ever want to know. " Beers at the bowling Alley in N.T." As I told him once when I was a kid, "Larry, Your the Greatest"

Anonymous,  5:50 PM  

I have been a big Sabres fan since they went to the Cup final in '75 when I was in 1st grade and now a current season ticket holder. I recently got a Sabres jersey and couldn't decide what player's number to choose. I finally decided on Larry Playfair - no other player personifies Buffalo or the Sabres better. Mike Foligno was 1st runner-up. Although I'll never take down My Gil Perreault poster, I'll be sporting a new Larry Playfair jersey at HSBC Arena for 09-10 season! He was the toughest Sabre ever. And a class act off the ice. WMG.

DennisB,  7:59 PM  

I met Larry twice in the past several months and find him to be not only a gentleman but a mentor to look up to. The first time I met Larry was at a Sabres alumuni charity game against our local Air Force. The second time was at a charity party for cancer research where Larry spoke. He was well spoken and intelligent to the fact of where the funds where going and how the equipment needed was to be used. Of course because of his size, I think everyone has to look up to Larry.lol

cliff zauner,  1:07 PM  

I broadcast the Portland Winterhawks for the first 11 years after Brian shaw brought them to Portland. Larry was one of my favorite "goon". People ask me why Larry didn't fight very often. I would tell them that if they tried to brawl with Larry, they would be in trouble. They did'nt want to ge the crap beat out of them. I was know as Lurch to most of the team. larry and I even hit a couple of bars when the team was up in Canada. I think Larry was old enough, but who the hell was going to challange him. My em is vzauner@wbcable.net and cliffzauner@yahoo.com. Thanks and have a great day. Lurch

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