Dave Dryden

Mention the name Dryden and it is quickly associated with one of the greatest goaltenders of all time - Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens. But Dave Dryden, Ken's older brother, had an interesting although less spectacular career.

Dave played hockey at the junior hockey level because he loved the game, not necessarily because wanted to play in the NHL. He was hoping to earn a scholarship to a major US college as Dryden aspired to become a teacher.

That changed when he attended a Toronto Maple Leafs - New York Rangers game in Toronto on February 3, 1962. New York Rangers goalie Lorne "Gump" Worsley was felled with an injury and could not continue the game past the first period. In those days teams didn't have backup goalies, so in order to continue the game both teams agreed to use the junior goalie sitting in the stands - Dave Dryden. Dryden played well, giving up 3 goals in 40 minutes in a 4-1 Rangers loss. It was a neat experience but ultimately it would kill any hope Dave had of receiving an athletic scholarship because he was now considered to be a professional.

Dave opted to attend a Canadian university (the University of Waterloo) while playing in an Ontario Senior hockey league. Dryden had three years completed in his schooling when the Chicago Black hawks offered him a chance to finish the season with their farm team - the Buffalo Bisons. Dryden gave up just 6 goals while going 4-0 in his stint in the AHL.

The Black Hawks were impressed enough to offer Dave a contract. By this time it was becoming common for NHL teams to carry a backup goalie, which was Dave's designation. He played in just 11 games over the first two years as he was stuck behind "Mr Goalie" Glenn Hall. By 1967-68 Hall had moved on to St. Louis, allowing Dave a chance to participate in 27 games in 1967-68 and 30 games in 196869, but he was still considered to be the back up to Denis Dejordy.

The Hawks attempted to send Dryden to the minor leagues in 1969-70 but aside from 2 games he refused to report and sat out the entire season. The dispute wasn't resolved until the Hawks sold his playing rights to Pittsburgh and later the Buffalo Sabres.

It was in Buffalo that Dave enjoyed his finest NHL moments. Dryden split his first season with the Sabres and their farm team. The highlight of the season came on March 20, 1971. That night marked the first time two brother goaltenders played against each other as Dave played against his brother Ken. Ken at the time was a late season rookie call up who would later that year go on to lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup.

Buffalo coach Punch Imlach wanted a brother-against-brother match up right from the opening faceoff. His reasoning was that Dave had more NHL experience than Ken, and would give his team an edge against the powerful Habs that night. However Montreal wanted no part of that and started veteran starter Rogie Vachon instead. Upset at Montreal's unwillingness to allow NHL history to happen, Imlach made a late change and started Joe Daley in net instead of Dave.

With the Habs leading 2-0 in the second period, Vachon had to leave the game due to an injury. Of course Ken Dryden had to go into replace the injured veteran. Before the referee could drop the puck to resume the game, Imlach surprised all in the Forum by pulling Daley, and replacing the healthy goalie with Dave Dryden. Finally Imlach, always a showman, had the showdown he wanted from the beginning.

The game ended with Montreal winning 5-2. Ken allowed 2 goals on 13 shots, Dave allowed 3 goals on 20 shots.

While Dave never came close to the fame that Ken would reach, he did enjoy 4 solid seasons in Buffalo. He even played in the 1973-74 NHL All Star Game.

By 1974 Dave jumped to the World Hockey Association. He played one years with the Chicago Cougars before joining the Edmonton Oilers in 1975. He would remain with the Oilers throughout the remainder of his career. The Oilers have always had great goaltending, and Dave was one of the earliest goaltending stars. He was especially hot in 1978-79 when he led the WHA with 41 wins in 63 appearances and a 2.89 GAA. In what proved to be the final season for the fledgling league, Dave was named as the WHA's top goalie and league MVP

The following season, 1979-80, the Oilers merged with the NHL. Dryden was protected by the Oilers but only played in 14 games before calling it quits. He finished the year as Glen Sather's assistant coach.

Dave played in 203 NHL games, with a 66-76-31 record and a career GAA of 3.19. He picked up 112 wins in 242 WHA contests as well.

During his time as a pro he continued to complete his education and returned to teaching and later became a high school principal. He also doubled as a goaltending correspondent for the Detroit Red Wings.

Dave Dryden now works for the National Hockey League as an equipment advisor. It's a suitable job for Dave, who was very innovative with goalie equipment, particularly the goalie mask. The "birdcage" mask that most NHL goalie wear nowadays (the fibreglass mask with a cage covering the facial area) was introduced by Dave in the mid-1970s. It took a decade for it commonly replace the helmet and cage combo mask as the best piece of face protection in hockey.


jackie 3:09 PM  

I was pleased to read your piece about Dave Dryden. As a fan of Sabres' hockey since the early 70s, Dave Dryden was my favorite player, followed by Jim Schoenfeld and Don Luce - all players who put out their best play. They may not have been superstars, but they got the job done! Thanks!

Anonymous,  9:17 PM  

I remember that game well. When Vachon got hurt, and Ken went in, and then Dave went in, the Montreal fans went crazy. And after the game, the brothers skated to center ice and shook hands. Punch Imlach had imagination.

Anonymous,  4:45 AM  

Dave Dryden was not only a competent NHL goalie but a good person. He took me under his wing for a week at "Haliburton Hockey Haven" in 1969 and showed me the ins and outs of playing goal. A really good guy!
Nick McGowan

Unknown 8:20 AM  

ngneviRemember Dave very well from his Blackhawk days. I even have a pictur taken with him outside Detroit's Olympia Stadium.

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