Thursday, January 27, 2011

The First Move

Andy Hebenton
 In the spring of 1955 Muzz Patrick was appointed as the new general manager of the New York Rangers. One of his first moves on the management level was to sign ex-Ranger, Phil Watson, as coach. On the player side, his first move was to purchase Andy Hebenton from the Victoria Cougars of the WHL.

Andy Hebenton was a 5'9", 180 lb, right winger, born on October 3, 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1946-47, Hebenton played for the St. Boniface Canadiens in the MAHA. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization (signed on April 30, 1947), he played the next 2 seasons for the Winnipeg Canadiens of the MJHL. As his skills developed, Hebenton moved up the hockey ladder. From 1949-50 to 1954-55, he skated in the AHL, PCHL and WHL. His best minor league season was '54-55 with Victoria. In 70 games he scored 46 goals and 34 assists for 80 points.

It is often said that Hebenton didn't reach the NHL sooner due to the powerful line-up of the Montreal Canadiens. On April 28, 1955, Hebenton was traded to the New York Rangers by Victoria for cash.


At the time of the trade, Muzz Patrick was quoted as saying "I found out how hard it was to stop him when I coached in the Western League. I'm sure that with hard work, he'll make it in the NHL and be a valuable member of our club."

Well, it didn't take Hebenton long to make the boss look like a genius. In his rookie season, 1955-56, he scored 24 goals in 70 games and added 14 assists for 38 points. His 24 goals tied Dean Prentice for most goals by a Ranger that year. However, he lost out to Glenn Hall in the Calder Trophy vote. His finest NHL season came in 1958-59 (70GP/33G/24A/63PTS). In 1957 he captured the Lady Byng Trophy.

In most biographies of Hebenton, reference is made to his NHL "Iron Man" streak. It was truly an amazing feat. From the 1955-56 season to 1963-64, Hebenton played in 630 consecutive NHL regular season games. On March 22, 1964 he played his final game in the National Hockey League.

Another aspect to consider relating to "the streak" is the time prior to and following Hebenton's NHL career. Taking this into account, the streak expands to 1,062 games (216 games prior to reaching the NHL/630 NHL games/216 post-NHL games). The streak came to an end in October 1967. While playing for the Portland Buckaroos (WHL), Hebenton had to return home to Winnipeg for the funeral of his father.

All in all, not a bad first move by general manager Muzz Patrick. Hebenton was a solid two-way player who could play both wings, kill penalties and work the power play.

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