Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grade 13 to the NHL

Much was made of Carolina Hurricanes centre Jeff Skinner's appearance in the All-Star Game. At 18 years of age, he was the youngest player to perform in the history of the event. His inclusion on the All-Star roster came as a result of an injury suffered by Sidney Crosby. Having an outstanding rookie campaign, Skinner won't turn 19 until May 16, 2011.

In January 1965 another youngster, 19 year old Brit Selby, was getting his first taste of National Hockey League action. He would play 3 games for the Maple Leafs in early January of the 1964-65 season. Selby was in his final year of junior and was playing outstanding hockey for the Toronto Marlboros. At the conclusion of the OHA schedule, he had scored 45 goals and 43 assists for 88 points in 52 games. Also, Selby was in grade 13 at Victoria Park Collegiate in Toronto. One can only imagine the emotional roller coast of one day being a grade 13 student./Toronto Marlboro and the next day a grade 13 student/Toronto Maple Leaf. If Selby required guidance, he could have had a word with teammate Ron Ellis who had a similar experience. It was ironic that Selby was summoned by the Leafs after Ellis was out of the line-up due to injury.

Selby's first venture into the National Hockey League was very memorable. In his initial contest (Jan.2/65), in Maple Leaf Gardens, Selby faced the Detroit Red Wings. And what souvenir did get during his first game? A first goal puck? No. His first NHL point? No. It was a large bruise on his arm courtesy of some nasty stick work from Red Wing Gordie Howe. The incident took place on his very first shift and he explained what happened as a "sort of initiation, I guess."

Selby would nab the souvenir he was seeking in his second game. The Leafs visited Madison Square Garden on the night of January 3, 1965 for an encounter against the Rangers. Selby tipped in a pass from defenceman Carl Brewer for his first NHL goal. Prior to returning to the Marlboros, Selby played in one additional game with the big club. On January 6, 1965, he scored his second goal in a 3-1 win over the Hawks in Chicago Stadium. In 3 games, Selby would assaulted by Gordie Howe, score his first NHL goal against Jacques Plante and score the game winning goal versus Chicago.When Ron Ellis returned from injury, Selby was returned to junior.

In his rookie season, 1965-66, Selby would record 14 goals (27 points) in 61 games. He was named the winner of the 1966 Calder Memorial Trophy as the leagues top rookie. Selby would skate in 350 NHL games and post 117 points (55 goals/62 assists). Also, he would play 3 seasons in the World Hockey Association with Quebec, New England and the Toronto Toros.

In January 1965, Selby voiced concern about finishing his education prior to signing a pro contract. Ultimately, he would enjoy the benefits of both - a career as a professional athlete and the rewards of completing his studies. Selby's second career was in the education system, teaching history at North Toronto Collegiate Institute.

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