In the spring of 1971, as a seven year old boy, I went to the old Hamilton Forum to watch the Hamilton Red Wings host the St. Catharines Black Hawks in my first OHA game. A diminutive center by the name of Marcel Dionne dominated the game. I loved the Red Wings jerseys, but it was Dionne that I was fascinated with. He was smaller and better than all the other players.
A few months later, Dionne was drafted 2nd overall to the Detroit Red Wings. I instantly became a fan of the Detroit Red Wings.
St. Catharines to Detroit
In 1968, Marcel Dionne left the tiny city of Dummondville, Quebec when he was 17 years old for an opportunity to play in the OHA with the St. Catharines Black Hawks. As a rookie, Dionne scored as astonishing 100 points in 48 regular season games. He followed that up with 35 points in 18 playoff games.
During his second season with the Black Hawks, Dionne scored 132 points in 54 games during the regular season and won the Eddie Powers Trophy as the OHA player with the most points. During the playoffs, Dionne scored an incredible 32 points in 10 games.
Dionne’s final year in the OHA was astounding. He scored 62 goals and 143 points in only 46 games. He once again won the Eddie Powers Trophy as the league’s top scorer. Dionne’s playoff scoring was again remarkable when he scored 29 goals and 55 points in 15 games.
The 1971 NHL Entry Draft had two remarkable players in Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne. Lafleur was drafted 1st overall by the Montreal Canadiens. Dionne was drafted by 2nd overall by Detroit.
During the spring of 1974, I had a chance to meet Dionne for the first time at the final playoff game of the OHA playoffs. I was seated beside Dionne for part of game and was mesmerized by what a nice person he was. Dionne’s former team the St. Catharines Black Hawks defeated the Peterborough Petes to win the OHA Championship and represent the OHA in the Memorial Cup.
Dionne played four seasons in Detroit leading the team in scoring three times. He scored 77, 90, and 78 points during his first three years in the NHL. His 4th season, Dionne was awarded the captaincy and placed 3rd in NHL scoring behind Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Dionne scored 121 points and edged out Lafleur who scored 119.
Detroit to Los Angeles
After four years of losing and never having played in the playoffs, Dionne became frustrated playing in Detroit. During the summer of 1975, the Red Wings made possibly the worst trade in team history when they traded Dionne to the Los Angeles Kings. Dionne was offered an enormous contract to move to Los Angeles. The two teams came to a trade agreement so that Dionne could play in southern California. In return, the Red Wings received Terry Harper, Dan Maloney, cash and draft picks.
Despite Dionne moving to California, I remained a Detroit fan through the really lean years of the 70’s and early 80’s.
Dionne played parts of 12 seasons in Los Angeles and played on the famed Triple Crown Line with Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer. He scored an incredible 1307 points in 921 games with the Kings. In 1979-80, Dionne tied Edmonton Oilers rookie Wayne Gretzky with 137 points. He was awarded the Art Ross Trophy as the top scorer during the NHL regular season when he scored two more goals than the 18 year old phenom.
Los Angeles to New York
At the 1987 trade deadline, and with the Kings out of the playoffs, Dionne was traded to the New York Rangers. He played parts of three seasons in New York scoring 98 points in 118 regular season games.
During his last game at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Dionne received a standing ovation. I was in attendance and proud that I was able to follow the career of one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.
During his 18 years in the NHL, Dionne scored 1771 regular season points, good for 6th all-time ahead of greats such as Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux. He also scored 45 points during nine playoff years.
Marcel Dionne continues to live in the Niagara Region close to where he played his junior hockey. He runs a sports collectibles store and remains present throughout many events hosted throughout the region.
In 2007, I met Dionne at a banquet for the Thorold Black Hawks (GOJHL). I was newly appointed to the coaching staff in Thorold and Dionne was the guest speaker.
In 2020, former Los Angeles teammate and Niagara resident John Gibson passed away. Dionne and I were both present and I once again said hello to my childhood idol.
Early this month I bumped into Marcel at a golf course and told him that I was a contributor to the Detroit Red Wings FanSided page called Octopus Thrower. We talked for 20 minutes, he provided me with his email and I sent him the information so that he could become a regular reader.
On August 3rd, Dionne celebrated his 70th birthday. Despite his success as a hockey player, Dionne remains funny, witty, and just a great guy to talk with. Good luck with the remainder of your retirement Marcel, you are truly one of the all-time greats.