a niche for mitch

Born in Markham, Ontario, on a Monday of this date in 1997, Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Mitch Marner is 24 today. Already in his fifth season in the NHL, Marner is a sublime talent and one of the best things that ever happened to Auston Matthews; if you’re new to the area, he is has-a-plush-toy-in-his-image famous in the Greater Leaf Region. (The exemplar above was on sale at Scotiabank Arena circa 2019.)

The portrait below is the work of Toronto editorial designer, illustrator, and endlessly interesting artist Nadine Arseneault. Her work has featured before on Puckstruck: you can find it here and here and here as well as here

elbow room

SaskTale: It was on a Saturday of this date in 1928 that the great Gordie Howe was born in Floral, Saskatchewan. About 30 kilometres north, outside Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre, this is the statue that stands to commemorate, among other things, the view that many a defenceman would have had in the corner of a mid-century rink as Detroit’s #9 made his approach. Gordie Howe died in June of 2016 at the age of 88. (Image: Stephen Smith)

the kladno kid

 Born on a Tuesday of this date in 1972, Jaromír Jágr is, it turns out, not actually ageless: he’s 49 today. That said, he is still playing pro hockey, working the right wing for his hometown team in the Czech Republic,Rytíři Kladno, in the Chance Liga, the second-tier Czech league, a full 31 years after he made his NHL debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. He’s played in 13 games this season, I’ve learned from the Kladno website, collecting a goal and three points. The player’s biography there is worth a browse. “If you are interested in a little about the privacy of Jaromír Jágr,” it tantalizes, “then know that his favourite dish is a Czech classic — chicken fillet with potato salad and banana ice cream as a dessert.” The youthful portrait here is by the artist who goes by the handle Gypsy Oak. Follow him on Twitter @gyspyoak or visit the Gypsy Oak Art Studio, here.

in the six

Born in 1903 on a Friday of this date in Bracebridge, Ontario, Ace Bailey only ever played for Toronto during his short NHL career. He debuted with the St. Patricks in 1926, the year they transformed into Maple Leafs, and played seven further seasons after that, on the right wing. He was speedy, and prone to scoring, leading the league in goals and points in 1928-29, and notching the goal, in 1932, that won the Leafs the Stanley Cup. His career came an end when he was 30 years old, one December night in 1933, after Eddie Shore of the Bruins blindsided him at the Boston Garden. His head hit the ice hard; a doctor at the scene diagnosed a lacerated brain. Two subsequent surgeries saved his life. “It’s all in the game, Eddie,” is what he’s supposed to have told Shore at the rink when the Boston defenceman apologized for knocking him down. After he didn’t die, when he’d recovered enough to never play hockey ever again, Bailey went on to coach the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues men’s hockey team. Later, he worked as a timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens.  His number, 6, was the first in NHL history to be retired. Inducted into hockey’s Hall of Fame in 1975, Ace Bailey died in 1992. He was 88.

claim to fame

Hallmarked: Jarome Iginla got the call to the Hall of Fame yesterday, when he was elected along with Kim St-Pierre, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, and (as a builder) Ken Holland. Iginla’s career beamed brightest, of course, while he was a Calgary Flame, a team he captained for nine seasons. His NHL numbers include 1,368 points in 1,635 games, regular-season and playoff, and the silverware he collected in his time include all the big names: he won the Art Ross Trophy, the Maurice Richard (twice), a Ted Lindsay, a King Clancy, and a Mark Messier Leadership Award. Along with World Junior gold, he earned World Championship- and World Cup-winning medals, and two Olympic golds.

vancouververgaert

VanCityStache: Born in Grimsby, Ontario, on a Monday of this date in 1953, Dennis Ververgaert turns 67 today. The Vancouver Canucks drafted him third overall in the NHL Amateur Draft, behind Denis Potvin (New York Islanders) and Tom Lysiak (Atlanta Flames), and ahead of Lanny McDonald (#4, Toronto Maple Leafs), Bob Gainey (#8, Montreal Canadiens), and Rick Middleton (#14, New York Rangers). As a 20-year-old rookie working the Canucks’ right wing, Ververgaert led the team in goals, with 26, in 1973-74, and ended up runner-up to Lysiak in Calder Trophy voting. He played six seasons with the Canucks and a further two with the Philadelphia Flyers before ending his career with the Washington Capitals in 1981.