All-Star Time Capsule: 1982
Washington hosted its only NHL All-Star Game over 25 years ago
Hockey fans in the District in 1982 were treated to a glimpse of some of the game’s greats, most of which were in the early stages of their budding careers at the time. A few old-timers were also in attendance, and they shared some terrific memories of Washington’s hockey heritage.
Perhaps most notably, there was little to no controversy surrounding the selection of the 1982 All-Star teams. In those days, the league was split in two conferences: the 11-team Clarence Campbell Conference and the 10-team Prince of Wales Conference, where the Caps here housed.
Twelve players (two at each position) for each of the two conferences were determined in a vote of 30 writers, three from each conference city. Writers chose their top three selections at each position, and points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis.
Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders was the leading vote-getter among Wales Conference players with 130 of a possible 150 points. The writers voted in two players each from Buffalo, Boston, Quebec, Pittsburgh and the Islanders. Montreal and Philadelphia each had one representative voted onto the Wales team.
Islanders head coach Al Arbour was the head coach of the Wales team, and he chose the final eight players to complete the roster. Arbour was forced to take at least one player from Washington, Hartford and the New York Rangers, the three teams who did not have players voted into the Wales’ top twelve.
Capitals center Dennis Maruk was the NHL’s No. 3 scorer when the Wales team was announced on Jan. 27, 1982. Maruk finished third in balloting among Wales centers, trailing Quebec’s Peter Stastny and the Islanders’ Bryan Trottier. Arbour added Maruk to the Wales roster. It was Maruk’s second All-Srar appearance; he had represented the Cleveland Barons in the 1978 game.
Arbour bypassed Washington captain Ryan Walter in favor of the Islanders’ own John Tonelli. Tonelli was deserving, and his presence on the roster enabled Arbour to keep together a forward line that played together some during the regular season. There were some in the local media who believed Walter would have been a good sentimental choice since his Caps were the host team.
Only five different teams were represented after results were announced for Campbell Conference balloting. Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky was a unanimous choice (165 points) and he was joined by three of his Oiler teammates. Minnesota and Chicago each placed three players on the team while Toronto and Los Angeles were represented by one player each. Campbell head coach Glen Sonmor of Minnesota filled out the roster by choosing eight more players from the six teams unrepresented in media voting: Calgary, Colorado (Rockies, in those days) Detroit, St. Louis, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
The average age of the Campbell Conference team was 23.4 years and the average age of the Prince of Wales Conference team was 25.5. The oldest of the four Oilers on the team was Mark Messier, who had turned 21 about three weeks before the game.
Tickets for the 1982 All-Star Game cost $17.50, $14 and $10. A few seats were still available as of the night before the game. Parking was $2.50. There was no local television coverage of the game or any of its satellite events. The morning skates of both teams were held at capital Centre and were open to the public at no charge.
There were a total of 262 media representatives who were credentialed for the game.
An All-Star Game benefit dinner was held on Feb. 8 at the Washington Hilton with Emile “The Cat” Francis receiving the Lester Patrick Award. A black-tie affair whose proceeds benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, tickets for the dinner cost $150. Bob Hope, Rich Little and Gloria Loring were the featured entertainers.
The All-Star break in 1982 consisted of three days off, one before and one after the game itself. In 2009, the NHL will go five days without playing any league games in order to accomodate the All-Star Game.
The Capitals were still one of the league’s doormat teams in 1982, and the upcoming summer would be an eventful one. The team would draft Scott Stevens, local fans would rally to try to “Save the Caps,” David Poile would be hired as the team’s new GM, and Poile would swing a landmark deal that would forever alter the hockey landscape in the District. But all that was just a few months in the future at that time.
Some of those in attendance at the game and its surrounding events reminisced about the old days in Washington’s hockey timeline.
Francis was a 17-year-old goaltender with the Washington Lions of the Eastern Hockey League in 1944-45. He had some great memories of life during wartime in the District to share with the late, great Robert Fachet of The Washington Post in the Feb. 7, 1982 edition of The Post.
“To get in the United States at that time,” remembered Francis, “you had to be under 18 or over 40. Everybody else was either in the army or working in a factory. There were about four kids on the team and the rest were old men.
“I got my first award in hockey in Washington, a watch for being the most popular player. I still have the watch and I still have my first hockey jacket, the Washington Lions, a green jacket with gold trim. I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things and I’ve always had good memories of Washington. That’s really where it started for me. It’s so good to see them in the National League.
“We lived three blocks from Uline Arena and we’d go over early and set up chairs and work around the rink to make a couple of extra bucks. We made $50 a week, but there was a law that we could only get $25, so the other $25 was sent to a bank back in Canada. But even with $25 a week, there was no problem. I saved more from that than I ever did. It was the first time that I was paid for playing.
“When we played junior hockey back home in Saskatchewan, I didn’t get anything. But I played commercial league on weekend afternoons and I’d get a chicken and a dozen eggs for playing. I was only 15 then and it really helped our family, the way things were in those days.”
At the very end of “The Cat’s” stay in D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt passed away suddenly.
“I was at the train station when they brought his body back," recalled Francis. “It’s the kind of thing that stays with you always.”
Arbour did a brief stint as a defenseman for the Washington Lions of the Eastern League in 1951. The Lions played at Uline Arena. Arbour shared some of his Washington memories with Fachet in the Feb. 8, 1982 edition of The Post.
“I came from junior to Uline Gardens with the Washington team – I can’t remember their nickname – and two or three weeks later I was sent to Edmonton of the Western League,” recalled Arbour. “The one thing I remember is that Washington had a basketball team and one of the players in the league was George Mikan, who wore glasses. They started calling me the George Mikan of hockey, not talentwise, but because I wore glasses, too.”
Keith Allen was the GM of the Philadelphia Flyers in those days, and he had also played professionally in the District, as an 18-year-old defenseman for the Washington Eagles of the Eastern League in 1941-42. The Eagles played at Riverside Stadium at 26th and D Streets NW, across from the Heurich Brewery.
“There were four of us in one room and we lived on G Street,” remembered Allen. “I had played for the Saskatoon Junior Quakers and this was my first taste of life away from Saskatchewan. It was a good league and a lot of guys went on to the NHL. My memory has faded a little bit, but I remember there were seats on only three sides of the rink, with a wall on the side near the Potomac River.
“One thing about that season I’ll never forget. We were playing the New York Rovers in Madison Square Garden the day they bombed Pearl Harbor. It was a full house, because the amateurs outdrew the Rangers in those days. They announced it and told all servicemen to report to their posts immediately. Then they spotlighted the servicemen as they left.”
Plenty of old-timers figure to be in attendance in Montreal this weekend, too. And they should also have some great yarns to spin.
Oh yeah, the '82. game. The Wales Conference won it, 4-2. Gretzky scored his first ever All-Star goal, Maruk became the first Cap to record a point (an assist) in an All-Star Game since Denis Dupere picked up an assist as the Capitals’ lone representative in the 1975 game, in Washington’s inaugural season in the league. Maruk’s assist came on a Raymond Bourque goal.
Staying In the Game
It’s stunning to look back on the rosters of the All-Star squads that year and see how many of the game’s 40 participants went on to post-playing careers as coaches or managers in pro and/or international hockey.
From the Wales Conference: Keith Acton, Bill Barber, Randy Carlyle, Mike Ramsey, Larry Robinson, Bryan Trottier and Peter Stastny.
From the Campbell Conference: Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Craig Hartsburg, Denis Savard, Brian Sutter, Gilles Meloche, Bob Manno, Don Lever, Dino Ciccarelli, Doug Wilson, Bobby Smith and Dave Taylor.
That's 19 out of 40 players, and there may be a couple that I missed.
The Great One
Gretzky was in the midst of arguably his greatest NHL season at the age of 21. He finished the 1981-82 season with 92 goals and 212 points. Gretzky and the rest of the All-Stars had lunch with president Ronald Reagan at the White House the day before the game, and The Great One was the subject of a Feb. 9, 1982 Washington Post piece by Nina Hyde, the late fashion editor of the Post.
According to Hyde’s piece, Gretzky wore “ … a perfectly tailored subtle brown plaid suit, the jacket indented at the waist, a white button-down shirt, and a medium-width foulard print silk tie” for his lunch (crab bisque, cheese straws, roast tenderloin of beef, mushrooms and potatoes Mascotte, tomatoes St. Germain and NHL cake) with Reagan and the boys.
Gretzky told Hyde that he owned 20 custom-tailored suits and a dozen sport coats. At the time, Gretzky’s agent had him on a $3,000-a-month budget that had to cover his two-story condo in Edmonton, food and clothing.
As to the game itself, Gretzky said: “The idea is t have fun and the best way to have fun is to win.”
Dale Hawerchuk was the game’s youngest player at 18. He was a Winnipeg Jets rookie taken first overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft who was coming off two Memorial Cup championships with Cornwall as a junior ... Bob Manno was a replacement for injured Maple Leafs teammate Borje Salming ... Gilles Meloche was the oldest member of the Campbell team at the ripe age of 31 ... Grant Fuhr was, at 19, the youngest goalie to play in an All-Star Game and the first black goaltender to play in the NHL ... Paul Coffey was, at 20, the youngest defenseman on either team. He was also the highest scoring blueliner in the league with 24 goals and 49 points.
Dennis Maruk ran his goal total for the season to 41 with a hat trick – the 11th of his career – in the Caps’ last game prior to the break. Maruk was wired for sound for that game by ESPN, then a fledgling network covering the contest between the Capitals and the Quebec Nordiques ... Marc Tardif was the oldest player on the Wales roster at 32 ... Mike Ramsey was a replacement for injured teammate John Van Boxmeer. A member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team that won gold at Lake Placid, Ramsey was the only member of either All-Star team who was born in the States. The visit to the White House was the second for Ramsey, as Reagan noted. He had visited a couple years earlier with his “Miracle on Ice” teammates ... Wales defenseman Rod Langway of the Montreal Canadiens was a U.S. citizen, but he was born in Taiwan ... Raymond Bourque was the youngest Wales player at 21.