Thursday

Kent Douglas

Although he was relatively small even for defenseman in the 1960s, Cobalt Ontario's Kent Douglas was a physical blueliner with a decent offensive upside.

Born in Cobalt, Ontario, Douglas was brought up in the Toronto Maple Leafs junior system. He played with the Kitchener Canucks of the OHA where the defenseman played a chippy and aggressive style eased worries about his lack of size. Full grown he stood just 5'10" and 180 pounds. That's small by NHL defensemen standards of almost any era.

Despite a solid performance in the junior ranks, Douglas was doomed to apprentice in the minor leagues until he was 27 years old.

"It's tough to step out of junior and be able to play in the NHL" said Douglas. That of course is true today, but even more so back in the old Original Six era. "It's a different game. It made a big difference to learn what you can and can't do and how to protect yourself because that was important too."

Although he spent some time with the Winnipeg Warriors and Vancouver Canucks in the old WHL, much of that time was spent with Eddie Shore's Springfield Indians.

As any player who spent even a little bit of time with Eddie Shore will tell you, life with Eddie was never easy, or necessarily fun. But Douglas seemed to appreciate Shore more than others.

"Eddie Shore wasn't what you would call the best teacher in the world, but he knew what he wanted you to do and how he wanted you to do it. If you could put up with some of what went on, you could learn."

Douglas was eager to learn from one of the greatest defensemen of all time.

"(Shore) kept me (in Springfield) for two weeks (after the season was over) and paid me full salary and he and I were the only two people on the ice for four hours, 2 in the morning and two in the afternoon. We went over how to skate, how to handle the puck, where you pass from, everything you could possibly learn about the game of hockey. He realized that I was interested in learning how to play," said Douglas in Frank Pagnucco's great book Heroes: Stars of Hockey's Golden Era.

Learn he did. And slowly but surely Douglas became one of the best defenders outside of the NHL. In fact in his final season with Springfield, Douglas was named the Eddie Shore Trophy winner. His 18 goals and 59 points along with 151 PIM earned him the title as the best defenseman in the AHL.

In the summer of 1962 the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Douglas from Shore in exchange for 5 players. Douglas didn't disappoint the Leafs either in his first NHL campaign. He played in 70 games scoring 7 goals and 15 assists and recording 105 penalty minutes - enough to edge out Detroit's Doug Barkley as the Calder Trophy winner. He also assisted on the Cup winning goal in the 1963 playoffs.

Douglas struggled the following season, only scoring 1 point in 43 games while spending 27 games in the minors. He would rebound for the next two seasons to play full time but by 1966-67 he split the season between the NHL and minor leagues.

In total Douglas spent parts of 5 seasons with the Leafs. Like in Springfield, life was always interesting with hockey boss Punch Imlach around.

"I used to call him George because he didn't like that. He wanted to be called Punch" Kent remembers.

Kent and the Leafs found success under Imlach, but Douglas wasn't always in the Leafs good books.

"I guess everything was a business in those days, as much as it is today. I just liked to have a little fun while I was playing. Maybe that's what bothered them."

Not surprisingly Douglas was left exposed in the 1967 expansion draft, and was selected by the Oakland Seals. He last only half a season with the Seals before he was traded to Detroit where he would play for the next year and a half.

By the 1969-70 season, Douglas was out of the NHL, this time for good. He would continue to play hockey until 1976, mostly in the AHL but he also had stints in the WHA and the IHL.

Douglas scored 33 goals and 115 assists for 148 points in 428 NHL games. He added another goal and 3 assists in 19 playoff games. He also was part of 3 Stanley Cup championships while with Toronto

4 comments:

Vikash 4:00 PM  

Kent scored the first regular season goal in Oakland Seals history.

Anonymous,  5:35 AM  

Gfoz
I got to see him play in Baltimore. I even have one of those tree branches he called sticks.

Anonymous,  5:54 PM  

I met him by chance at the Baywood Golf Course in Wasaga Beach in early October a few years back. He was passing through to visit his mother and stopped in. He loved golf and talked about making his own clubs..... he also gave us the full scoop on his battles with Punch. Great guy>

CONNIE STEFFAN,  9:47 AM  

I knew Kent in the fifties when he and his mom Freida lived in Noranda PQ. He would be home summers. I was just a pesky kid but he took the time to show me how to play golf in his back yard. I thought he was the greatest. He was a big kid at heart
Connie

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