Rick Vaive

Rick cut his fine junior career short to jump to pro hockey in the World Hockey Association when he signed as an underage free agent with the Birmingham Bulls for the 1978-79 season. Vaive scored 26 goals and 59 points in his only WHA campaign, stats impressive enough to lead the Vancouver Canucks into selecting him fifth overall in the 1979 Entry Draft.

Rick played in only 47 games of his rookie season in Vancouver before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 18, 1980. The impatient Vancouver management traded Vaive and fellow junior superstar Bill Derlago to the Leafs in exchange for the popular Dave "Tiger" Williams and fellow tough winger Jerry Butler.

It was with the Leafs that the right winger from Ottawa, Ontario developed into one of the league’s most dangerous forwards with his booming slap shot. Many nights he was the Toronto offense.

In his first full season with Toronto, Vaive scored 33 goals, and in 1981-82, he set Maple Leaf history as he became the first player in Toronto’s storied history to score 50 goals. Often playing with Delago and John Anderson, Vaive followed that year with two more 50-goal seasons - 51 in 1982-83 and 52 in 1983-84. During this period of time, Toronto's captain scored more goals than everyone in the NHL except Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.

A player of Vaive's character and scoring statistics should be considered one of the greatest Maple Leafs of all time. In addition to all of the 50 goal seasons, Vaive was a tremendous battler, willing to absorb punishment in the corners and in front of the net in order to score goals, especially while on the power play. He, not unlike the overly popular Wendel Clark, was passionate and emotional, dropping the gloves on more than a few occasions and earning the respect of opponents.

Sadly, he is the most overlooked Toronto superstar in that franchise's long history. Vaive's short fuse and emotional approach actually worked against him. After Darryl Sittler was traded away and Borje Salming refused the honor, Vaive was given the team captaincy at the tender age of 22. He was unable to handle the additional pressures, and fell into disfavor with several Leafs coaches, most notably Don Maloney, John Brophy and Mike Nykoluk.

They didn't like Vaive's lack of focus on defensive play nor his undisciplined drinking and partying. When he overslept and missed practice during the 1985-86 season, he was stripped of his captaincy, greatly wounding the veteran.

Through it all Vaive remained productive, scoring 35, 33 and 32 goals in respective seasons. In 1987-88 Vaive and Steve Thomas were traded to Chicago in exchange for Al Secord.

Rick spent a season and a half with the Blackhawks before a trade took him to the Buffalo Sabres midway through the 1988-89 season. He finished out his NHL career with Buffalo, notching two 25-goal seasons over the parts of four years he was with the Sabres.

Vaive played in three All-Star Games (1982, 1983, 1984) over his 13-year NHL career. He had nine consecutive 30-goal seasons and he managed to reach the 20-goal mark in every NHL campaign with the exception of his final one. Rick retired from the NHL in 1991-92 with career totals of 441 goals, 347 assists and 788 points in 876 regular season games.

Despite his tumultuous time with Toronto management and fans, Vaive returned to Toronto in his post-playing days life and became a popular television commentator and analyst. He stopped the drinking and partying, and has kept himself in amazing physical condition. At last word he was still competing in competitive senior hockey, hoping to capture the amateur championship of Canada - the Allan Cup.


xrayspecs21 9:53 PM  

I nominate Mr. Vaive to be promoted to the "Maple Leafs Legends" section of the blog. 1st Leaf to sore 50 (and 3 times in a row, to boot!), and a Captain.

Don Smith,  12:43 PM  

Rick Vaive has played and coached the Dundas, Ontario Senior AAA team in past years,and I have had occasion to have spoken to him many times during and after games when he so kindly held his "hot stove league" chats with the Dundas Fans.
A more charming patient man to is fans would be hard to find!
During and after his NHL career his abilities on ice have never been fully appreciated by the people who run the NHL,or his Toronto fans! He is most definitely a Leafs Lengend,and a Hall Of Fame contender

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