Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Michel Dion

When you mention the name Michel Dion, I instantly think of his unique mask.

Not too many goalies used this style of mask. Mike Liut had a similar one, although not identical. The "duck bill" was wider.

This game worn mask, painted by Jim Kwilos, was sold at auction for over $6500!

Dion played for five years in the World Hockey Association with the Indianapolis Racers and the Cincinnati Stingers. He also played with the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets in the NHL, but he is best remembered by NHL fans for his four years with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After playing in the low minor leagues, he was called up for the second half of the WHA season with Indianapolis in 1975-76. Despite playing in just 31 games he was named as the Bill Hatskin trophy winner as the league's top goalie.

Two years later he was stopping pucks in Cincinnati as a free agent signee, and two years after that the WHA and it's four remaining teams - Edmonton, Hartford, Quebec and Winnipeg - would join the National Hockey League.

Never drafted by a NHL team, it was the Nordiques who landed Dion in the special dispersal draft. He would play valiantly for about a season and a half, but perhaps his most memorable game in Quebec was his last. On Dec. 10, 1980, he skated off the ice after allowing four goals to the Boston Bruins in less than half the game. He threw his gloves, mask and stick over the boards, and quit. The Nordiques suspended him and, eight days later, put him on waivers.

He was sold off to Winnipeg for next to nothing, but he found his way to Pittsburgh in time for the 1981-82 season. He would play at-times spectacular goal for the almost always awful Penguins. In his first season he won 25 games and played in the NHL All Star Game. That spring he led the Penguins to a very memorable near-upset playoff series victory over the three time defending Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders.

Dion would play on with the lowly Penguins until 1985 when he had enough. He briefly tried a comeback with the Edmonton Oilers, but his hockey days were done. He ended his career with 227 NHL games played with a record of 60-118-32 with 2 shutouts. In 149 WHA games he was 62-66-7 with 5 shutouts.

It turns out Dion was quite the all-around athlete. The Granby, Quebec native's first love was actually baseball, not hockey.At the age of 17 he turned professional within the Montreal Expos franchise, playing in the Florida State League and promising to quit playing hockey.

Dion quickly read the writing on the wall and returned to hockey. Though he loved playing baseball, the Expos had another young catcher in the system - Gary Carter.

"I was a line-drive hitter, but Gary had power,"  said Dion.

Dion also fell in love with the game of golf. After retiring from hockey he attempted to earn his tour card with the PGA, although he always fell just short of that dream. But he is still hard at work on the greens and fairways. He is now a certified golf instructor in Bluffton, South Carolina.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the interesting information regarding Michel Dion. One of my best friends and I were in love with the game of hockey when Michel played for The Indianapolis Racers. He was our favorite and interestingly (or oddly) we have kept in touch over the years because of him. We were away at winter Girl Scout camp when we were about 12 and we got permission to make a birthday cake in the camp kitchen. All the girls who were with us at camp, joined us in a celebration of Michel Dion's birthday! My friend and I live in different states but we have talked to each other on every February 11th for the last 34 years. "Happy Michel Dion's Birthday!" :)

Carol said...

I recently found an old friend of mine on facebook that dated Michel when he played for the Racers. Anway, that's what made me wonder what he was up to these days. The internet is amazing, isn't it?

Unknown said...


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