It was a decade dominated by the two Canadian teams. Of the ten Cups awarded, nine were won by either Montreal or Toronto. The lone American team to win one would be the Chicago Blackhawks and unfortunately, being the Hawks loyalist that I am, that would be the last one they’d win until this past season.
The 60s also introduced the world to two game changing players in Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull. I will maintain that Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player to ever play the game — and that’s no knock on 99, 66 or Mr. Hockey. Orr was an out of this world talent who changed how rearguards played the game. While the consensus is that he injured his knees after he began his pro career, empirical evidence suggests he had bum knees while still playing juniors. It is hard to imagine how many more Cups he would have helped the Bruins win had he been healthy.
Left Wing – Bobby Hull (Chicago Blackhawks)
Hull was one of the most devastating snipers to ever play the game and certainly the most dominant left wing of the decade. In the 60s, Hull realized or exceeded the magical 50-goal plateau on four separate occasions, captured three scoring titles and was named league MVP twice. He was also named to the All-NHL squad nine times, eight of which were first-team honors. More importantly, he led the Blackhawks in scoring with 14 points in 12 games during the 1961 Stanley Cup playoffs en route to the organization’s first Cup since 1938… and their last Cup until they took it against Philadelphia in the most recent postseason.
Center – Stan Mikita (Chicago Blackhawks)
With 827 points, Mikita registers as the highest scoring player of the decade. Though he was a playmaker before anything else, he notched 30 or more goals seven times in the decade and claimed the scoring title four times. Mikita also was awarded league MVP honors twice and was named to the All-NHL first team six times.
Right Wing – Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings)
It was another decade, another dominant chapter in the career of Mr. Hockey. Howe started the decade out with a bang as he passed Rocket Richard as the all-time NHL points leader on January 15, 1960. Five years later, on November 10, 1963, he would score his 545th career goal, again passing up his old rival The Rocket for tops in that category. Though he did not collect the hardware in a monopolistic manner as he did in the 50s, Howe was still the best right wing of the decade. He ranks first in points scored among all players at the position and captured All-NHL honors all ten times during the decade, half of which were on the first team.
Defenseman – Pierre Pilote (Chicago Blackhawks)
The Captain of the Blackhawks for the majority of the decade and one of the toughest defenseman of the era. He was awarded the Norris Trophy three consecutive seasons ( 63’, 64’, 65’) and was named to the All-NHL team eight times ( 5 First team honors) and was ultimately the most decorated blue liner of the decade.
Defenseman – Jacques Laperriere (Montreal Canadiens)
Laperriere arrived on the scene shortly after Doug Harvey was sent to New York and filled the void very effectively. He won the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) in 1964 and was named to the All-NHL second team. Known for his long reach, shot blocking prowess and ability to start a break with long, precise passes, Laperriere became the foundation of the Montreal blue line that assisted in four Cup victories in the decade. He also won the 1966 Norris Trophy as the league’s premier defender.
Left Wing – Frank Mahovlich (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Mahovlich was one of the great Maple Leafs of all time and a driving force behind the four Cups the franchise won in the 60s. A steady goal scorer, he led the team in goals seven times in the decade and, when he went to play for Detroit in the 1968-69 season, he led them with 49 tallies. A five time All-NHL second team selection, Mahalovich would easily be rated the best player at the position in this decade had it not been for the once-in-a-generation proficiency of Bobby Hull.
Center – Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadiens)
Le Gros Bil followed his excellence of the prior decade with more responsibility and more stellar play. He was named captain of the Habs in 1961 and led the team to four more Stanley Cups. Beliveau also managed to snag another Hart Trophy in 1964 and the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 1965. By the end of the decade, his name would be etched on the Stanley Cup nine times all with his beloved Canadiens.
Right Wing – Ken Wharram (Chicago Blackhawks)
He served as Mikita’s right wing for the better part of the decade. Wharram notched 20 or more goals in 7 consecutive season’s. The sleek right wing earned All-NHL 1st team honors twice in the decade. His career was cut short during Hawks training camp in 1969 when he was suffered a near fatal heart attack and was forced to retire.
Defenseman – Tim Horton (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Horton was the number one blueliner for the Leafs in this decade. Though his aptitude in his own zone is why he is best remembered, he owned one of the hardest slap shots of the era and could make plays when he joined the rush. He actually led all Leaf scorers in their 1962 Cup run. But, of course, it was his physical play that that people admired most about him — even his sworn enemies. Famed Montreal enforcer John Ferguson called him “the hardest body checker I’ve come across”.
Defenseman – Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins)
The Bruins organization had a sweater set aside for him at the age of twelve, immediately after they saw him light the ice up during a Bantam tournament in Ontario. He was signed to a pro contract at the age of fourteen, his legend grew as he blazed through the Ontario Hockey junior league and he made his debut with Boston in 1966. There was nothing crooked about the hype that Orr had generated as a youngster and the position of defenseman in the NHL would be revolutionized with the emergence of the flat-topped freewheeling dynamo. He would win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1967 and he was also named to the All-NHL second team. Because he was such a newsworthy prodigy, his toughness would be tested by opposing roughnecks in his debut season as a means to hinder his production and as a message that his superstar status in his youth meant noting in the big league. Orr dropped the gloves when he had to and, though he was never mistaken for the heavyweight champion, it is well documented that after that first season he collected a great deal of respect among the NHL’s tough guys and the dance invitations became rarer and rarer thereafter. After two All-NHL first team selections and two Norris trophies, Orr became the foundation of a resurgent Bruins team that was primed and ready for the 70s.
Left Wing – John Bucyk (Boston Bruins)
The majority of the 60s were rough times for the Bruins as they finished last in the league standings five consecutive times, but the one constant stream of brilliance came from “Chief Bucyk”. He scored 20 or more goals seven times in the decade and placed third in total points at his position for the era. Bucyk was named captain in 1966 and, with addition of young stars like Orr and Phil Esposito, would lead the team out of the dismal 60s and into the prosperous 70s.
Center – Norm Ullman (Detroit Red Wings)
Ullman was the fourth highest scoring player of the decade, but because he played in Hockeytown along with a myriad of stars, his ranking among the great pivots of the era is truly unsung.
Though the Red Wings went 0-4 in Stanley Cup Finals during this decade, Ullman managed to lead the entire league in playoff points on two occasions.
He also led the league in goals in 1965, putting 42 tallies past the opposing goaltender that year.
Right Wing – Bernie Geoffrion (Montreal Canadiens)
Though he was retired for the middle part of the decade, Boom Boom still managed to accomplish a few major feats in the short time. In 1961, he became only the second player in league history — Rocket Richard being the first — to score 50 goals in a season. In that same year he won the Art Ross scoring trophy and the Hart Trophy, becoming only the only other right wing beside Gordie Howe to win either trophy in the decade.
Defenseman – Doug Harvey (Montreal Canadiens)
Though Harvey was blacklisted from the NHL for attempting to rally a player’s union for seven seasons, he still managed to win the Norris Trophy thrice, and he was named to the All-NHL first team three times as well. He took his unmatched talent to the AHL for the better part of the decade but made a return to the league to finish out the decade with the expansion St. Louis Blues along with former Habs greats Dickie Moore and Jacques Plante.
Defenseman – Ted Green (Boston Bruins)
Green was one of the top three enforcers of the decade, behind Montreal’s John Ferguson (who pummeled him soundly in 1963) and about even with noted New York Ranger Orland Kurtenbach. A big bad Bruin a decade before the team earned the label, Green was a capable defender and a ferocious body checker. He took over the reins as Boston’s top defenseman when Fernie Flaman left the club and even managed All-NHL second team honors in 1969.
Left Wing – John Ferguson (Montreal Canadiens)
According to Habs superstar Beliveau, Ferguson was a big reason why Montreal was able to get back into the Stanley Cup hunt in the middle part of the decade. He added an element of intimidation and havoc to the skilled brand of Montreal hockey and as a result sanctioned the unspoken notion that his teammates should be given much more room on the ice. Don’t let the menacing fists fool you, though — the man was no simple goon. He could skate a productive shift and though he did accumulate 1052 penalty minutes in the decade, he scored 15 goals or better six times in the decade and maxed out with 29 in 1969. Ferguson is hands down the heavyweight champion of the 60s and one of the greatest enforcers to ever play the game.
Center – George Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Armstrong was one of the greatest leaders to ever play the game and was the Leafs captain for the entirety of their last dynasty in the 60s. He never led the team in scoring and never won any league accolades or hardware, but his steady two-way play set the standard in the Leafs locker room and the results showed as Toronto captured four Stanley Cup titles with Armstrong leading the entire way.
Right Wing – Claude Provost (Montreal Canadiens)
Provost was an incredible shutdown defender and one Montreal’s hardest working grinders, a guy who did not mind mucking and shoveling in the corners to earn his squad an advantage. He was noted for neutralizing Bobby Hull in the postseason as well as pestering and checking other notable high scoring opponents of the day. He worked hard trying to find the net as well, and actually led the high-powered Habs in scoring in twice — in 1962 (33 goals) and 1965 (27 goals).
Glenn Hall (Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues)
His goals against average never exceeded 3.00 the entire decade, except twice in the playoffs. He also managed to be named to the All-NHL first team five times and the second team an additional three times. Hall was also awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the 1968 finals despite playing for the losing team.
Gump Worsley (Montreal Canadiens)
Worsley was the last line of defense for the Canadiens “quiet” dynasty of the 60s. Worsley managed to conduct two shutouts in the 1965 Finals and posted a meager 1.98 goals against average in the 1968 season en route to leading the Habs to an undefeated postseason, one in which they won eleven straight games to capture the Stanley Cup.