Kenny Wharram passed away at the age of 83 this week. While there aren't a lot fans still around that ever saw him play, I am fortunate to be one. Not to mention, his Hall of Famer teammates -- Bobby Hull, Pierre Pilote, Glenn Hall and Stan Mikita -- have high praise for the speedy right wing who would fit in well in today's game.
He had a tough time breaking into the Chicago lineup in the days when the Blackhawks were known more for being a physical team, and at 5 feet, 9 inches, and only 160 pounds, Kenny didn't seem to fit their style. He ended up playing parts of 14 seasons, appearing in only one game in 1952 at the age of 19 and skating in 29 games in 1953-54. He bounced back and forth with the Buffalo farm team before winning a regular spot in 1958-59, when Stan Mikita made his NHL debut for the last few games of the season.
Head Coach Rudy Pilous united Wharram with Mikita and Ab McDonald for the 1960-61 campaign, when the Blackhawks eventually won the Stanley Cup in Detroit with McDonald getting the Cup-winner in Game 6, and Wharram scored the final goal of the game on a breakaway, unassisted.
Wharram became the first Blackhawks right winger to be named to the NHL All-Star Team, twice -- 1964 and 1967 -- and in fact the only other Blackhawk on the right side to be so honored twice is Patrick Kane.
Wharram also won the Lady Byng Trophy honoring sportsmanship and proficiency when he tallied 39 goals and 71 points in 70 games in 1963-64. Hull and Mikita captured the same award over the next three seasons.
While playing with Mikita and Doug Mohns in 1966-67, the trio set a Blackhawks record for most points in a season by one line with 222 points. Wharram had seven consecutive 20-plus goal seasons, and when he was forced to retire because of a heart condition before the start of the 1969-70 season, he ranked fourth in Blackhawks career goals (252).
Although he retired at the age of 36, he was coming off his second-best season with 30 goals and 39 assists, and like Marian Hossa, who just turned 38, seemed to be on his way to continued success because of his speed.