There aren’t many NHL players who have the ability to dictate when, where and for how much money they want to move to a different team. For the players who aren’t lucky enough to pick and choose their future, trades can come unwarranted and unwanted.
Such was the case with former forward Dan Maloney, who ended up in Detroit as a result of the famous trade that sent Marcel Dionne from the Red Wings to the Los Angeles Kings.
It was Dionne’s frustrations with playing in Detroit that prompted the transaction.
Currently fourth highest on the NHL career goals list, Dionne was a hot commodity back in 1975. Unfortunately, the Wings weren’t as hot, which motivated his desire for a chance in scenery.
“It definitely was not a trade,” Maloney said. “Marcel Dionne did not want to stay in Detroit so he got a hold of Alan Eagleson who was director of the player personnel at the time and expressed his wishes. The deal was already made for Marcel and L.A. so it just happened that I had to be compensation, Terry Harper and I had to go to Detroit.”
For a team that made the playoffs once in the previous nine seasons, Maloney racked up a single-season career-high in penalty minutes (203) in his first year with the Wings.
“They were a team in serious transition, trying to build through the draft, add some veterans here and there,” Maloney said. “And a pretty good group of guys, good hard-working guys. We struggled for a year or two to make the playoffs but then we got moving along and they built a pretty good franchise over time.”
The aggressive forward remembers Detroit’s dedicated fan base and gives it credit for supporting the Wings even when its arena, Olympia Stadium, wasn’t in the best part of town.
“I thought we always had pretty loyal fans in Detroit,” Maloney said. “And certainly they would travel down to a very difficult part of the city at that time, and they were very loyal to show up there and support us. It was one of the Original Six teams and still is and now it’s one of the flagships of the league which I’m very, very happy to see.”
The arena’s proximity to the Canadian border meant that games against Toronto divided the stands between Wings and Maple Leafs fans.
“Some of our great rivalries, certainly when Toronto came in to play us in Detroit,” Maloney said. “Half the building would be Toronto fans because they’d all come over from Windsor.”
As for his own scraps with what would become his future team, Maloney recalls one on-ice instance that resulted in an assault charge.
“The most notorious one was Brian Glennie but that wasn’t even a scrap, it just wasn’t anything,” he said. “It was surefire blown out of proportion by the attorney general of Ontario because they were completely against violence in hockey at that time. I was playing for Detroit at the time and Glennie was playing for Toronto. We never really even got into it. So I got charged with violence in hockey and then there was a huge court case settled by us in Toronto at the upper court level.”
Despite the court case, Maloney found himself playing for the Leafs only a few seasons later.
“It was a great honor for me to be able to play for the Leafs,” he said. “I certainly enjoyed it and got to come back and play with some of my old teammates in years gone by.”
In 1978-79, his first full season in a Leafs uniform, Maloney garnered 53 points and posted a plus-19 rating.
By the time he retired in 1982, Maloney amassed 1,489 penalty minutes in 12 seasons – an average of just over 124 minutes per campaign.
After retiring, Maloney stayed in hockey. The year following his retirement, he took a position as a Leafs’ assistant coach, and from 1984-86 he was their head coach.
“I certainly enjoyed my time there,” Maloney said. “We built with a young team, so building with a young team you have your growing pains but when they started to cut the trim to get better we were a pretty good hockey team.”