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subota, 30. listopada 2010.

The "Big M"...Frank Mahovlich (And Brother "Little M" Peter Mahovlich)

I have a few spare moments and decided to throw in another quick sports related one, something about athletes of Croatian descent. I was thinking Joe Sakic, who I touched upon previously HERE, or maybe another NHLer Marc-Édouard Vlasic, also possibly MLB Hall of Famer Roger Maris, (His  MLB  home run record lasted 37 years and was accomplished during an era when pitching mechanics and power was much more developed than during Babe Ruth's time, and of course also long before steroids and performance enhancing drugs became common btw)...or  3 time NFL Superbowl Champion coach of the New England Patriots, as well as 2 time NFL coach of the year, Bill Belichick, NBA stars Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc, former Canadian heavyweight boxing champion, George Chuvalo, (Remember Kevin McHale?...He knows what pečenka is)...5 time Canadian figure skating champions, brother and sister team of Sandra Bezic and Val Bezic, former mixed martial arts and UFC Champion Pat Miletich, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP award winner, Frank Sinkwich, Ever heard of Fenway Park's 'Pesky's pole'?...1968 World Series MVP award winner, Mickey Lolich, Former NBA player and 2 time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich, Team USA "Miracle On Ice" team member Mark Pavelich, Offensive tackle for the Superbowl champion New York Giants, David Diehl, New England Patriots Defensive end Rob Ninkovich, Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut....I could go on and on and on, especially ones that were born and raised in Croatia.

But since it's the start of hockey season here, I thought I'd take a step back in time for a moment, to even before my time.  To the time of the Original 6, as the beginnings of the NHL are known, and to a Canadian Hockey Hall of Famer,(And now Liberal Senator), Frank Mahovlich, known in hockey circles as "The Big M".  I remember as a little tyke, catching a glimpse of him in action when my Aunt and Uncle took me to Maple Leaf Gardens to watch him play when he did a stint in the WHA with the Toronto Toros. As a humorous sidenote, in my organized hockey days in Ontario, my coach for almost the whole first season with his team, actually used to call me Mahovlich, and Malcolm, because he found it hard to pronounce my last name. Same problem Frank had if you read the text below. His younger brother Peter Mahovlich is also a well known and respected hockey player, especially for his play during the '72 Summit Series against the then called Soviet Union. So anyway, here's a brief little intro.

(Supplementary information: I've been getting hate mail from various Serb historians telling me to stop posting about Croatian background athletes, or any other Non-Serbs athletes or topics also, because it's all stealing from the Serb history. That's just between you and me of course)





Playing career

Francis William "The Big M" Mahovlich, CM (Croatian: Franjo Mahovlić) (born January 10, 1938) is a Canadian Senator, and a retired NHL ice hockey player, nicknamed the "Big M." He played on six Stanley Cup-winning teams and is an inductee of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 1963 with the Stanley Cup. One of six times he was able to sip from Lord Stanley's Cup. 

The son of immigrants from Croatia, Mahovlich was scouted by several National Hockey League teams while playing for the Schumacher Lions of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association. He signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who sent him to one of their Ontario Hockey Association affiliates, the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Mahovlich played there while attending St. Michael's College School from 1954–57. While at St. Michael's, he received instruction from Joe Primeau, who Mahovlich would later call the best coach he ever had. Mahovlich received the Red Tilson Trophy as the top player in the OHA for the 1956–57 season, in which he scored 52 goals in 49 games.

He joined the Leafs in 1957 and was a 20-goal scorer in his first season, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in what was otherwise a rough season with the last-place Leafs. During the off-season, he took courses at Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario. At the same time, Punch Imlach was hired to run the Leafs and soon became head coach and general manager.

In the 1960–61 season, Imlach put Mahovlich on a line with Red Kelly and Bob Nevin. The three immediately clicked and were the team's top three scorers that year, led by Mahovlich's 48 goals—a Leaf record that would stand for 21 years. The following season, the Leafs won the Stanley Cup, and repeated as champions in 1963 and 1964. Mahovlich led the team in goals scored in all three seasons.

Initially, Mahovlich and Imlach got along well, but their relationship deteriorated after a few seasons, particularly when Mahovlich's contract was up for renewal in 1962. He felt the Leafs gave him a low-ball offer and walked out on the team during training camp in September. Red Burnett at the Toronto Star described the situation as a "cold war" between Imlach and Mahovlich.

An interesting short look at Frank Mahovlich.

At that time, the National Hockey League All-Star Game was played at the beginning of the season, and during a reception in Toronto attended by team executives in the days before the game, Chicago Black Hawks owner James D. Norris offered the Leafs $1 million for Mahovlich. He believed he had an agreement with Leafs co-owner Harold Ballard and paid $1,000 as a deposit with the balance to be delivered by cheque the next morning. The next day, the Leafs gave Mahovlich the money he had been asking for, and told the Black Hawks that their apparent agreement the night before had been a misunderstanding. The Leafs returned the $1,000 deposit. The Black Hawks accused the Leafs of reneging on a deal. Conn Smythe, at this point a minority shareholder in the Leafs, was adamant that the deal should be rejected.

Mahovlich also had a rocky relationship with fans at Maple Leaf Gardens and was often booed at home games. Imlach—who mispronounced Mahovlich's name for years—became a constant critic and, under pressure from fans and management, Mahovlich was admitted to Toronto General Hospital in November 1964, suffering from what was publicly described as "constant fatigue" but diagnosed as acute depression. Mahovlich was flooded with well-wishes from fans during his time off. He returned to the lineup a month later and was still able to lead the Leafs in scoring in the 1964–65 season, despite missing 11 games. Mahovlich led the Leafs in scoring again in the 1965–66 season.

A look into the mind and accomplishments of Frank Mahovlich from the Biography Channel.

 Celebrating milestone goal 500 in his days with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Leafs won one final Stanley Cup in the 1966–67 season, with Mahovlich having his lowest-scoring year in seven seasons. Early into the next season, Mahovlich was again admitted to hospital, although this time it was acknowledged publicly as depression and tension. "Mahovlich is a sensitive, easily-bruised individual," wrote Milt Dunnell in a page-one story in the Toronto Star. On March 3, 1968 in a blockbuster trade, Mahovlich was sent to the Detroit Red Wings with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger, and the rights to Carl Brewer for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie.

During the rumoured trade to Chicago for one million dollars in 1962.

Mahovlich had a strong finish to the season with the Red Wings, and the following year put up his best point totals in eight seasons, playing on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio and setting his personal record for goals in a season with 49. Initially, one of his teammates on the Red Wings was his younger brother, Peter Mahovlich, who split his time between the Wings and their minor league affiliate.

In 1970–71, Red Wings general manager Sid Abel wanted to get rid of coach Ned Harkness and was overruled by team owner Bruce Norris. Once Harkness took over as general manager, he got rid of players he deemed a threat to him. On January 13, 1971, Mahovlich was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Mickey Redmond, Guy Charron and Bill Collins. He was reunited with his brother, who had become a star player himself with the Canadiens. Mahovlich spent three-and-a-half seasons in Montreal, playing on the Stanley Cup-winning teams of 1971 and 1973. During the 1971–72 season, Mahovlich scored a career-high 96 points, which he nearly matched the following season with 93 points.

A few weeks after becoming a Hab in 1971, Mahovlich led the league in playoff scoring, helping the Habs to win the Cup. On May 10, 1973, Mahovlich scored his 50th playoff goal on the night he won his second Cup as a Montreal Canadien.

Hockey cards from the 1972 Summit Series.

St. Thomas Golf and Country Club Early Bird Tournament Trophy presented to Montreal Canadiens' stars Frank and Pete Mahovlich, 1972. Image: Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas Times-Journal fonds

He also was a member of Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. In 1974, he left the NHL for the World Hockey Association, and represented Canada again at the 1974 Summit Series. In the WHA, he played for the Toronto Toros and the Birmingham Bulls until his retirement in 1978 at the age of 40. While with the Bulls, Mahovlich was placed on an unproductive line with Frank Beaton and Dave Hanson, one of the Hanson Brothers who had been in the movie Slap Shot. According to John Brophy, when a reporter asked Mahovlich what was wrong, he replied, “I don’t know, but I seem to play a lot better with Howe and Delvecchio.” Bobby Hull and Howe are the only NHL defectors to the WHA who scored more points in their last years with the established league before their time in the rebel league.

He attempted an NHL comeback with the Detroit Red Wings in 1979, but it was unsuccessful, and he formally retired on October 7, 1979.

 Memorable moments where both Peter Mahovlich (above) and Frank Mahovlich (below) score in the same game during the 1972 Summit Series.

The "Curse of Frank Mahovlich?"...

The Toronto Maple Leafs won their final Stanley Cup in the 1966–67 season. On March 3, 1968 in a blockbuster trade, Mahovlich was sent to the Detroit Red Wings with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger, and the rights to Carl Brewer for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie. Mahovlich went on to win two more Stanley Cups with Montreal. The Maple Leafs have never even made it to the Cup finals since that trade. In some circles this is known as "The curse of Frank Mahovlich". Photogallery:

Post-playing career

Mahovlich was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981 and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1994, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.

In 1998, Mahovlich was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and in the same year, he was ranked number 27 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, the highest-ranking player who had spent at least a majority of his career with the Maple Leafs.

Frank Mahovlich these days.

At a 2010 "Taste of Croatia" golf tournament attended also by former Canadian boxing champion of Croatain background, George Chuvalo. Source:

I haven't had a chance to wear this for quite some time, but it's in my closet anyway.

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