We recently talked about Murray Balfour, a player that had his career cut short by cancer. We’ve discussed Ross Lowe and Babe Siebert who were lost in drownings. We talked about Joe Hall, a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic during the 1919 Stanley Cup playoffs. Today, we look at another National Hockey League career that ended abruptly due to health problems: Dave Balon.
It’s a bit different with Dave Balon. His career ended because of Multiple Sclerosis but his life didn’t. Balon went from being among the top ten goal scorers in the NHL in the early 1970’s to out of the game completely by the end of the 1973-74 season. Sadly, the effects of the disease on his game were misinterpreted as laziness and simply being washed up.
Dave Balon – Junior and Minor Pro
Balon played his junior hockey with the Prince Albert Mintos of the SJHL between 1955-56 and 1957-58. Once he turned pro, Dave left Saskatchewan behind and moved east.
With the Trois Rivieres Lions of the EPHL in 1959-60, Balon had a bit of a breakout season. He scored 28 and assisted on 42 for 70 points over 61 games. His 104 penalty minutes placed him sixth in the league.
Dave Balon Collection
Over the following two years, Dave split time between the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the EPHL and the New York Rangers before finally getting a full-time gig in the NHL. In his second year with the Beavers, Balon played under player/head coach and Rangers great Red Sullivan.
He returned to the minors for a short nine game stint with the Houston Apollos in 1965-66 while playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Balon ended his career with second games in the North American Hockey League (the farm for the WHA) with the Broome County Dusters in 1973-74.
Dave Balon – NHL
Balon played 776 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1959-60 and 1972-73 with the Rangers, Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. Over that time, he scored 192 and assisted on 222 for 414 points. He appeared in 78 Stanley Cup playoff games, adding 35 points.
His first NHL action came in 1959-60 when he appeared in three games with New York. His career took off when a June 4, 1963 trade sent him to the Canadiens. It was a trade all about the goalies with Gump Worsley going to Montreal and Jacques Plante going to the Rangers. Also going to the Habs were Leon Rochefort and Len Ronson. Going to the Rangers with Plante were Phil Goyette and Don Marshall.
In his first year with Montreal, 1963-64, Dave’s 24 goals tied him for ninth in the NHL with Rod Gilbert of the Rangers, Murray Oliver of the Boston Bruins and Phil Goyette. The following two years brought Balon and the Habs Stanley Cup championships.
However, Montreal left Balon unprotected and he was picked up by the Minnesota North Stars as the 14th overall pick at the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft. He helped the North Stars go deep into the 1967-68 playoffs but his time was short in Minnesota. Over the summer of 1968, Dave was dealt back to his original team, the Rangers, for Wayne Hillman, Joe Johnston and Dan Seguin.
In 1969-70, Balon had a career year offensively with New York. His 33 goals tied him for eighth in the NHL with Red Berenson of the St. Louis Blues and Bobby Orr of the Bruins. His 70 points put him tied for tenth in the race for the Art Ross Trophy with Frank Mahovlich of the Detroit Red Wings and John McKenzie of Boston.
The following year, his 36 goals put him tenth overall. He would never put up numbers like that again. Early in the 1971-72 season, Balon was traded to the Canucks with Wayne Connelly and Ron Stewart for Gary Doak and Jim Wiste. By 1972-73, he appeared in just 57 games for the Canucks and had only five points to show for it.
Dave took one last shot at major league hockey in 1973-74, signing with the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association. He appeared in just nine games before being sent down to the NAHL and ultimately retiring from the game.
Dave Balon – Rookie Card
The Dave Balon rookie card appears as number 56 in the 1962-63 Topps set. It is a common card and is shown with the New York Rangers. His final card is with the Vancouver Canucks in the 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets.
Dave Balon Career Stats
|1959-60||Trois Rivieres Lions||EPHL||61||28||42||70||104|
|1959-60||New York Rangers||NHL||3||0||0||0||0|
|1960-61||New York Rangers||NHL||13||1||2||3||8|
|1961-62||New York Rangers||NHL||30||4||11||15||11|
|1962-63||New York Rangers||NHL||70||11||13||24||72|
|1967-68||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||73||15||32||47||84|
|1968-69||New York Rangers||NHL||75||10||21||31||57|
|1969-70||New York Rangers||NHL||76||33||37||70||100|
|1970-71||New York Rangers||NHL||78||36||24||60||34|
|1971-72||New York Rangers||NHL||16||4||5||9||2|
|1973-74||Broome County Dusters||NAHL||7||0||1||1||0|