It’s rare over a 16 year National Hockey League career to have one single season that so far over and above defines that player’s career. With Vic Hadfield, that is just the case. In 1971-72, Hadfield put up numbers that were over the top, as far is his long career was concerned.
Before him, there was Rocket Richard, Bernie Geoffrion, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito and John Bucyk. When Vic scored 50 goals in 1971-72, these were the only five player that had accomplished the feat before him. Yet, Hadfield (and Bucyk) largely goes unnoticed as a pioneer when it comes to goal scoring.
Vic Hadfield – Junior and Minor Pro
Vic Hadfield played two years of major junior hockey with the St. Catherines Teepees in 1958-59 and 1959-60. In the second season with the Teepees, Vic and the team achieved the ultimate prize in Canadian junior hockey.
The 1959-60 St. Catherines Teepees were led by Chico Maki with Pat Stapleton on defense and Roger Crozier in the net. The team finished second in the seven team league and won the championship over the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors.
The Teepees then moved on to capture the Richardson Cup with a win over the Brockville Canadiens in the Eastern Memorial Cup finals. This set up a match-up with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Memorial Cup finals. The first game was played in St. Catherines while the rest were staged at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. The Teepees came out on top in six games.
Hadfield also saw his first pro hockey action in 1959-60, playing a single American Hockey League game with the Buffalo Bisons. The following year, he joined the Bisons full time. He scored just five goals in 62 games while finishing tenth in the AHL with 111 penalty minutes.
1960-61 would also be the final year Vic would play in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He had been property of the NHL club through junior and his first year of pro. The New York Rangers picked him up via draft for the 1961-62 season.
After playing for the Rangers exclusively in 1961-62, Hadfield took a step down in 1962-63, splitting his season between the Rangers and Baltimore Clippers of the AHL. He started the year with the Clippers and ended with the Rangers, following behind head coach Red Sullivan. Sullivan started his year in Baltimore but was replaced midseason by Aldo Guidolin so he, in turn, could replace Muzz Patrick in New York.
Vic Hadfield – NHL
Between 1961-62 and 1976-77, Vic Hadfield played 1,002 regular season games in the National Hockey League. The bulk of his time was with the Rangers but he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1974-75 until his retirement nine games into the 1976-77 NHL season. Vic went to Pittsburgh in exchange for Nick Beverley.
Vic Hadfield Collection
The video to the right shows a pretty full collection of Vic Hadfield hockey cards from his 1962-63 Topps rookie card through to his final card in the 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee set. To view at a larger scale, simply click the title or click the play button in the middle then click the YouTube icon at the bottom.
Over his NHL career, Hadfield scored 323 and assisted on 389 for 712 points while also sitting 1,154 minutes in penalties. In the playoffs, he went without a Stanley Cup championship but did appear in 74 games, adding 48 points.
As mentioned, he was brought up through the Blackhawks organization, playing junior with the Chicago sponsored Teepees and minor pro with the Blackhawks affiliate in Buffalo. However, he never played in the NHL for the club and was claimed by the Rangers for the 1961-62 season.
Hadfield scored 20 or more goals in nine seasons. He scored 30 or more in three seasons, his 50 goal campaign with the Rangers and in his two full seasons with the Penguins. However, when his NHL career started out, it was his fists and not his goal scoring that put him on the radar.
In 1963-64, Vic led the NHL with 151 penalty minutes over 69 games. He was just two PIM ahead of Terry Harper of the Montreal Canadiens. Two years later, he finished fifth in the league with 112 PIM.
But, the really big deal of Hadfield’s career came in 1971-72. He scored 50 and assisted on 56 for 106 points over 78 games, wile also sitting 142 minutes in the box. He finished second in goal scoring, a distant 16 goals behind Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins.
In the assist department, Vic tied Fred Stanfield of the Bruins for fourth. His 106 points were good for fourth in the NHL and second on the Rangers behind Jean Ratelle’s 109. He was named a Second Team All-Star, the only all-star team selection of his career.
The Rangers in 1971-72 finished second overall in the 14 team league and second in the East Division, behind the Bruins. The two teams met in the finals with Boston taking the Stanley Cup championship in six games. Hadfield, with 16 points, was a point behind Bobby Rousseau for the team league in the playoffs.
From 1971-72 to 1973-74, Hadfield served as team captain for the Rangers. He replaced Bob Nevin and was replaced by Brad Park. His captaincy ended when he shifted to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 1974-75 season.
He was a 30 goal scorer in both full seasons with the Penguins, 31 in 1974-75 and 30 in 1975-76. In the first season, he was involved in one of the more bizarre playoff series in Stanley Cup history.
The Penguins led their 1974-75 quarter-final series against the New York Islanders 3-0 before the Islanders stormed back to win four straight to take the series. Interestingly, the Islanders also spotted the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-0 lead in the semi-finals before coming back to even up at three apiece. The magic ran out, however, and the Flyers won the series in seven.
Vic was named to Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. He played two games before leaving the club.
Vic Hadfield – Rookie Card
The Vic Hadfield rookie card appears as number 60 in the 1962-63 Topps NHL hockey card set. His final card is with the Penguins in the 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee set. That card refers to his off-season knee surgery but that he was expected to make a big contribution for the Penguins in 1976-77. The knees forced his retirement nine games into the campaign.
Most of his cards refer to him being a golf pro in the off-season. He went on to develop the Vic Hadfield Driving Range and Instructional Centre in Oakville, Ontario. Also, most of his early cards refer to him being brought up through the Chicago system. His 1966-67 Topps card claims that Hadfield ‘has never reached his potential as an NHL player’.
Several cards in the later parts of his career refer to the rarity of his 50 goals in 1971-72. It might not be appreciated today, but at the time he was just the sixth player to accomplish the feat. In 1971-72, Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion had already put in their 50 goal seasons. Bobby Hull scored 50 for his fifth and last time in the NHL in 1971-72. Phil Esposito did it for the second time that season. In 1970-71, Johnny Bucyk had had his unlikely 50 goal season.
Vic Hadfield Career Stats
|1958-59||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA||51||6||14||20||72|
|1959-60||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA||48||19||34||53||130|
|1961-62||New York Rangers||NHL||44||3||1||4||22|
|1962-63||New York Rangers||NHL||36||5||6||11||32|
|1963-64||New York Rangers||NHL||69||14||11||25||151|
|1964-65||New York Rangers||NHL||70||18||20||38||102|
|1965-66||New York Rangers||NHL||67||16||19||35||112|
|1966-67||New York Rangers||NHL||69||13||20||33||80|
|1967-68||New York Rangers||NHL||59||20||19||39||45|
|1968-69||New York Rangers||NHL||73||26||40||66||108|
|1969-70||New York Rangers||NHL||71||20||34||54||69|
|1970-71||New York Rangers||NHL||63||22||22||44||38|
|1971-72||New York Rangers||NHL||78||50||56||106||142|
|1972-73||New York Rangers||NHL||63||28||34||62||60|
|1973-74||New York Rangers||NHL||77||27||28||55||75|