Dryden, Ken

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Ken Dryden


Canadian hockey player

While many consider Ken Dryden to be one of the best goalies who ever played in the National Hockey League (NHL), he was considered odd, even for a goalie (who in hockey circles are often regarded as eccentric individuals), in part because of his intellectual, non-hockey pursuits. While he won five Stanley Cups in the 1970s with the Montreal Canadiens, he also took a year out of his prime playing career to complete the requirements of his law degree. Dryden retired from professional hockey in his early thirties, but later returned to become the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dryden was born on August 8, 1947 in Islington, Ontario, Canada, the son of Murray and Margaret Dryden. His father sold bricks and building materials. Both Dryden and his elder brother Dave were goalies. (Dave Dryden also played in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks, and completed his education while playing professional hockey.) The brothers had a year round rink at home because their father paved the backyard with asphalt. Because of all the shots that broke glass, the windows of the family home had to boarded up.

Drafted by Boston; Traded to Montreal

After a successful career playing Junior B hockey in Toronto, Dryden was selected by the Boston Bruins in the 1964 amateur draft in the third round with the fourteenth pick. After the draft, Boston traded his rights to the Montreal Canadiens. Dryden had made it clear that he wanted to attend college, and while Montreal was willing to let him do that, they had their own plan for him. The team wanted him to play junior A in Peterborough and attend Trent University. Dryden, ever the individual, forged his own path.

Attended Cornell University

Dryden decided to play college hockey in the United States at Cornell University, where he received a college scholarship. He faced quality competition and was an outstanding college player. While earning his B.A. in history, Dryden was an All-American three times and had a goals against average of 1.65 in seventy-one games. Cornell won the Division I title in 1967; in 1969, it was second in Division I.

After Dryden graduated in 1969, Montreal sent him to play for Canada in the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, so he could gain more experience. Dryden played in two games, including a 1-0 shutout against the Americans. Dryden then signed a three-year deal to play for Canada's national team as a way of developing his goalie skills. Soon this contract was negated as the program was in turmoil, and he left the national team in the summer of 1970. Dryden also attended law school at the University of Manitoba during this time.

Dryden's next career move was to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. He was assigned to their minor league system, playing for the Montreal Voyageurs in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the 1970-71 season. His coach there, Floyd Curry knew he was good enough to play for the CanadiensDryden had proved it by playing well in an exhibition game. In thirty-three games with the Voyageurs, Dryden had a goals against of 2.68 and three shutouts. But hockey was not his only focus. Dryden also began attending law school at Montreal's McGill University.


1947Born August 8 in Islington, Ontario
1964Drafted by the Boston Bruins with the fourteenth pick in the amateur draft; enters Cornell University
1967Backstops Cornell to the Division I title
1969Graduates from Cornell University with BA in history; plays for Team Canada in the World Championships
1970Signs with the Montreal Canadiens; plays for the Montreal Voyageurs; begins attending law school at McGill University
1971Called up by the Montreal Canadiens to play in playoffs, winning first Stanley Cup
1973Graduates from McGill University Law School
1973-74Sits out the season to complete the requirements for his law degree
1976-79Wins the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup each year
1979Retires from professional hockey as a player
1983Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame
1997Returns to hockey as the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Called up by the Canadiens

At the end of the 1970-71 season, Dryden was called up from the minors to play for the Canadiens. He was the first Ivy League graduate to play in the NHL. He started in six games at the end of the season, and gave up only nine goals. Dryden was played to give their veteran number one goaltender Rogie Vachon a breakhe had not played consistently through the seasonand test Dryden's mettle. Because of Dryden's success in those games, he was picked to start in goal in the playoffs by coach Al MacNeil.

MacNeil made a wise choice. Dryden helped the Canadiens defeat the Boston Bruins in a tough seven game series. They then defeated the Minnesota North Stars in six games and the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. Though Dryden had some rough patches, he and the Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup. In twenty playoff games, Dryden posted a 3.00 goals against average, the highest of his career. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

After winning the Cup, Dryden continued to forge his own path. He went to Washington D.C. to be one of Ralph Nader's Raiders, fighting for fisherman who wanted clean water. Dryden continued to do this in other ways in Canada when he returned to the Canadiens in the fall.

Became Canadiens' number one goaltender

At the beginning of the 1971-72, Dryden was named the number one goaltender for the Canadiens. Because of the limited number of games he had appeared in the previous season, this was technically his rookie year. He played in sixty-four games with a 2.24 goals against average, and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. This marked the first time a player was named playoff MVP before being named rookie of the year.

Dryden continued to play well in goal in the 1972-73 season, winning the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender in the league. In fifty-four games, he had a record of 33-7-13 with a goals against of 2.26. He also graduated from McGill University's law school in 1973. To complete the requirements of his degree and practice law, he had to begin "articling" within two years. Articling was doing a year's clerkship at a law firm.

Quits Hockey for Year

In September 1973, Dryden announced that he would not play in the 1973-74 season so he could article for the firm of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt in Toronto. He made this decision not just because his degree required it, but also because the Canadiens would not meet his financial demands. Dryden believed he was one of the best goalies in the NHL and wanted to be paid like it.

While living in Toronto, Dryden remained connected to hockey by playing defense in an industrial league in Toronto and doing television commentary for the World Hockey Association's Toronto Toros. The Canadiens suffered in Dryden's absence. They played horribly behind three different goalies, Wayne Thomas, Michel Plasse, and Michel "Bunny" Larocque. Though the team made the playoffs, Montreal lost in the first round.

Returned to the Canadiens

In May 1974, Dryden signed a big contract to return to play for the Canadiens, giving him something in the neighborhood of $450,000-600,000 over three years. He had considered playing for the World Hockey Association, and had a significant offer. But Dryden decided he was better off with the Canadiens. It took some time for him to regain his form. While the Canadiens did make the playoffs, his goals against during the regular season was a career-high 2.69. The team did not make it to the finals.

Though some in Montreal wondered if the team had made a mistake in re-signing Dryden, he proved his worth during each of the next four seasons. From 1976-79, he won the Vezina Trophy every year, and the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup every year. In 1975-76, he had a goals against of 2.03. His best season was arguably 1976-77, where in fifty-six games, Dryden had a goals against of 2.14 with ten shutouts. In the playoffs, had a goals against of 1.56 with four shutouts in fourteen games.

Career Statistics

Montreal: Montreal Canadiens (NHL).

Awards and Accomplishments

1967Backstopped Cornell to the Division I title
1971Won Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP; Won Stanley Cup
1972Won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year; All-Star (second team)
1973All-Star (first team)
1973, 1976-79Vezina Trophy
1976-79Won Stanley Cup

Retired at Early Age

After winning the Stanley Cup in 1979, Dryden retired permanently. Over the course of eight seasons with Montreal, he had a record of 258-57-74, with forty-six shutouts and a career 2.24 goals against average. His playoff record was equally impressive: eighty wins in 112 games, with 2.40 goals against average and ten shutouts. He also had nineteen assists in the regular season and four assists in the playoffs. As Douglas Hunter wrote in A Breed Apart, "Ken Dryden is remembered, above all, for The Stance: hands atop his stick, chin atop his hands, one knee flexed, more contemplative of the spectacle of the game than the spectators on the other side of the boards. Goaltending, ultimately, is a reactive discipline, and it has been Ken Dryden's metier to react as arrestingly on the ice as off." He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.


Address: c/o Toronto Maple Leafs, Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St., Suite 400, Toronto, Ontario M4J 2X2 Canada.


(With Mark Mulvoy) Faceoff at the Summit, Little Brown, 1973.

The Game: A Thoughtful and Provocative Look at a Life in Hockey, New York: Times Books, 1983.

In School: Our Kids, Our Teaching, Our Classrooms, McClelland & Stewart, 1995.

Where Is He Now?

After leaving hockey as a player, Dryden had a varied career. He went to Cambridge, England, to further his education. He also wrote a famous book about his hockey life called The Game, as well as other books. Dryden also worked as a youth recreation consultant and civil servant. In 1997, he returned to hockey as the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, though he had no front office experience. Among other accomplishments, he got a new arena built (the Air Canada Centre) and got the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1999.

Finding a Way: Legacy of the Past, Recipe for the Future, University of Ottawa Press, 2002.



Fischler, Stan. The All-New Hockey's 100. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1988.

Fischler, Stan, and Shirley Fischler. Fischlers' Hockey Encyclopedia. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975.

Hickock, Ralph. A Who's Who of Sports Champions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.

Hunter, Douglas. A Breed Apart: An Illustrated History of Goaltending. Chicago: Triumph Books, 1995.


Deacon, James. "Aiming for the Stanley Cup." Maclean's (June 23, 1997): 43.

"Four-Story Goalie." Newsweek (May 17, 1971): 62.

Lapointe, Joe. "Dryden's Drive for Success in Toronto." New York Times (May 23, 1999): section 8, p. 1.

Mulvoy, Mark. "Ken Dryden on Trial." Sports Illustrated (November 24, 1974): 24.

Swift, E.M. "Tough Saves." Sports Illustrated (December 8, 1997): 70.

Vecesey, George. "Ken Dryden Scores." New York Times (April 16, 1984): C8.


"Ken Dryden." http://www.hockeysandwich.com/kdryden.html (December 14, 2002).

Sketch by A. Petruso