Monday, June 25, 2007

Blaine Stoughton

Blaine Stoughton was a fantastically skilled hockey player. Nicknamed "Stash," Blaine had a way of stashing pucks into the back of the net. His first four seasons as a member of the NHL Hartford Whalers he scored at least 43 goals. Two of those years he scored more than 50, including in 1979-80 when he and LA's Charlie Simmer led the league in goals with 56. Blaine also had a 52 goal season in the WHA.

Blaine thrived on fast paced, loosey-goosey hockey games where there wasn't a whole lot of defense being played. But once the game became very physical or very tight, Stoughton frustrated many fans and hockey people by seemingly disappearing in such contests.

Blaine was born in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba, but first gained prominence on the hockey scene in Flin Flon where for 4 years he starred with the WCJHL's Bombers. He had a relatively quiet first year with the Bombers, scoring 19 goals and 39 points in 59 games, but as his 181 PIM suggests, he answered the physical bell when older players tried to test out the newcomer.

Blaine was off to a great start in his second season with Flin Flon in 1970-71. But then a nasty incident occurred. Blaine accidentally speared Don Dirk of Medicine Hat right in the eye. Dirk escaped serious injury, but Blaine was suspended for 29 games. He still finished the year with an impressive 26 goals and 24 assists in 35 games, and tore up the league in the playoffs with 13 goals and 26 points in 17 games.

Blaine played in 68 games in 1971-72 and led the league with 60 goals and finished third in the league in scoring. In his draft year in 1972-73, he scored 58 goals which was good enough for 5th overall. He really cemented his status as one of hockey's top young guns. He was drafted 7th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1973.

Blaine was never happy in a very short stay with Pittsburgh however. He felt he deserved to play in the NHL, but after a lackluster 34 game rookie season he was sent to the minor leagues where he was a big part of an AHL championship team in Hershey. However Stoughton demanded to be traded.

The trade occurred on September 13, 1974. It was a great one for Pittsburgh as they received a young Rick Kehoe from Toronto in exchange for Stoughton. Kehoe went onto become one of the greatest players in Penguins history, while Stoughton went onto two indifferent and disappointing seasons with the Maple Leafs.

After finishing the 1975-76 season back in the minor leagues, Stoughton jumped to the rival World Hockey Association for the 1976-77 season when he signed with the Cincinnati Stingers. He finally blossomed into a 52 goal, 104 point scorer in Cincinnati, much to the chagrin of Leafs fans.

The chagrin wouldn't last too long in Toronto. Over the next two years, Stoughton returned to his indifferent play. Over the next two seasons, he scored only 38 goals total. He was traded from Cincinnati to Indianapolis to New England in that time as well, leaving much to be desired in each city.

The move to New England proved to be good eventually, but not until the Whalers became the NHL Hartford Whalers in 1979-80. That's when Stoughton, often taking wonderful dishes from Mike Rogers, tied with Charlie Simmer for the lead league in goals with 56. He also topped 100 points. Finally, Blaine had reached the levels once predicted for him at this level.

Unlike in his one previous season in the WHA, Blaine proved that it was no fluke this time around. Despite missing the first month of the 1980-81 season in a contract dispute, he still registered 43 goals. He returned to the 52 goal level in 1981-82 when he played a full season, and had a 45 goal season in 72 games in 1982-83.

Blaine slowed down in the 1983-84 season, and was even traded to New York in hopes that a reunification with old partner Mike Rogers would revive his scoring abilities. However it didn't work, and he spent most of his days a Ranger in the minor leagues.

Blaine retired in the summer of 1986 although he did resurface in Italy two seasons later. He later went on own and operate a sports bar in Boca Raton, Florida before getting back into the game as an assistant coach with the Whalers farm team in Springfield starting in 1993. By the late 1990s he headed an investment group that purchased the Austin Ice Bats of the Western Professional Hockey League.

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