Happy Birthday, Denis Savard
It’s February 4, which means it’s time for me to wish a few Happy Birthday wishes to my fellow celebrants on this glorious day on the calendar. Lawrence Taylor, Oscar De La Hoya, Alice Cooper, Gavin DeGraw, Natalie Imbruglia and Rob Corddry are celebrating today. As is Blackhawks legend Denis Savard, who turns 62 today.
Savard was drafted third overall by the Blackhawks in 1980 (the year I was born), an infamous draft in Montreal because the Canadiens passed on Savard with the first overall pick in favor of Doug Wickenheiser. The home fans desperately wanted the home town hero, Savard, to be the top pick; he had 181 points in 72 games for the Montreal Juniors in his pre-draft season.
He was ultimately joined on that became known as “The Party Line” by Al Secord and fellow 1980 draft pick Steve Larmer to form one of the most dynamic lines in the league. And his patented Spin-O-Rama move is still credited back to Savard, who earned the nickname “Savoir-Faire.”
Between his rookie season of 1980-81 and his departure from the Blackhawks (the first time) after the 1989-90 season, Savard produced 1,013 points (351 goals, 662 assists) in just 736 games. During that time period, only Wayne Gretzky, Peter Stastny and Jari Kurri had more points. His 662 assists also ranks fourth in the 1980s behind Gretzky, Stastny and Paul Coffey.
On June 29, 1990 the Blackhawks traded Savard to his hometown Canadiens for a second-round pick and defenseman Chris Chelios. Savard would be part of the Habs’ Stanley Cup championship team in 1993 before spending a year and a half in Tampa; the Lightning traded him back to the Blackhawks to close out his career.
The Blackhawks retired his No. 18 on March 19, 1998 after a storied career that earned him the title of Blackhawks icon.
Today, Savard’s 1,096 total points with the Blackhawks still rank fourth in franchise history behind Stan Mikita, Patrick Kane and Bobby Hull. His 719 assists rank third in club history behind Mikita and Kane. And his 377 goals rank fifth behind Bobby Hull, Mikita, Kane and Larmer (#retire28).
Savard also ranks sixth in Blackhawks history with 46 game-winning goals, behind Bobby Hull, Mikita, Jonathan Toews, Kane and Larmer. His 402 power play points are second in franchise history behind only Mikita; Kane needs six more to tie him. And his 11 hat tricks trail only Bobby Hull and Mikita.
When he retired, Savard quickly moved into coaching with the Blackhawks organization. On Nov. 27, 2006, Savard was named interim head coach after the Blackhawks fired Trent Yawney mid-season. He stayed in that position long enough to be the first NHL head coach in the careers of Toews and Kane.
And his press conferences were… let’s just say a lot less filtered than we hear from many coaches today. This rant is legendary, and clearly resonated with the baby-faced 88 who responds to it in this video.
Savard was an ideal mentor for two young players who would become the faces of not only a renaissance, but also a dynasty that included three Stanley Cup championships.
The Blackhawks replaced Savard with Joel Quenneville four games into the 2008-09 season, and he became an ambassador for the team.
If you’re ever in a cigar lounge around the Chicago area, you might just run into him. I did once, and got a picture with one of my favorite players growing up with whom I share a birthday.
Happy birthday, Savvy!