Curt Bennett was the first American bred player to score 30 goals in an NHL season, doing so in the 1975-76 season with the Atlanta Flames.
"My best years were with Atlanta. I led the team in goal scoring 1975-76, and 1974-75. When I scored 31 goals in 1975, I was the first American bred player to score 30 goals or more in the NHL. I scored 34 the next year. I had to work hard to stay in the league and was always in good shape."
Curt Bennett was born in Regina, Saskatchewan on March 27, 1948, but grew up in Rhode Island. The move to the United States came when Curt was just 3 months old as his father, Harvey Sr., was a goaltender for the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League. Curt remained in Cranston until he was 21, being a high school hockey star at Cranston East and later a collegiate star at Brown University. He excelled at both defense and forward while at Brown and was an All-American choice at defense in 1970.
During his sophomore year at Brown, 1968, Curt was drafted 16th overall by the St. Louis Blues. However it wasn't until Curt graduated from Brown University in 1970 before the Blues saw him turn professional. Bennett spent his first pro season playing left wing with the Kansas City Blues, the Blues farm team. He played well in the CHL, scoring 19 goals and 42 points in 63 games. He even got a late season call up and scored his first two NHL goals in 4 games before appearing in 2 1970-71 playoff games.
Curt was unable to use his rookie glimpses of success as a springboard to full time NHL employment in 1971-72. He split the season between the Blues and their farm team, this time with the WHL's Denver Spurs. He scored just 3 goals and 8 points in 31 quiet regular season games with the Blues, and no points in 10 playoff games. During the summer, the Blues sent Curt packing to the New York Rangers to complete an earlier trade for troubled tough guy Steve Durbano.
Bennett played briefly with the New York Rangers, appearing in limited ice time in 16 games, and picking up just one assist. He was then traded to the Atlanta Flames in exchange for Ron Harris.
It was in Atlanta that Curt blossomed into a full time NHLer. In his first of two stints with the Flames he topped the 30-goal mark twice and twice represented the Flames at the NHL all star game. Curt was a consistent 20 goal man while rarely missing a game due to injury. A big man, playing at 6'3" and 195 lbs, Curt wasn't noted as the toughest guy in hockey, but he did use his size when needed.
"I came into the league when Americans had to use their fists instead of scoring goals. This was good because I had a tough time scoring goals," said Curt.
Late in his career Curt rejoined St. Louis for parts of two seasons before returning to Atlanta for one more season to close out his NHL career. Ironically Curt's last NHL season was in 1980 with the Atlanta Flames, the organization's last year in the state of Georgia (They made the move Calgary after that season).
"The media talk in Atlanta was, 'Hell, if Curt can't play for the Flames anymore we're going to get rid of them," joked Curt.
Bennett retired from the NHL with 152 goals, 182 assists and 334 points in 580 regular-season games.
While his NHL days were done, his hockey days were not. He played the next two seasons in Nikko, Japan, as a player-coach for the Furukawa Electric Ice Hockey team. His brother, Harvey Jr. - a veteran of 268 NHL games himself - also played with him. A third brother in this great hockey family, Bill, also breifly played in the NHL - 31 games with Boston and Hartford.
"I was fast, smart, tough and good under pressure -- but only during practice," joked Curt as he described his own play.
While the two 30 goal seasons and a penalty shot goal on Bernie Parent in 1977 are career highlites for Bennett, he had fond memories away from the big show too.
"I think I enjoyed the international games the most, though. I played for Team USA in the Canada Cup and in the World Championship games in Prague in 1978, and Moscow in 1979. When I retired in 1980, I played two years in Japan. The international flavor of hockey is what I most remember."
Curt also enjoyed his two All Star games.
"I also played in two All-Star games representing Atlanta. Those were the most fun hockey because the event was more a celebration of hockey rather than a battle."
Curt, who was also a talented tennis player, worked in real estate in the Atlanta area following his hockey days.