February 06, 2013

Celebrating Larry "Bud" Melnyk

If you were a NHL general manager in the 1980s and you were looking for a no-nonsense, no frills journeyman defenseman, then you did not need to look much further than Larry "Bud" Melnyk.

Described as "a Ken Morrow type of defenseman," Melnyk was pretty unheralded in his day. He quietly went about blocking shots, clearing the front of the net and sacrificing his body in anyway it took to get his job done. For his efforts he was rewarded with a 432 NHL game career and two Stanley Cup rings.

Melnyk was born and raised in New Westminister, BC, which is essentially a suburb of Vancouver. He played for his hometown New West Bruins for three seasons. The Boston Bruins liked what they saw, and drafted him 78th overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.

Melnyk's story from there is one of perseverance and dedication. He was a poor skater, with no speed and little mobility. That kept him out of a regular NHL job until 1985 when he joined the New York Rangers. He road the buses in the minor leagues, constantly working on playing his position while understanding his limitations. He grew to learn to read the oncoming play and master the angles of defending and anticipative positioning. He would force the opposition wide until they ran out of room. He would then eliminate his check, though he was not a devastating hitter. Melnyk also became one of the league's best shot blockers, making him a regular on the penalty kill. He would fearlessly drop in front of a speeding bullet.

Before arriving in New York Melnyk spent parts of two post seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. That seems like an odd fit given that Melnyk was a poor skater and had no offensive game whatsoever. Though he did not play regularly he would earn two Stanley Cup championships.

He joined the Rangers in 1985-86 and finally proved what he was adamant about all along - he was a NHL defenseman. For the next 2 and 1/2 seasons he patrolled the Rangers blue line with vigor.

Melnyk enjoyed a home coming in the 1987-88 season, coming back to Vancouver to play out his career. Though he helped solidify a traditionally porous blue line. He was a very popular teammate, and, judging by the injuries suffered, may have been the toughest man on the team.

Shortly after arriving in Vancouver Melnyk took a Randy Carlyle slap shot to the face, giving him a concussion and fracturing his left orbital bone. In another incident he severed a tendon his right arm. And most of his time in Vancouver he played with chronic back pains, which eventually forced him to retire just before the 1990-91 season.

I liked Larry Melnyk. He was an honest, hard working guy, who believed in himself and was a great teammate.

Classic Auctions has a few Larry Melnyk items up for bids in their  Winter 2013 offering

Like the Lanny McDonald collection mentioned yesterday, the centrepiece has to be Melnyk's 1985 personal Stanley Cup championship trophy. Stanley Cup winners all get 13" versions of the Stanley Cup.  What Oilers fan would not want this?! A legitimate Stanley Cup keepsake which features Melnyk's teammates like Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Fuhr, Kurri and Anderson! Great stuff!

Game worn jerseys include the rare blue Team Canada jersey from the 1979 World Juniors. Also available are a 1985 Oilers playoff jersey and a 1989-90 Canucks jersey. There is also a game-worn New Westminister Bruins jersey is part of an impressive collection from their Memorial Cup dynasty days.

Check out Classic Auctions' Winter 2013 offering today. 

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