October 08, 2013

Chuck Arnason

There's been a lot of great hockey players to come out of Flin Flon, Manitoba - Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Blaine Stoughton being the most prominent.

Another top Flin Flon junior star was Ernest "Chuck" Arnason. Although he played 8 years in the National Hockey League, he was never able to parlay his junior success to the NHL level.

Chuck was born in Winnipeg but moved to small town Ashern, Manitoba as a youngster. In his early teens he was playing in a senior mens league with players at least 10 years older than he was. This was partly because he was so much better than the players his age, and partly because there wasn't a real good junior program set up - at least not for the calibre of player Chuck was.

A Detroit Red Wings scout by the name of Dan Summers convinced Chuck to leave home and move to Selkirk where he could play in a top junior league with the MJHL. He was an electrifying goal scorer for two years with the Selkirk Steelers, which caught the eye of the Bombers scouts. In 1969-70, the Bombers brought him north to Flin Flon.

Arnason stepped in a contributed right away. He had a very respectable 34 goals as a WCJHL rookie, but exploded in the playoffs. Teammate Reggie Leach had led the entire WHL in scoring that year had to take a back seat to his fellow right winger in the post season as Chuck scored 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 17 games to capture the WHL championship.

That was just the beginning for Arnason. The following season he set a WHL record when he scored 79 goals (the record now belongs to Ray Ferraro). He also captured the WHL scoring championship with 163 points plus the playoff scoring lead with 37 points.

Arnason became eligible for the NHL draft following that tremendous display, and he was snatched up quickly. The fabled Montreal Canadiens nabbed Chuck with the 7th overall pick.

Not all junior stars are able to duplicate their success in junior, or even something remotely close to it, at the NHL level. In fact, a surprisingly high percentage of junior players don't achieve the same offensive results at the NHL level. Chuck definitely fit into this category. He bounced around the league with 8 teams in 8 years with a few trips to minors to boot in his NHL career. His best season came in 1974-75 with the Pittsburgh Penguins when he scored 26 goals and 58 points, even though he spent much of his time on the third line.

Chuck bounced around because he was somewhat one dimensional. He was small but he had an excellent shot, although that was his only real weapon in his arsenal. He also didn't get as long a shot as he deserved in most places because he was admittedly a poor defensive player, especially in his early years.

"I can get the goals, all right," he says, "but what's bad about me is that I'm not a very good defensive player. That's a part of the game I've got to work on so I can improve myself."

Chuck Arnason played in 401 NHL games split between Montreal, Atlanta (Flames), Pittsburgh, Kansas City/Colorado, Cleveland/Minnesota and Washington. He scored 109 goals and 90 assists for 199 points.

The Flin Flon standout headed to Europe to end his career in 1980, however he never was able to play that season with Kolner EC of Germany. He hurt his knee in training camp and was eventually forced to retire from the game because of the injury.

Chuck retired from hockey and returned to Winnipeg to operate a golf driving range.

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