October 18, 2013

Garry Unger: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

This is an official game program from the December 28, 1973 match between St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins. I love that cover, which features none other than Garry Unger, one of the earliest stars for the Blues. 

He also had a reputation as a party boy. In fact, it was his trademark long hair that actually landed him in St. Louis.

In 1971 Unger was playing with the Detroit Red Wings. However Unger clashed with his old school coach named Ned Harkness. In some ways Harkness was the epitome of the later day Mike Keenan, a strict authoritarian who would make unreasonable demands, but without Keenan's success.

Harkness and Unger clashed almost immediately. Unger, who scored 42 goals as a sophomore in 1969-70, had a somewhat misplaced reputation as a playboy. He was good looking with rosy cheeks, and he wore colorful clothes. His signature had to be his shoulder length blonde hair. He was known to use a hair dryer as much as a hockey blade torch. And hey it must have worked, as he was dating Miss America in 1970.

It may have been the 70s, but Harkness would have none of this. He ordered all of his players to get crew-cuts. Unger refused, and on February 6th, 1971 he, Tim Ecclestone and Wayne Connelly were traded to St. Louis in exchange for expansion scoring star Red Berenson. It turned out to be a terrible trade for the Wings.

Berenson had a couple of solid seasons in Detroit, but he was near the end. Connelly and Ecclestone would go on to become solid NHL players, while Unger erupted in St. Louis. In each of his 8 seasons as Mr. Blue he scored at least 30 goals. Year-in and year-out he would lead the Blues in most offensive categories.

Here's the full Garry Unger biography

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