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March 27, 2014

65 Roses: Mark Napier - His Story

As an 18-year old Mark Napier was rated as the top player in Canada born in 1957 by pro scouts. He had an impressive 223 points in 131 games during two seasons for his hometown team Toronto Marlboros in the OHA. In his last season with the Marlies, 1974-75, Napier led the team to the Memorial Cup as well as being named to the 1st All-Star team. He also led all scorers in goals (24) and points (48) in the playoffs.

Despite still having two years of junior eligibility remaining, he signed as an under-age junior with the WHA Toronto Toro's May 1975. Napier was an instant hit in the WHA, recording 93 points, and was the only rookie to finish among the league's top 50 scorers. He also was voted as the WHA rookie of the year. In his sophomore season Mark exploded for 60 goals, one of only 8 players to do so in WHA history.

Napier was a spectacular skater, blessed with tremendous speed and acceleration. He also had good balance, skating with his legs wide apart forming a low center of gravity. He maintained his fine speed until he was well past 30. Mark thrived on fast-breaks, transition offense and two-on-one situations.

He was drafted from the Birmingham Bulls (WHA) by Montreal Canadiens in the 1st round,10th overall of the 1977 entry draft. The Montreal fans loved his eye-pleasing end-to-end rushes and his streaky goal scoring exploits.

Often paired with fiery Doug Risebrough, Napier led Montreal in goals three consecutive season with 35 tallies in 1980-81 and 40 in back to back seasons in 1982 and 1983. On January 23rd, 1982 he set the team record for fastest two goals from the start of a game, scoring twice in the opening 38 seconds against Calgary.

Here's the full Mark Napier story.

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