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July 15, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Marc Tardif

This Granby, Que. native was in the Montreal Canadiens system already as a junior where he played for the Thetford Mines Canadiens (QJHL) and Montreal Jr. Canadiens (OHA). Marc collected 138 points (63 goals, 75 assists) in 105 regular season games for the junior Canadiens and 43 points (22 goals and 21 assists) in 25 playoff games. During his last junior season for the Jr. Canadiens (1968-69) he led them to a Memorial Cup title.

Marc was drafted 2nd overall by Montreal in the 1969 draft. He started the 1969-70 season playing for Montreal's farm team club Montreal Voyageurs (AHL) where he racked up 58 points (27 goals and 31 assists) in only 45 games before getting the call up to the big club in February 1970. He only played sparingly in the 18 games that he played with the Habs, scoring 3 goals and 5 points but the management was impressed by what they saw. He went on to play regular shifts with the Canadiens for the following three seasons, scoring 19, 25 and 31 goals. Considering the fact that he played on a checking line the season he scored 31 goals it was a good result. He also won the Stanley Cup on two occasions (1971 and 1973).

In February 1972 Marc was drafted by Los Angeles Sharks of the newly formed WHA. He was offered a substantial sum of money, reportedly more than twice what Montreal was offering, and decided to make the jump to the WHA. He never was happy in Los Angeles though. The climate was good but he had a real problem with the language. He didn't speak much English and was surrounded by English speaking players. He still drifted through the 1973-74 season scoring a respectable 70 points, including 40 goals.

In April 1974 LA moved its team to Michigan and was named the Michigan Stags. Their financial situation was really bad and before folding they sold Marc, who to that point had played 23 games, scoring 12 goals and 17 points.

Marc was traded to his native Quebec and was reborn as a hockey superstar. His 1975-76 season was superb as he led the Quebec Nordiques and the WHA in goals (71), assists (77) and points (148). Unfortunately his season got an abrupt end during the playoffs when he was horrifically jumped from behind by Rick Jodzio, a "policeman" with the Calgary Cowboys. The Nordiques players came to Marc's rescue as both benches emptied and a 45-minute brawl ensued. Marc was carried off on a stretcher, with blood oozing from his mouth while the players slugged it out toe-to-toe. Marc received a serious brain concussion that endangered his hockey career. Marc eventually recovered but suffered from severe headaches for over a year. This incident almost resulted in Quebec withdrawing from the playoffs and it resulted in Bud Poile, the director of on ice operations in the WHA to resign. It also forced certain anti-violence legislation. Rick Jodzio was suspended for the rest of the year and was eventually tried in Quebec for assault. The most disappointing fact was that Marc was invited to the 1976 Canada Cup training camp, but had to decline the invitation due to the effects that he was feeling after the injury.

Marc came back in 1976-77 and led Quebec to a WHA title. The next season Marc once again led the league in goals (65), assists (89) and points (154). He played another season in the WHA before Quebec merged with the NHL. A splendid skater who excelled at stickhandling in close traffic, the deadly scorer tallied a whopping 666 points (316 goals and 350 assists) in only 446 regular season WHA games. The two time WHA MVP and four time All Star forever ranks as the WHA's all time goal scoring king.

Marc made his NHL comeback in 1979, six years after having left for the WHA. Marc was on his way to a splendid season in 1979-80 until he got injured. He had 68 points (including 33 goals) in the 58 games that he played.

When the 1980-81 season started it was clear that Marc would play the second fiddle behind the Stastny brothers and Michel Goulet. Marc wasn't too happy about the situation but contributed well. He even scored 39 goals during the 1981-82 season for his best NHL performance. His 70 points was also a NHL career high. His fine play even earned him a trip to the 1982 All-Star game.

Marc played his last season in 1982-83, by this time he was a 3rd line left wing behind Michel Goulet and Anton Stastny.

Marc's timing in the NHL was a little bit off. He broke in with a powerful Montreal team and never got the chance to play on the top line, and in Quebec he got stuck behind a budding superstar in Goulet as well as the talented Anton Stastny. But he won two Stanley Cup titles, and he got to play a lot on the top line in the WHA. Marc finished his NHL career with a respectable 401 pts (194 goals and 207 points) in 517 regular season games and 28 points (13 goals and 15 assists) in 62 playoff games.

In retirement Tardif worked as a car salesman, eventually owning his own Toyota and Kia dealerships. He also raised three children, daughters Melanie and Catherine and son Marc-Andre who at one point was a nationally ranked tennis player in Canada.

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