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Sunday, July 22, 2012

TTM: Garry Unger

The Iron Man, Garry Unger, is best known for having the second longest consecutive game streak in the NHL. Garry played in 914 straight games from 1968 to 1979.  Mr. Unger started out as a top prospect for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  After a slow start to his NHL career, 2 pts in 15 games, Unger was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in a blockbuster deal, which involved HHOF Norm Ullman, and Frank Mahovlich and legends Carl Brewer and Paul Henderson.  In Detroit, Unger was put on a line with his boyhood idol, Gordie Howe.  In the 13 games after the trade, Unger had 15pts.


Expectation were high in the following season, 1968-69, but Unger struggled to meet them, scoring 44 points in 76 games.  The following season, Unger bounced back, as he focused more on shooting than passing.  He finished 2nd in the NHL with 42 goals.  For the 1970-71 season, the Red Wings had lured legendary NCAA coach, Ned Harkness to take over.  Harkness was a strict task master, whose demands included players having short hair.  The "Darkness with Harkness" era had begun.  Harkness and Unger butted heads throughout the season.  Unger was known for his blonde hair, flashy cars, flashy clothes and flashy women, he was dating Miss. America, 1969.  The Red Wings, occasionally known as the Dead Wings, struggled to a 12-22-4 record and Harkness was removed as coach, only to be promoted to General Manager.  Within a month, Unger was traded to the St. Louis Blues.


Unger would represent the St. Louis Blues in seven straight all-star games and score 30+ goals in each full season in St. Louis.  He would finish his career with stops in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Edmonton.  The once flashy playboy found religion near the end of playing days.  Unger tributes his consecutive game streak to his sister, who had polio.  “Back then it was difficult for me to complain about a sore ankle or leg when I knew that in two weeks it was going to fine, yet my sister was never going to be able to walk again,”


   Mr. Unger currently works at the Banff Hockey Academy.  He signed both cards I sent him, and also added a signed business card, two signed 8x10s and a Tim Horton 8x10.  I am not sure why he sent the Tim Horton picture.  Unger and Horton were teammates briefly in Toronto.  My guess is that he wants to remind people that Tim Horton was a hockey player, and not just a donut shop.  I really appreciate Mr. Unger's generosity.  I will be hanging the signed Blues picture on my wall.  Thank you Mr. Unger.



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