When Ken Dryden speaks or writes about the game of hockey, everybody listens or reads about it.
Dryden always has an excellent perspective on the game, its changes and what is needed, even 30-plus years after he retired from the Montreal Canadiens.
His opinions always seem to make sense, and many have always felt he should be Commissioner of the NHL. That opportunity may have passed by after his stint as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs ultimately found him on the outside, once the Teacher's Pension Plan gave full control to Richard Peddie.
Dryden's position, which became troubled with Pat Quinn in the mix, was dissolved once the Leafs and Toronto Raptors of the NBA were under the same ownership. Oddly enough, Peddie is stepping down at year's end, and the Pension Plan is now looking at possible buyers for their stake in MLSE.
But Dryden, who authored THE hockey book, The Game as well as his follow-up and mini-series Home Game still weighs in on the game.
Earlier this month, Dryden spoke to The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons on the possibility of NHL clubs returning to Winnipeg or Quebec City. Dryden only spoke to Simmons after the latter posted a blog whining that Dryden did not wish to speak to him at first.
The chat marks his fifth decade of influence and perspective on the NHL.
It was exactly forty years ago that Dryden made his NHL debut with the Canadiens, as they faced the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I wrote about his debut last year. Then coach Al MacNeil probably had no idea what he was about to hatch, after he decided that then number one Rogie Vachon needed a rest. Dryden won that game, and every regular season game he played, and his playoff heroics that season are legendary.
On the same night, Dryden's older brother Dave recorded a shutout with the Buffalo Sabres against the Minnesota North Stars. I had a chance to ask the elder Dryden about that night at a recent engagement in Toronto. While big brother didn't recall the events of March 14, 1971, the two did have dinner together on the younger sibling's treat. "We went to Harvey's," the elder brother said, noting the meal came on the eve of their historic brother vs brother matchup when Buffalo faced Montreal.
The paths of their two hockey careers went in different directions, with Dave Dryden finishing his playing career with the Edmonton Oilers and Ken's Hall of Fame career showing six Stanley Cups in the eight seasons he played with the Canadiens.
"He'll never admit he is proud of his accomplishments," Dave Dryden said. "But he is."
The younger Dryden recently gave his big brother a special Christmas gift: a DVD copy of his first NHL game when he was called to action, as the relief goalie, to fill in for the New York Rangers Gump Worsley in 1961.
There's no question that Ken Dryden has a passion for the game of hockey, and whether or not he decides to put his political career aside and take a more active roll is strictly his decision. We can only hope that he will.