April 30, 1934 |
Smiths Falls, ON, CAN
|Height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Weight||175 lb (79 kg; 12 st 7 lb)|
|Played for||Boston Bruins
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Noted as a smooth and classy hockey player, Donald Hamilton McKenney's cool, open ice artistry first drew notice from Harold Cotton, the longtime head scout for the Boston Bruins. Tutored by legendary coach Hap Emms, McKenney became captain and a leading light of the Memorial Cup winning Barrie Flyers, the Boston Bruins' OHA Junior team and stepping-stone for many future Bruins' stars of the 1950s. A promising baseball prospect whose ability as a hitting shortstop attracted the interest of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Don McKenney opted to pursue a more immediate major professional hockey career with the Boston Bruins. Following a single, fracture laden season with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, Boston's principal affiliate, McKenney joined the Bruins in 1954, with the status of youngest player in the National Hockey League NHL.
Don McKenney's clean, elegant style gained formal recognition among the NHL elite, when awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1960 as the player adjudged to have shown the best sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high level of performance in play. McKenney's distinguished frontline presence, an exemplar of white collar finesse, ensured several inclusions among the Lady Byng award finalists during his years in Boston. Don McKenney's seemingly nonchalant stance and slick brand of maneuvering, individualistic traits of a flashy and dashing marauder, coalesced with the more defensive minded qualities of a versatile team player, such as effective checking skills and positional acuity. "The Quiet Producer" excelled on both the power play and periodically, the penalty killing special units. A natural centreman with a good face-off record, rangy number 17 patrolled left wing in select instances. Often critically at odds with a faction of the Boston Garden faithful, McKenney's phlegmatic manner stood in contrast to the rugged, hard hitting image traditionally associated with the Boston Bruins. His lanky demeanor gave the deceptive impression of a fragile player; Don "Slip" McKenney was in fact a solid and steady performer, appearing in 266 consecutive games amid his halcyon period with the Black and Gold. As a study in savvy stoicism befitting his reserved, self-possessed nature, Donald Hamilton McKenney eschewed serious injuries and consequently, missed few matches throughout his NHL career.
Creative élan and intelligent fairplay are hallmarks that well define the gallant Bostonian's legacy.
Highly touted by Bruins' management upon his arrival in Boston, voted the Calder Trophy runner up as rookie of the year, Don McKenney initially centered the power unit composed of wingers Leo Labine and Real Chevrefils in 1954–55 and again in 1956–57, with great aplomb, as the surging Bruins competed for first place in the NHL standings. McKenney, along with later linemate, the dauntless Fleming MacKell, led the epic 1958 Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring, a salient factor in the Bruins' serious challenge to the dynastic Montreal Canadiens for NHL supremacy. Two time consecutive Elizabeth C. Dufresne Trophy winner, the late Jerry Toppazzini played right wing with Don McKenney at regular intervals for several seasons. McKenney briefly centered Willie O'Ree, the first Black player in the NHL. Wingers Jean-Guy Gendron and Dick Meissner, a cohort on the short-lived Big M line, also teamed up with the chivalrous centre on occasion. 1958–59 witnessed a banner 32 goal campaign that left Don McKenney one vote shy of being selected to the 2nd All Star team. Following a very close, hard fought Stanley Cup semi-final loss in the spring of 1959, Donald McKenney embarked with the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers on a groundbreaking exhibition tour of Europe. The 1959–60 season of his Lady Byng Trophy win concluded with Don McKenney, at his career zenith, leading the NHL in assists with 49, a club record at the time. He was selected an alternate captain of the Boston Bruins in 1960.
A sterling talent gifted with elusive speed and prescient mobility, Don McKenney's sleek playmaking dexterity proved him a tactically inventive strategist on attack. The high flying raider led an early version of the fast charging, open breakaway Torpedo system, the exciting mode of hockey later adapted by the Swedish national hockey team. The polished Bostonian comprised, along with the vaunted Uke line, an integral cornerstone of the Bruins' prolific offense of the late 1950s. Don McKenney ascended to Boston's spearhead in goals scored during four seasons and the vanguard of Bruins' total points for three years. The clever triggerman finished among the NHL top 10 scoring leaders on four occasions and appeared in seven All Star games. Along with a centreman's flair for feathered passes and cagey drop feints, seminal elements of intricately designed plays, McKenney's deft scoring touch allied a lethal backhand shot with stealth like opportunism around the net, often in the form of subtle deflections. Despite sporadic periods of lethargic output, only once in eight full campaigns with the Bruins, his sophomore season of 1955–56, did Don McKenney fail to tally 20 or more goals, a remarkable accomplishment for a centre of the Original Six era.
Don McKenney attained captaincy of the Boston Bruins in 1961, centering longtime teammates, John Bucyk and Doug Mohns. McKenney`s leadership could not prevent the faltering Bruins from a terrible downfall, as the proud franchise, bereft of many 1950s stalwarts, unsettled by ill-fated transactions, rueful demotions and a costly accent on youth, abruptly stumbled into a long and dismal period of hapless reconstruction. This precipitous reversal of fortune signaled the club's protracted nadir, as it cast a shadow on both the team's previous standing and their new captain's destiny. In retrospect, Don McKenney performed on some of the best and worst editions of the Boston Bruins. At the time of his trade to the New York Rangers for forward Dean Prentice in 1963, Donald Hamilton McKenney ranked the 4th highest all time scorer in Bruins' history.
Don McKenney was featured as the other New York Rangers star involved in the famous Andy Bathgate transaction with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where McKenney, with fellow Lady Byng winner, David Keon, played a pivotal role in Toronto's third straight Stanley Cup win in 1964. As the mid 1960s unfolded, his declining career assumed the role of valued journeyman, underlined by a stint with the Detroit Red Wings, interspersed with stays with the Rochester Americans, Pittsburgh Hornets, where he was instrumental in their Calder Cup win of 1967, and Providence Reds of the American Hockey League (AHL). Don McKenney enjoyed a last NHL hurrah while seeing action with several other formerly prominent names culled from obscurity, to man the competitive expansion St. Louis Blues. His diminished skill-set notwithstanding, the veteran centre maintained his easy sense of gentility during these anticlimactic, final seasons.
In 1970, his playing career over, Don McKenney joined another longtime Bruins teammate, the late Fern Flaman on the coaching staff of the Northeastern University Huskies men's hockey team. Don McKenney served a long tenure as assistant coach and head recruiter, patiently and diligently building an extensive scouting network, highly rated among American university hockey programs. Don McKenney assumed head coaching duties in 1989. Upon retirement in 1991, Northeastern honoured his extensive and multifaceted career with the creation of the Don McKenney Coach's Award, presented in appreciation for dedication, loyalty and friendship to the Northeastern University hockey program. Don McKenney was inducted in the Northeastern Hall of Fame in 1999. He concluded his active life in hockey as a scout for the NHL Colorado Avalanche. Don McKenney has been an eminent member of both the Boston Bruins Alumni and the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society, for many years.
In the spring of 1958, Donald Hamilton McKenney married fellow Smiths Falls, Ontario native and Ottawa schoolteacher, Margaret Gendron. The couple settled in suburban Braintree, Massachusetts, where they raised three Northeastern graduates, daughters Valerie and Deborah and son Scot, who played for the Huskies men's hockey team in the early 1980s.
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|Winner of the Lady Byng Trophy
|Boston Bruins captain