The preview for Dennis Maruk’s upcoming book, Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man says it all: Only 20 men in NHL history have scored 60 or more goals in a single season. That will probably be a big surprise for most, whether one is a longtime fan of hockey or not. In this interview, NoVa Caps’ Luke Adomanis sits down with the former Capitals forward to discuss his new book, as well as his thoughts on the current edition of the Capitals.
Dennis Maruk as only 1 of 20 players to ever hit 60+ goals? With no offense to Maruk, he probably isn’t often thought of among the greats, yet he did something that puts his name among the likes of Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, and even the Capitals’ own (future Hall of Famer) Alexander Ovechkin.
Obviously, there has to be a great story behind such a feat, which is why Maruk took pen to paper to finally tell his story in his book. When asked why he finally decided to write down these events he responded, “I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book.” Maruk admitted, “But I talked to some people in Toronto and they thought it would be worth it.” To him, the reason he decided to tell his story is because “People don’t know athletes and what they go through.” He continued, “Sometimes things don’t work out.” For how successful Maruk’s career was with the Capitals in the 1981-1982 season on the ice he wants people to know “not everything is peaches and cream”. As fans, we take a lot for granted, sometimes thinking the answer is easy during a game or career, but it never is, and that’s what Maruk’s book gives the hockey world a view of.
As stated, that 1981-1982 season was big statistically for Maruk, as he scored the aforementioned 60 goals and added 76 assists, the first player to reach 100 points in Capitals franchise history, however, he never hit 100 or more points before or after that season. When asked why he was so successful that season, Maruk responded, “Great teammates. I had Ryan Walter and Chris Valentine as my linemates.” Walter was the type of player that could win puck battles along the boards, while Valentine had the hands and skill to make plays. Maruk was sort of a combination of the two, as he could go to the net and knock in the loose change, while also dishing out a nice pass. Maruk finished, “We complimented each other and worked very hard.” Chemistry is always so important and that’s why the late Bryan Murray kept them together.
Another aspect that was really different about Maruk and his scoring tear was his size. During an era during which it was important to be a bigger player, Maruk came in at only 5’8” and 175 pounds. Even by today’s standards, that’s extremely small. When asked how he survived in the NHL he answered, “Exactly what you said, I survived. I was told I was too small to play hockey. I never backed down.” All he wanted to do was prove “the little guy can play a big man’s game.” But as he put it earlier, it wasn’t all peaches and cream, as he had to sacrifice his body to win. “Not a game went by that my arms and legs weren’t sore but I wanted to stay in the NHL. I worked hard not just on the ice, but off of it, both home and when on the road.” Everything Maruk did in his hockey career he had to pay for it dearly, both on and off the ice.
In his last season with the Capitals (1982-1983), Maruk was present for the most important trade in the franchise history: the addition of Rod Langway in a trade that is considered by many to have “saved the Capitals“. When asked what his first thoughts of the trade were at the time, Maruk responded, “We had to give up good players to get a good players.” The trade involved Ryan Walter, Maruk’s linemate that helped him hit 136 points (still a franchise record) the season prior. It wasn’t easy for Maruk to see him go, but bringing in Langway completely changed the organization. Without that trade taking place, it’s possible the Capitals wouldn’t even be located in Washington D.C. today. “The defense completely changed after that.” And from that strong defense came 11 straight playoff appearances.
Lastly, when asked what advice he would give to the Capitals with their lack of playoff success in the last decade, Maruk answered with a laugh, “They need me in the lineup”, eventually elaborating, “They need character players. They have the right players. But they need that second and third effort.” And even though he hasn’t been part of the organization in 30-plus years, he still feels for them. “I’ve been there and seen it, I’m also frustrated.” He continued, “People can’t really blame Ovi (Alex Ovechkin). Of course all the top players could be better.” Hopefully, the Capitals take that advice to heart as they battle through the season and hopefully the postseason.
You can pick up Maruk’s book October 17th on Amazon.
By Luke Adomanis