The Toronto Sun ran a feature today called Controversial Hall of Farmers and listed a dozen denizens of the Hockey Hall of Fame. One was Dick Duff. My favourite hockey player ever. And you know something, I've always been uneasy about that since the Duffer was enshrined. The Toronto Sun might be right.
I always wore Duff's number eight in my sport career, save for high school basketball, where I was 32. And this was before a certain Los Angeles Laker made that number something to brag on. Nope, I was eight. Cuz diminutive Dick Duff wore that number. And when I say diminutive, I don't mean pipsqueak small, just smaller than the rest. And Duff was that, as well as tough, successful and without the slightest trace of flash. He worked for a living. It just happened it was hockey that he worked at.
Duff's eventual joining with the Montreal Canadiens also made me a Habs fan for life. In a family of Toronto Maple Leaf loons, being a Montreal fan was fun. And knowing me, it doesn't come as a shock that lording over the backers of the Maple Losers was a fun old time. There WAS that small issue of sticking with the Habs despite Duff moving onto the Kings and then the Sabres. But I had followed Duff from Toronto to the Rangers and then to Montreal. I was tired of changing my favourite team. So, I stuck with Montreal through thick and thin since then, mostly thick, although not recently.
All that said, Duff never struck me as Hall of Fame material. Sure, the Hall had Bob Pulford in it. And if that was the case, Duff deserved consideration. But his only real claim to that fame was playing on Stanley Cup winners. He was one of those glue guys, the guys behind the stars, who provided successful minutes while the big stars were resting. He did it in Toronto and in Montreal ... six times in the sixties, the first two with Toronto. These days, winning two or three times over a ten-year span makes people talk of dynasties. In an eight-year stretch starting in 1962, Duff didn't sip from the Cup only in '64 and '67 (the last Toronto cup win and one of the most bitter losses a team I backed ever had).
Dick Duff was a winner and an everyman who worked hard. While he MIGHT be a controversial Hall of Famer by most people's standards, he was always a member in my own personal Hall of Fame.