Earlier this month, the Waterloo Black Hawks wore replica jerseys from the 1969/70 Iowa Stars team which played at McElroy Auditorium. Since 1962, that has been the only time the Hawks haven’t taken the ice, making way for the Minnesota North Stars’ Central Hockey League affiliate.
Defenseman Dick Redmond was Minnesota’s first round selection in the 1969 NHL Draft. The then 20-year-old spent most of his first professional season in Waterloo, skating in 56 Stars games with seven goals and 23 assists. He was also called up to Minnesota for his NHL debut among seven appearances with the North Stars that winter.
Redmond played throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, eventually taking the ice in 771 regular season games and another 66 playoff contests as a member of the North Stars, California Golden Seals, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Flames, and Boston Bruins. He notched 133 goals and 312 assists.
We connected with Redmond at his Ontario home, and he shared some reflections for today’s Where Are They Now profile.
Black Hawks: The National Hockey League is about to welcome the Seattle Kraken. Of course, the late 1960s was a period of significant expansion, creating a lot more professional opportunities. What were young players like you thinking about going into the draft with the prospects of more jobs in the NHL?
Dick Redmond: The draft was certainly quite a bit different then than it is today. We didn’t attend the draft in those days. You just got a phone call. And of course, there were quite a few less teams – 12 at the time. You just sat back and waited for a phone call to see who drafted you, if you got drafted at all. Really it was kind of a ‘wait and see’ deal and guys just hoped for the best.
BH: You were the fifth overall pick when that phone call came. Did you have expectations that you’d be picked that early?
DR: Not really, although I had a very good last year of juniors, so I knew I was going to be up there fairly high in the draft. I didn’t know how high but it ended up being pretty good, but again, quite a difference from today’s world to the way it was then, for sure.
BH: What sorts of things did the North Stars talk about early on when it came to development and the sorts of things they wanted you to do to become a regular NHL player?
DR: Even from the physicality of workouts, they really didn’t know a heck of a lot back in those days, not nearly as much as they do now when it comes to conditioning and all those things. It was very simplistic, and it will sound that way, you know ‘Make sure you’re in shape, and come to camp.’ That was the simple version of it.
BH: You spent time with a lot of NHL teams. Was there a favorite team that you played for or a favorite experience that would be a focal point as you look back on your time in the game?
DR: There were certainly a few. I was very fortunate that I lived in some really fantastic places in the U.S., from San Francisco where the Oakland Seals were, to Chicago – Chicago was one of my favorite cities – and I had pretty good success there. I made the All-Star team while I was in Chicago. I ended up in Boston, another fabulous city. Atlanta was another good city. I was very fortunate, I look at it that way.
BH: The World Hockey Association was active parallel to much of your career. A lot of players were attracted to some of the opportunities that were available there. You played your whole career in the NHL. What was it like having an active rival league, and were you tempted to take a look at jumping across from the NHL to the WHA?
DR: I did look at it and received letters. They had their own version of a draft, I guess you could call it. You’d get a letter from the team that acquired your rights – I guess that’s the best way to say it – and I don’t remember a great deal of how the whole thing went down, but I do remember getting a letter saying, ‘We’re not trying to solicit guys or steal you away from the NHL.’ It was in all technical, legal jargon when they were first starting up. At the end of the day, I could have gone there, but I just decided to stay the course and continue in the path I was going on.
BH: When it comes to the 1970s, people think of the Philadelphia Flyers teams and the toughness that they brought to the game. How did you see that era changing the game and leading to what we have now?
DR: The players today – I’ve said this many times – are in fabulous condition. They’re all great athletes. It’s a great game to watch; it’s really fast now. They have lots of different equipment, better equipment than we had of course, from skates to helmets and shoulder pads. That whole transition seemed like a blur. It went for a little bit of time and all of the sudden, it started to really change, and transformed into a real fast game the way it is today and it’s great to watch.
BH: If you watch video of games from the 1970s, it’s obvious that helmets weren’t required. Would you go back if you had a chance to do it over again and play with a helmet?
DR: That’s a great question, and one that I really can’t answer. If I had to take a guess, probably not, because I tried a helmet, but had just a heck of a time getting used to it because I’d never worn one. I tried it one year – not even a year – I went for like a week or so, and I just couldn’t get used to it. In my peripheral vision, I could see the edges of the helmet, it was actually kind of funny, but certainly from a safety standpoint obviously it would be the way to go. When you’re coming up and you wear one and are used to it, you don’t even know it’s there. To answer the question, probably not, although I’m sure I wouldn’t have known then what I know now, or I would have.
BH: You played your last NHL games in the 1981/82 season. Tell us about the time after wrapping up your hockey career.
DR: We didn’t make a lot of money, so most of us from our era had to go to get jobs. Really, the whole thought process when you were finished was ‘Ok, now where am I going to live?’ and ‘How am I going to continue to support my family?’ We were in Boston at the time, and I’d been a great fan of the United States forever. I love the United States, I enjoyed my time there, and still enjoy it today, but we decided to move back to a place that was closer to our parents, because they were starting to get to an age where things could have started to happen physically and health-wise. We’re quite glad we did; I would have loved to have been in Chicago, I’d have loved to have been in Boston. We just thought it better to move back closer to our parents, and we were very glad to have done that.
Whether you make it or not, there’s still a life after hockey. I know that there are programs now to help players transition from hockey to every day normal life, if you want to call it that, but really at the end of the day, the transition is something that some take easily, some do not, and it’s all how you look at it I suppose. One of the biggest things is knowing that you’ve got to support your family, so you find something that can help you, that you like because it’s a new life. I’d like to wish all the players there the greatest of luck in their future.
One final thought, I did buy my first used car in Waterloo. It was a Galaxie XL 500 convertible. It wasn’t a lot of money, I know that because I didn’t have a lot. I loved that thing, I had it for three or four years when I was out in California.
Where Are They Now is presented by Karen’s Print Rite, 2515 Falls Avenue in Waterloo.
Special thanks to Mike Mullins.