Garry Monahan

There have been some true greats drafted first overall - Guy Lafleur in 1971, Denis Potvin in 1973, Dale Hawerchuk in 1981, Mario Lemieux in 1984, Joe Thornton in 1997, Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, Alexander Ovechkin in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in 2005.

So who was the first first overall selection?

The NHL Amateur Draft was created in 1963 as a way of leveling out the talent playing field by phasing out the sponsorship of amateur teams by NHL clubs. Previously NHL teams would sign pre-junior players to C-Forms on a first come, first served basis. The Canadiens in particular were famous for finding great talent, but with expansion on its way the league could not allow 12 teams to fight over junior players.

Because most of hockey's top junior players were already assigned to NHL teams, there were only a handful of top prospects available from 1963 through 1968. It wasn't until 1969 that all C-Form signed junior players were phased out. Drafts until 1969 proved to be very thin and often very dry.

The Montreal Canadiens had the 1st overall selection back in the first draft of 1963. They were torn between two forwards from the famed St. Michael's junior program in Toronto: LW Peter Mahovlich and C Garry Monahan.

While Mahovlich would go on to star in Montreal for several seasons, the Habs actually passed on the hulking center with great bloodlines in that draft, allowing Detroit to pick him up. The Canadiens took first overall.

Graduating to the Peterborough Petes of the OHA, Monahan was a scoring sensation, playing alongside future NHL great Mickey Redmond. Soon both would go onto join the Montreal Canadiens farm system, but Monohan would only play in 14 NHL games in a Montreal uniform. The Montreal team was too stacked even after thinning due to NHL expansion. Montreal’s top three centers were Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, and Ralph Backstrom, leaving Monohan to compete with another rookie, Jacques Lemaire, for the 4th line pivot spot.

Ironically, in June 1969, Montreal traded Monahan and Doug Piper to Detroit in exchange for Bart Crashley and none other than Pete Mahovlich.

Though Monahan played with the Wings in 1969-70, success was not easy to find. In 51 games with the Wings he scored just 3 goals and 7 points. He would finish the season in Los Angeles after a trade took him to the Kings, but he would go without goal in the final 21 contests of the season.

Monahan finally got his career on track after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 1970-71 he found a home one a line with Dave Keon and Billy MacMillan, reinventing himself as a hard working defensive forward who would chip in with a few goals and a few points for the next 4 seasons.

1974 saw Monahan move to Canada's west coast, performing his workmanlike duties for the Vancouver Canucks until 1978. He returned to Toronto for one final season in the NHL, in 1978-79. He finished his career with a very respectable 748 games under his belt. In that time he scored 116 goals, 169 assists for 285 points.

In 1979 Monahan took his family to Tokyo. He played hockey for the Saibu Corporation team, while his wife taught at an English school. Monohan also focused on his education, enrolling in Tokyo's Sofia University to begin his teaching certification. He would later complete his schooling via the University of Toronto.

But Monahan would come to find classrooms and chalkboards were not in his future. When he returned his family to Vancouver in 1982 he fell into a job as the popular radio and television colour analyst for the Canucks broadcasts, a position he would hold for years. He also would become a real estate agent in British Columbia's Lower Mainland.


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