Doug Risebrough

I never got a good close up look at Doug Risebrough as a hockey player until his later days with the Calgary Flames. Though I missed much of his role with 4 Stanley Cup championships as a Montreal Canadien, the beauty of Doug Risebrough is he always played the same, day in, day out, pre-season or game 7.

Doug Risebrough played with tons of heart and determination, and with a hatred for losing which no doubt was nurtured during his days with the Habs. In Montreal he learned how to win and how not to accept anything less, something he was always able to take with him and make him a better leader.

A leader he was. He captained the Flames to their first Stanley Cup appearance in 1986, only to fall just short to his old Montreal Canadiens teammates. Risebrough was an essential cog in the Flames rise from also rans to contenders in his 4 seasons there.

Risebrough was a very physical player, playing much bigger than his 5'11" and 170 lb frame should have allowed. He would hit anything in an opposing jersey, never afraid to get his nose out of joint. Risebrough would pay for this, however, missing significant time in 6 of his 13 seasons, including his final four in Montreal, leading to his trade to Calgary. Among the serious injuries on his medical charts are badly separated shoulders which would lead to early arthritis, a severe groin/abdominal pull, and career ending knee surgery.

While physical, Risebrough walked the line from chippy to dirty. He was amongst the best pests ever in the game. I experienced Risebrough at his pesky best during those great post-season Battle of Alberta wars between the Flames and Edmonton Oilers. I remember him receiving a 6 game suspension for swinging his stick at the head of Glenn Anderson. And of course who can ever forget him using his skates to slice Marty McSorley's jersey to pieces.

Don't get me wrong, Riser was a very good player, too. He was an exceptional skater, blessed with speed and balance and agility. Enhancing his skating abilities was his ability to read the play as it was happening. Best applied defensively, he could anticipate what the opposition was going to do, and break up plays using his vision.

Risebrough was a penalty killing specialist. Firstly he had outstanding arm and wrist strength, making him one of the best on faceoffs. Throw in his anticipation and skating skills and Riser was a natural born PKer. Because of his breakaway speed he was always a short handed threat to score.

Risebrough was never a noted scorer. He never scored more than 23 goals or 60 points, and, largely due to injury, rarely challenged those career highs. He didn't have the hands to match his anticipation skills, so when he turned over the puck he wasn't the greatest offensive threat. He had a hard wrist shot and could use his teammates well if given that extra second.

I subscribe to the theory that Risebrough could have been a better offensive player if he ever was given the opportunity. To crack that dynastic Montreal team in the late 1970s Riser had little choice other than to accept his role as pest, face off and defensive specialist. He was able to establish himself as one of the best at his trade and by the time he left for Calgary, he was destined to fulfill that role forever.

Forced off the ice because of the knee injury, Risebrough became general manager and coach of the Flames. He was burned badly by the Doug Gilmour for Gary Leeman trade, forever overshadowing his accomplishments as GM in Calgary. He would later become the long time GM of the Minnesota Wild.


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