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David Michael Babych (born May 23, 1961 in Edmontonmarker, Albertamarker, Canadamarker) is a retired professional ice hockey defenceman who spent 19 seasons in the National Hockey League, and played in two NHL All-Star Games. He was a fan favorite due to his trademark mustache and is the younger brother of former NHL player Wayne Babych.

Playing career

Winnipeg Jets

Considered a franchise talent after a standout junior career with the Portland Winter Hawks, Babych was selected 2nd overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. He stepped into their lineup immediately as a teenager during the 1980–81 season, turning in a stellar rookie campaign in which he finished 2nd on the club with 38 assists and led all Winnipeg blueliners with 44 points.

In 1981–82, Babych emerged as a star on a revitalized Winnipeg team which improved by 48 points with the addition of superstar rookie Dale Hawerchuk, setting franchise records for defencemen with 19 goals and 68 points in helping the Jets to their first-ever NHL playoff berth. Key to his improvement and development was the acquisition of veteran Serge Savard, a future Hall of Famermarker, to serve as his partner on the blueline. 1982–83 would be better yet, as he led the Jets with 61 assists and smashed his own club record for defensive scoring with 74 points. He was also voted in as a starter for the Campbell Conference at the 1983 NHL All-Star Game.

Babych would play in the All-Star game again in 1984, and turned in another excellent season, although he missed 14 games due to injury. In 1984–85, the Jets would have their best season ever, finishing 4th in the NHL with 96 points, and Babych - now forming a dynamic partnership on the blueline with former Norris Trophy winner Randy Carlyle - finished the year with 62 points to lead the team's defenders in scoring for the 5th consecutive season. He would also excel in the playoffs, leading the team in scoring as they won their first-ever playoff series before being ousted by the Edmonton Oilers.

Hartford Whalers

Despite registering 16 points in his first 19 games to start the 1985–86 season, Babych was dealt to the Hartford Whalers for Ray Neufeld. Unpopular with Winnipeg fans at the time, the move would be a terrible one for the Jets as Neufeld was never more than a depth player for them and was out of the NHL by 1989, while Babych continued to excel for nearly another 15 years.

In Hartford, Babych continued his stellar play, finishing the season with 69 points - the second-highest total of his career - and was named the team's top defender. In 1986–87, he missed time with injury and finished with a career-low 41 points. However, he bounced back the following year to record another 50-point season, good for 2nd on the Whalers in scoring. He was named the Whalers' top defender again in 1988–89, and led the team in playoff scoring with 6 points in 4 games. In 1989–90, he finished the year with 6 goals and 43 points, his 10th consecutive season over 40 points.

1990–91 would be a disaster for Babych, as a serious wrist injury required surgery shortly after the start of the season, causing him to miss 40 games. He then suffered a severely broken thumb almost immediately after his return, ruling him out for the rest of the campaign. He only appeared in 8 games all season, recording 6 assists.

Vancouver Canucks

After missing almost all of the previous season to injury, Hartford exposed Babych in the 1991 NHL Expansion Draft, where he was selected by the Minnesota North Stars. However, he was almost immediately dealt to the Vancouver Canucks for Tom Kurvers.

In Vancouver, Babych was no longer the front-line defender he was earlier in his career, but he continued to be a steady, valued contributor capable of showing flashes of his former offensive ability. He finished the 1991–92 season with 5 goals and 29 points (2nd amongst Vancouver defenders behind Jyrki Lumme), and was a key factor on a vastly improved Canuck team which won their division for the first time in 17 years. He also added 8 points in 13 playoff games.

Injuries limited Babych to just 43 games in 1992–93, but he bounced back in 1993–94 with 32 points, his highest total since 1990. He continued to play inspired hockey in the playoffs as Vancouver reached the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring the biggest goal of his career on June 9, 1994, in Game 5 of the Finals against the New York Rangers. After the Rangers came back from a 3–0 deficit to tie the game, Babych jumped into the rush and buried a pass from Pavel Bure to score the game-winning goal. It sparked a comeback in the series for Vancouver, who would narrowly lose the series in 7 games.

Babych continued to toil steadily on the Canucks' blueline for another four seasons, although the team's fortunes went into decline. Most notable for Babych was a surprise offensive resurgence at the start of the 1995–96 campaign, which saw him amongst the league's highest-scoring defenders through the first month of the season.

Philadelphia, Los Angeles and retirement

With the Canucks well out of the playoff race at the end of the 1997–98 season, the team dealt Babych to the Philadelphia Flyers for a low draft pick in order to give him a chance to play for a contending team. However, Babych missed a substantial amount of time with a famously injured foot, and the Flyers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Babych continued to serve as a depth defender for the Flyers in 1998–99, before being dealt to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline. He finished his final season with 2 goals and 8 points in 41 games between Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He would have a brief stint in Switzerland in 2000 before retiring.

Babych finished his career with 142 goals and 581 assists for 723 points in 1195 NHL games, along with 970 penalty minutes. He added 21 goals and 41 assists for 62 points in 114 playoff games.

Lawsuit vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Following the conclusion of his career, Babych sued the Flyers, claiming improper medical care for his 1998 foot injury shortened his career. Although the foot was broken, the team's doctors told Babych it was only a bone bruise which could be played through with injections of painkillers. Babych claimed that playing through the injury caused permanent damage which prematurely ended his career, and sued for $2 million in lost wages. Ultimately, a jury awarded Babych a $1.37 million settlement in October, 2002.

Trivia

  • Babych led all defenders on his team in scoring in each of his first 10 NHL seasons.
  • Babych is the only defender in Vancouver Canuck history to record a hat-trick during the regular season, a feat he accomplished on November 22, 1991 against the Calgary Flames. Doug Halward also recorded a hat-trick for the Canucks in a playoff game.
  • At the time of his selection, Babych and his brother Wayne (taken 3rd overall in 1978) were the highest-drafted pair of brothers in NHL history, a record since broken by Sylvain and Pierre Turgeon.
  • Throughout his career, Babych was well-known for his large, bushy moustache.
  • Dave and Wayne Babych are also brothers-in-law, as they married twin sisters. Now, both are divorced and have new families.
  • Babych had a small role in the movie Slap Shot 2.

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1977–78 Portland Winter Hawks WCHL 6 1 3 4 4
1977–78 Fort Saskatchewan Traders AJHL 56 31 69 100 37
1978–79 Portland Winter Hawks WHL 67 20 59 79 63 25 7 22 29 22
1979–80 Portland Winter Hawks WHL 50 22 60 82 71 8 1 10 11 2
1980–81 Winnipeg Jets NHL 69 6 38 44 90
1981–82 Winnipeg Jets NHL 79 19 49 68 92 4 1 2 3 29
1982–83 Winnipeg Jets NHL 79 13 61 74 56 3 0 0 0 0
1983–84 Winnipeg Jets NHL 66 18 39 57 62 3 1 1 2 0
1984–85 Winnipeg Jets NHL 78 13 49 62 78 8 2 7 9 6
1985–86 Winnipeg Jets NHL 19 4 12 16 14
1985–86 Hartford Whalers NHL 62 10 43 53 36 8 1 3 4 14
1986–87 Hartford Whalers NHL 66 8 33 41 44 6 1 1 2 14
1987–88 Hartford Whalers NHL 71 14 36 50 54 6 3 2 5 2
1988–89 Hartford Whalers NHL 70 6 41 47 54 4 1 5 6 2
1989–90 Hartford Whalers NHL 72 6 37 43 62 7 1 2 3 0
1990–91 Hartford Whalers NHL 8 0 6 6 4
1991–92 Vancouver Canucks NHL 75 5 24 29 63 13 2 6 8 10
1992–93 Vancouver Canucks NHL 43 3 16 19 44 12 2 5 7 6
1993–94 Vancouver Canucks NHL 73 4 28 32 52 24 3 5 8 12
1994–95 Vancouver Canucks NHL 40 3 11 14 18 11 2 2 4 14
1995–96 Vancouver Canucks NHL 53 3 21 24 38
1996–97 Vancouver Canucks NHL 78 5 22 27 38
1997–98 Vancouver Canucks NHL 47 0 0 9 37
1997–98 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 6 0 0 0 12 5 1 0 1 4
1998–99 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 33 2 4 6 20
1998–99 Los Angeles Kings NHL 8 0 2 2 2
1999–00 HC Ambri-Piotta Swiss-A 3 0 0 0 0
NHL totals 1195 142 581 723 970 114 21 41 62 113


Notes



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