Where Are They Now? Cam Connor

HHOF Digital Archives/legendsofhockey.net

By Steven Ellis, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

OAKVILLE, ON — It’s always great to see hockey players from around the world hit social media. These days, you can interact with Montreal Canadiens players such as P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and many more from the Habs organization on Twitter, something only made possible in the past couple of years. But it’s always interesting to see former players that you may not have heard from in a long time, such as former first round draft pick Cam Connor, who recently joined the social media empire last week. (Follow Cam’s Twitter here.)

HHOF Digital Archives/legendsofhockey.net
HHOF Digital Archives/legendsofhockey.net

Connor was chosen fifth overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft behind Greg Joly (Washington Capitals), Wilf Paiement (Kansas City Scouts), Rick Hampton ( California Golden Seals) and NHL Hall Of Famer Clark Gillies (New York Islanders). The Habs also picked up Doug Risebrough (7th overall), Rick Chartraw (10th overall), Mario Tremblay (12th overall) and Gord McTavish (15th overall) with additional first round picks in the same draft. Pierre Larouche who would later find his way to Montreal was taken with the 8th pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Prior to the draft, Connor had a great season with the Flin Flon Bombers of the Western Hockey League, posting 47 goals and 44 goals for a total of 91 points in 65 games, winning the WCHL Rookie of Year. A cool thing to note was that along with his scoring in junior, he did have a very noticeable physical side, registering 376 penalty minutes.

As well as being selected by the Canadiens, Connor was also selected by the Phoenix Roadrunners 31st overall in  the 1974 WHA Amateur Draft. At the end of his last junior season, Connor  went straight to the WHA after draft, becoming the highest 1974 draft choice to take that route, spending two season with the team from Arizona. In 57 matches that season, Connor had nine goals and 28 points to go along with 168 minutes in penalties. He followed that with an improved 18 goal,  39 point campaign in 1975-76, while spending 295 minutes in the box. After two seasons with the Roadrunners, he joined the Houston Aeros, where he had the best year of his professional career, scoring 35 goals and 67 points in 76 games. He spent one more campaign in Houston before joining the Canadiens.

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He made his debut with Montreal on October 29th, 1978 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Connor went on to play 23 regular season games and eight postseason games before the Habs earned their fourth Stanley Cup in a row, the only one of his career. Unfortunately, his career with the Canadiens was short-lived, as he was claimed by the Edmonton Oilers as part of the league’s expansion draft on June 13th, 1979. He spent 38 games with the Oilers, putting up an impressive seven goals and 20 points in that time frame, before getting traded to the New York Rangers. Connor remained with the team up until the 1982-1983, playing a very limited schedule with the club due to injuries.

After only one game with the Rangers, he played with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League, but they would suspend operations at the end of the season after winning the league championship. At the conclusion of the season, he announced his retirement from professional hockey after 89 NHL games, where he had nine goals and 31 points to go along with 256 penalty minutes. His WHA stats were more impressive, as he was able to post 171 points and over 900 penalty minutes in 274 games.

Connor returned to Edmonton and went into computer consulting business after retirement, becoming branch manager with DKW Systems.  Despite retiring, he had no intention of walking away from the game entirely. “I keep active in the hockey world through charity visits and alumni opportunities. I also played for the Montreal Canadiens in the epic (and first) Heritage Classic, which was quite a thrill,” Connor told me in an interview.

Hockey isn’t the only thing that has kept him busy during the past few years. “I participated in the all sports all star edition of Wipeout (in April of 2011), which as the oldest competitor was tough but also a lot of fun. I (also) have a TV show and a book in the works, so I’m crossing my fingers they come to fruition.”

Connor was everything the NHL doesn’t have now: a rugged guy who could score. While his NHL point totals didn’t live up to his high draft position, he proved to be a tough-as-nails right winger for the Canadiens during their 1979 playoff run, where he went on to score the double-overtime goal to win Game 3 of Montreal’s quarterfinal playoff series vs. Toronto on April 21, 1979. On the ice, Connor’s biggest supporter was Canadiens’ Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, who insisted that coach Scotty Bowman insert him in as to benefit from his physical scoring punch to liven up the Canadiens squad in hopes of winning yet another championship.

My favorite thing about Connor has to be how he had very little exposure to the National Hockey League prior to making the big leagues, yet his love for the game allowed him to reach his goal of being at the top of the sport he loved. “I may be one of the few people who made it to the NHL without really watching a game. I maybe watched two NHL games in my life, so I did not have a favorite team or player. I played hockey because I loved the sport and was honored to be drafted in the first round.”

Wow. What a player!

Follow me on Twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.