Thursday

Orland Kurtenbach

Orland was quiet and unassuming off the ice, but was a take-charge-guy on the ice. He possessed excellent ability and became a symbol of desire and dedication. He was a no-nonsense guy who was quick to defend any of his teammates - a great team player.

As a youngster he played for the Prince Albert Mintos of the SJHL. In his first season with the Mintos (1953-54) he won the championship and was the teams most important player, leading the entire league in assists. Orland went on to play 188 games for the Mintos, scoring 321 points. In between he played a couple of games for WHL's Saskatoon Quakers.

During these great junior days in Saskatchewan the boy they called Kurt was labeled as a "million dollar prospect." Kurt would never fulfill that promise, but eventually carved out a nice career for himself.

Orland moved on to have three steady seasons for the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL becoming the WHL rookie of the year in 1958. He also played in the AHL for the Springfield Indians and Buffalo Bisons. The native of Cudworth, Saskatchewan also made his NHL debut as a 24-year old during the 1960-61 season for the NY Rangers. He did pretty well, registering 6 points in 10 games.

On June 13, 1961 Kurt was claimed by the Boston Bruins in the intra-league draft. He spend most of the 1961-62 season in Providence (AHL) and only got to play in 8 games for Boston. During the off-season Orland was traded to San Francisco of the WHL for $ 20,000. He had a great season for the Seals, scoring 87 points in 70 games. Boston realized that they had made a mistake by trading away Orland so they bought him back soon after.

Orland had two unspectacular seasons in Beantown and was traded to Toronto together with Pat Stapleton and Andy Hebenton for Ron Stewart on June 8, 1965. Orland only played one season for the Maple Leafs before once again moving. This time it was back to the Big Apple as the NY Rangers claimed him in the intra-league draft.

Orland had two very fine seasons for the NY Rangers and when he reported to training camp to start the 1968-69 season he was fresh from his most successful season that included a career high 15 goals. But unfortunately disaster struck. Shortly after the camp opened Orland sustained a severe back injury that required a spinal fusion. For six months Orland endured tremendous pain while wearing a cast and then a brace. He missed the entire season except for two games.

He was still handicapped at the start of the 1969-70 season and was unable to achieve his potential. NY Rangers GM Emile Francis decided to not protect Orland in the expansion draft 1970. Vancouver Canucks GM Bud Poile immediately jumped at the opportunity to add Orland to his team. It was a great fit for Orland, who returned to the city where he once had played in the WHL (1957-58, 59-61). He had also met his wife in Vancouver.

Canucks coach Hal Laycoe was a big supporter of Kurtenbach's. "We didn't necessarily think of him as a big scorer. We though of him as a leader because of his competitive approach to hockey, his class as an individual and his ability to handle the rough going."

Orland saw his experience in Vancouver as a fresh start. He became the first captain in the franchise history (1970), a position he held with great dignity until 1974. Orland quickly became a fan favourite and had an exceptionally fine first season for the Canucks. He scored 53 points (21+32) in 52 games, which was easily his best season ever in the NHL to that point. The next season (1971-72) he topped that and scored 61 points (24+37).

"I can't explain it," Orland said at the time of his new found success. "It's true that now that I'm the team captain I'm in a slightly different role. Before, I was always the third center, specializing in checking assignments. Now, I'm getting a chance to spend more time on the ice and to work on power plays. That's made a difference, simply because I'm getting more opportunities. Shots are going in for me. My passes are getting to where I want them to go. It's just the way it is in sports."

Orland went on to play another two seasons in the picturesque city of Vancouver. At the age of 37 he decided to retire after a career that rewarded him with some of his best hockey while a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

Orland wasn't a spectacular player and he bounced around a lot over the years, but he played hard every night and his approach to the game was perfect. He once said. " I'm a hockey player by profession. I like hockey and make a living at it. I will play my best no matter where I land. " And that's exactly what he did.

2 comments:

Axxell,  5:01 AM  

..While in Boston, Orland had a reputation as a big strong player who would not hit his stride until Christmas time, or Mid Season..So in an effort to inspire, one day in October, at the start of a Campaign, Bruins Fans showed up at the Gardens, dressed up in full Santa Claus regalia, singing Yuletide carols, in the hope of inspiring Mr. Kurtenbach...True story!!..Orland Kurtenbach was a feared fighter, the NHL Heavyweight Champ. in the 1960s!

Anonymous,  7:16 PM  

He was a dandy, Bruins should of kept him.

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