By Greg Enright
At the 1970 NHL Entry Draft, the league’s two new teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks, participated in a roulette-style spinoff to determine which club would claim the first overall pick. The Sabres won it and took future Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault. The losing Canucks chose second and went with defenseman Dale Tallon.
It was a fateful spin for both teams. The Sabres were in the Stanley Cup Final within five years, while the Canucks languished in (at best) mediocrity for years. Tallon was no Perreault and lasted only three seasons in Vancouver before being traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, where he enjoyed his most productive days.
Tallon was traded to Pittsburgh in October 1979 for a second round draft pick. “Tallon has a lot of class,” said Pens GM Baz Bastien at the time. “He had some great years in Vancouver and two big years in Chicago,” he said, somewhat overstating the hockey facts.
Tallon, who also played center at times, was enjoying a decent season and had settled in well with his new teammates when on March 13, 1979, ironically during a game in Vancouver, he lost his footing while charging to the Canucks net and crashed into the goalpost.
Broken leg. Season over.
He wouldn’t make it back to the lineup until late December of the following campaign, but two other smaller ailments sent him back to the sidelines. He’d return to play in the Pens’ opening round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, but his tank was empty. Those games would turn out to be his last in the NHL.
A career that started in 1970 with so many huge expectations concluded a decade later, largely unfulfilled, in the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
(Happy) Epilogue: Tallon has since gone on to a successful front office career in the NHL and is the current GM of the up-and-coming Florida Panthers.
Greg Enright is a writer, editor and Pens fan since the days of the blue uniforms. Follow him on Twitter @penguinshistory.