Known for his trademark handlebar mustache, small physical stature and his rapid wrist shot that helped him put up the points that he did throughout his career, Dennis Maruk stepped on this ice every night with his heart on his sleeve. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, the gritty centreman never backed down from any battle he came across on the ice, and continues to have that mentality today helping out various charities and causes.
Spending time throughout his career with the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons, Minnesota North Stars and Washington Capitals, Maruk finished his career with 878 points (356 goals, 522 assists) in 888 games, and hit the 50 and 60 goal plateau one time each in his career while playing with the Capitals. He still holds the Capitals record for most points in a season, when he finished with 136 (60 goals, 70 assists) in the 1981-82 season.
While he was in the NHL, Maruk took advantage of any opportunity that came his way to work with a charity. Whether it was a community event or a visit to the local hospital, he was always up for putting a smile on the children’s faces.
“Players wanted to do charity work as much as the teams wanted them to do it when they were playing for them,” said the Etobicoke, Ontario native. “We did a lot of different events and each player was committed to do at least 6-10 events throughout the year and then whatever else we wanted to do, it was up to us. In Minnesota we won a couple of community awards through the team because we did so much off the ice,” he added.
Although he and his teammates were heavily involved in helping out around the community during his playing days, he believes that the players should have the choice to help out or not because of their hectic schedules, but leans towards them helping out at least one charity or within the community and believes that the teams should have their players stay active throughout the season.
“I think it’s both options when it comes to giving back. There’s a lot of pressure put on the athletes to do their job, but I feel there’s another part where the athletes giving back should be a must and I believe that players should be involved in so many events throughout the season,” he elucidated.
“I know a lot of them are involved in certain charities themselves, whether it be SickKids or something for cancer, they get involved and direct a lot of their attention to these charities and give a lot of their time to these charities.”
He has never taken anything he has for granted and understands how lucky he is to have had the opportunity to live the life that every young hockey player dreams about living.
“We’re fortunate to have a pretty good career and a pretty good lifestyle so to give back to a child who is suffering from a disability or disease, it just feels good to give back to them and help put a smile on their face,” he stated. “We have people out here enjoying the life and not realizing how hard it really is to go through what these children are going through.”
One of the charities that Maruk has been heavily active with since moving back to Toronto four years ago is the Baycrest Foundation; a Foundation that focuses on slowing down Alzheimer’s Disease and whose mission is to enrich the quality of life in the community by supporting programs and services that promote excellence in care, research, and education in the field of aging.
“They raise over $2 million a year and the event we have in May consists of about 60 NHL Alumni players and we have a weekend full of hockey and people raise a lot of money for it,” described Maruk.
Maruk is also heavily involved with the NHL Alumni and their events, as well as the Special Olympics and SickKids. He enjoys helping out within the community and playing a part in brightening up a child’s day that may not be as lucky as most children their age.
“The greatest thing is the satisfaction of it,” stated the 21st overall pick in the 1975 NHL Draft. “We’re very fortunate to have certain things. These children are just like us, even though they have a disability, they just want to live life like the rest of us.”
Just like his playing days, Maruk doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. He continues to do whatever he can in the community and even runs his very own hockey camp just outside Huntsville, Ontario. He takes advantage of every opportunity that is thrown his way, just like he did while he was on the ice every night. He may have been one of the smaller guys on the ice, but he definitely had one of the biggest hearts and he continues to prove it.
To learn more about the Baycrest Foundation, visit http://www.baycrest.org/foundation.php
To learn more about the SickKids Foundation, visit http://www.sickkidsfoundation.com/home/
To learn more about the Special Olympics, visit http://www.baycrest.org/foundation.php