A naturally gifted goal scorer and playmaker, center Marcel Dionne was one of the most productive offensive performers in NHL history. His consistency at such a high level earned him respect and accolades throughout the league. And Dionne's accomplishments would have been more widely recognized had he not spent the bulk of his career in the relative hockey obscurity of Los Angeles. Hockey was never a top sport in that city, and his yearly excellence was rarely seen on television in the larger markets of the east.
The native of Drummondville, Quebec, was a junior superstar with the St. Catharines Black Hawks of the OHA. He accumulated 375 points in three junior seasons and helped his team reach the Memorial Cup finals in 1971. Dionne led the OHA in scoring in 1970 and was selected to the league's Second All-Star Team. He defended his scoring title in 1971 and was elevated to the First All-Star roster.
Despite his brilliance as an amateur, Dionne was overshadowed by Quebec Remparts phenomenon Guy Lafleur. In most years, Dionne would have been the top choice in the NHL Amateur Draft, but not in 1971. After Montreal snagged Lafleur first overall, the Detroit Red Wings happily selected Dionne second.
The young Detroit rookie shone with 77 points in 1971-72 and earned an invitation to Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series versus the USSR. His 49 assists that year had set a new NHL standard for first-year players that was broken by Bryan Trottier in 1975-76. In all, Dionne enjoyed four productive years in Detroit, especially 1974-75, when he recorded 121 points. That year he also set an NHL record with 10 shorthanded goals, a mark that stood until Wayne Gretzky established a new standard in 1983-84. According to Detroit general manager Ned Harkness, Dionne gave the fans some excitement to compensate for the loss of Gordie Howe.
A contract squabble with the Wings brought about Dionne's trade to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 1975-76 season and he went on to play the prime of his career on the West Coast. Over nearly a dozen full seasons with the Kings, Marcel topped the 100-point mark seven times, was a two-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award and was selected to the NHL First and Second All-Star Teams twice each. In 1979-80, he was declared the winner of the Art Ross Trophy after he tied young superstar Wayne Gretzky with 137 points but edged him in goals scored. Between 1975 and 1983, he was the top point-getter on the Kings every year.
Beginning in the 1979-80 season, Dionne formed the lethal Triple Crown Line with Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor. They became one of the highest-scoring trios in league history before a serious injury to Simmer split the line up for a lengthy period. The trio was machine-like in its efficiency. The crafty pivot, Dionne, feathered passes to his linemates, who worked the corners and the slot to perfection.
The only element lacking in Dionne's career was playoff success. His best post-season came in 1981-82 when he scored 11 points in 10 games to help the Kings stun the record-setting Edmonton Oilers in the first round before losing to Vancouver.
During the early 1980s, Dionne began establishing a number of personal milestones. On January 7, 1981, he recorded his 1,000th point in his 740th game. This represented the fastest trip to that scoring plateau in NHL history until Guy Lafleur set a new record a short time later. On December 14, 1982, Dionne scored his 500th NHL goal when he beat Al Jensen of the Washington Capitals.
Dionne joined the playoffs-bound New York Rangers just prior to the March trading deadline in 1987, but the Blueshirts didn't fare any better in the post-season and were eliminated in the first round. During his first full year in New York, Dionne recorded the 14th 30-goal season of his career. On October 31, 1987, he registered his 700th goal when he beat Kelly Hrudey of the New York Islanders. Later that season, on February 14, 1988, he passed Phil Esposito to become the second-highest goal scorer in NHL history.
He retired after 37 games in 1988-89 with 731 goals and 1,771 points. At the time of his retirement, those totals placed him third on the NHL all-time scoring list behind only Gretzky and Howe.
The popular and gregarious Dionne was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.