Ken Hodge began his career in the Chicago Black Hawks system, playing junior with St. Catharines, Chicago's junior team in Ontario, before moving up to the NHL at the end of the 1964-65 season for one game. Because most of the team was small and Hodge was 6'2' and 210 pounds, he was expected to be the team's policeman for the next two years. "It was my job and I did it, but it cost me offensively," he said. "I wound up in my fair share of fights. But it's not really my nature. I don't like playing the bully, and it hindered my development as a player. I didn't take a regular shift, and when I was on the ice, I had other responsibilities."
His most glaring weakness at this time was his skating, but he worked tirelessly on it over the summer months to improve. However, during the summer of 1967, Hodge was involved in one of the most lopsided trades of all time. Chicago sent him, Phil Esposito and Fred Stanfield to Boston for Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris, virtually assuring Boston of two Stanley Cup wins in the coming years. Ironically, Hodge had been in the Boston system when he played for a Lakeshore team in Toronto as a 15 year old, but Chicago beat the Bruins to the punch when they signed him to the standard C-Form on his 16th birthday.
Hodge played on the Bruins' number one line with Esposito and Wayne Cashman and his confidence exploded. He started to use his strength to hold onto the puck and create scoring chances instead of fighting, and he became one of the best scorers in the league because of his excellent shot. In 1968-69, he scored 45 times, one of the best seasons in league history. But his productivity had a curious effect on the Boston fans. The more he scored, the more they booed him.
"Sometimes, I feel like telling them all to go to hell," he admitted. "But I figure the boos come from people who just don't understand?. I gather that the people feel I'm not aggressive enough. But I don't think you have to run around crashing into people to qualify as a hockey player."
One disgusted fan even hung a number 8 sweater in effigy from the Garden's rafters, but Hodge came to deal with the local criticism as part of playing the game. He simply wasn't as physical in the corners as John McKenzie was, and his penalty totals were never a part of the Big Bad Bruins reputation.
Hodge helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972 and he was with the team for nine seasons. His scoring began in earnest when coach Harry Sinden stepped down after the 1970 Cup win and Tom Johnson took over, giving Hodge more power-play and ice time. "It's no secret that I didn't get along too well with coach Sinden," he confessed. "We didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things. Tom Johnson is quite a guy. I'd do anything for him."
Hodge also changed sticks for the first time in his pro career. Previously, he used one of the biggest hooks in the league, but in the fall of 1970 he switched to an almost straight blade at a time the league was regulating the size of curves. This, he felt, gave him another shot in his arsenal -- the backhand. "I think it's only a matter of time before the straight stick will be the only kind we're allowed to use," he said, explaining his decision to change.
Hodge twice scored 100 points in a season, and in 1973-74 he scored 50 goals for the first and only time in his career. But in the summer of 1976 he was traded in a rather acrimonious manner. After being sent to the Rangers, Hodge was verbally attacked by current Boston coach Don Cherry, who was instrumental in getting rid of him. "The biggest problem with Ken Hodge is that he's a country clubber. He doesn't want to pay the price. He simply isn't a team player. If we won and he felt he hadn't played enough, he'd skate directly to the dressing room. He's the type of guy who would be happy if he scored three goals and we lost 4-3." Hodge retired after the 1977-78 season, although he played a few games with Binghampton of the AHL two years later. Despite playing in three All-Star games, which were his proudest accomplishments other than the Stanley Cup wins, he never won an individual trophy in the NHL.