Tall Boys #18 – Orland Kurtenbach

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Orland Kurtenbach - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysNo matter how many teams there are in the league at a given moment, there will always be players who seem to get buried – guys who could score at every level, but get stuck behind other players or get slotted into roles that never really let them develop.  If they never get that chance to shine, they get labeled as yet another guy who never panned out.  If that chance does appear, though, it can be pretty special.

Marty St. Louis might be the most famous current example of this.  A waiver-wire pickup by Tampa years ago, the smallish bit-player from the Flames became one of the best scorers of our era and became the oldest Art Ross winner a year ago at age 37.  In this set, Ab McDonald fits that description and Phil Goyette will, as well.  A third player who enjoyed a brief period in the sun late in his career when finally given an offensive role was Orland Kurtenbach.

Orland was a big guy with the reputation of being one of the best fighters in the game.  He was never near the league penalty-minute leaders, so presumably the rep was enough to ensure he didn’t have to do it all that often.  I do know he had some famous battles with Terry Harper.

A Saskatchewan kid, Orland played his junior in the SJHL and turned pro with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL in 1957-58.  In three seasons with them, he put up solid numbers and was generally near a point-per-game player.  (One year with the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons didn’t go so well.)  It was enough to get him a 10-game call-up from the Rangers in 1960-61, where as a 24-year-old rookie he put up six assists in ten games.

Boston acquired him in the 1961 Intra-League draft, though he’d spend most of the next two seasons in the minors.  An 87-point season with the WHL’s San Francisco Seals in 1962-63 punched his ticket back to the NHL, where he’d stay for the balance of his career.

In the NHL, though, Orland always was stuck behind other centres.  His role seemed to be fixed as third-line centre and tough guy.  Through several seasons in Boston, one in Toronto and a handful with the Rangers, this was always the case.  It wasn’t that he played badly – he put up double digits in goals three times and twenty-plus assists four times between 1963-64 and 1967-68 and was always a contributor – it was just a limited role.

A serious back injury limited him to just two games in 1968-69 and required spinal fusion to correct.  He’d only play sparingly in 1969-70 and posted the worst offensive totals of his career.  Pushing 34 years of age and apparently in decline, he was exposed in the 1970 expansion draft and was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks.

Orland was named the Canucks’ first captain and the return to the site of his WHL success was a tonic for him.  The chance to finally play a scoring role and see real power-play time didn’t hurt, either.  For the first time in his NHL career, he scored better than a point per game, scoing 20 goals and 53 points in 52 games.  He followed this with his second 20-goal effort in 1971-72, scoring 61 points in 78 games.  Age and injury caught him after that, and after two shortened seasons, he’d call it a career after 1973-74.  He would serve a season and a half as head coach of the Canucks, from mid-1976-77 through 1977-78.

Orland Kurtenbach - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

I always love the cards that describe the players’ off-season jobs.

  1. commishbob says:

    Neat card despite the fact that Kurt looks weird to me in black and gold. The write up threw me. I hadn’t remembered that he started in the NYR chain and came back.

  2. shanediaz82 says:

    Great write up as usual, fun to read and very informative!

  3. Mark hpyle says:

    You mentioned the intra league draft. Did they have this every year. Even if there were no new expansion teams.

  4. KurtenbachCardHolder says:

    What would I do with a slightly tattered but fully readable hockey card for Orland Kurtenbach?

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