In an age that featured Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Paul Coffey, talented centre Denis Savard often stood out on a given night's sports highlights. His lethal blend of speed, improvisational trickery and cockiness helped his linemates and teams soar during the 1980s and '90s.
Born in the Montreal suburb of Pointe Gatineau, Quebec, Savard registered 455 points as a sensational junior on the hometown junior Canadiens. He gained national attention for his end-to-end rushes and for centring the productive "Trois Denis" line with Denis Cyr and Denis Tremblay. All three were drafted into the NHL, and, more amazingly, all were born on the exact same day in the same year! In 1980, Savard scored 181 points and was named to the QMJHL first all-star team.
As the 1980 Entry Draft approached, most observers figured the young phenom would be claimed by the Montreal Canadiens first overall. The Habs opted for Doug Wickenheiser and Savard fell to third overall where the Chicago Black Hawks were delighted to call his name. The youngster scored 75 points as a rookie and formed a solid line with Ted Bulley and Tim Higgins. Al Secord replaced Bulley the next season and scored 44 goals while Savard emerged as an NHL superstar with 119 points. He also scored 11 goals in 15 games as the Hawks upset Minnesota and reached the semi-finals.
In 1982-83, Savard formed one of the top lines in the NHL with Secord and rookie Steve Larmer. The productive trio led the way as Chicago registered 104 points and reached the semi-finals for the second straight year. Between 1982 and 1988, Savard topped the 100-point mark five times including a personal best 131 points in 1987-88. He was named to the NHL second all-star team in 1983 and helped Chicago reach the semi-finals in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
The tricky pivot returned home when Chicago traded him to Montreal for Chris Chelios prior to the 1990-91 season. By this time, Savard had lost a step and the Habs were a team in transition. In 1992-93, Savard scored 50 points and played 14 games as Montreal won the Stanley Cup. Although he was not dressed for the clinching game, the veteran was on hand to hoist the Cup on ice with captain Guy Carbonneau in front of the delirious Forum crowd.
Savard joined the second year Tampa Bay Lightning in 1993-94 and contributed 18 goals along with veteran savvy. Late in the 1994-95 schedule he was re-acquired by the Hawks in time to add depth to their post-season roster. The rejuvenated pivot recorded 18 points in 16 games to help Chicago reach the Western Conference final. Savard recorded 35 assists and was a +20 for Chicago in 1995-96 as the club extended the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche to six games in the second round of the playoffs. The talented veteran retired after playing 64 games for the 'Hawks in 1997 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later.
On November 27, 2006, Denis was named interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. Early in the 2008-09 NHL season, he was replaced by Joel Quenneville. He would then serve as an ambassador for the franchise.