Obituary: Mike McMahon, on 1st North Stars team, lost teeth to Don Cherry

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2013 - 11:34 PM

Mike McMahon was a member of the inaugural Minnesota North Stars team in 1967 who logged more than 500 games in the top professional hockey leagues of his time.


Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon, a longtime defenseman who was a member of the inaugural Minnesota North Stars team in 1967 and logged more than 500 games in the top professional hockey leagues of his time, has died.

Mike McMahon’s NHL and WHA career spanned from the early 1960s into the mid-1970s. He broke in with the New York Rangers and played with the North Stars during the franchise’s first two seasons, before bouncing around the NHL and then skating three seasons with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA in the early 1970s.

McMahon died Monday in St. Paul following heart problems. He was 71 years old.

The native of Quebec City who grew up across from Buffalo in Fort Erie, Ont., played 224 games in the NHL and another 279 in the rival WHA. He finished with a combined 44 goals, 169 assists and 420 penalty minutes.

His most productive season was 1967-68 with the North Stars, when he tallied 14 goals and 33 assists in the regular season and another three goals and seven assists in 14 postseason games.

It was a season of tremendous highs marked by comedy but also tragedy for McMahon and his teammates. The team finished a mediocre 27-32-15 but came within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. On Jan. 13, teammate Bill Masterton fell on the ice during a game, lost consciousness and died about 30 hours later. He remains the only player in NHL history to die from on-ice injuries.

On Jan. 16, the NHL All-Star Game went on as planned, despite the North Stars’ request to delay it. On Jan. 17, the North Stars’ season resumed in St. Louis, the same day as Masterton’s funeral in the Twin Cities.

“Nobody wanted to play, but they made us play,” McMahon recalled in a later interview.

McMahon was the subject of what was probably the most hilarious moment of that first season after his errant pass perfectly set up an opening-period goal for the Los Angeles Kings. Bombastic Head Coach Wren Blair stormed into the locker room between periods and tried throwing his topcoat at McMahon. Instead, he slipped on orange peels routinely left behind by the players and hit the floor hard.

“He just laid there,” McMahon recalled years later. “Wren says, `Anybody laughs and you’ll be sent so far away, the Hockey News won’t be able to find you.’ ”

McMahon’s sister, Cathy Dennahower, said Friday that her brother “always wanted to be in the play, whatever was going on. ... He was truly focused.”

Dennahower said McMahon was a “hard hitter who always said you’ve got to keep your head up” on the ice.

Head up or not, his sister added, McMahon lost his front teeth in a minor-league game to a firm check from the legendary Don Cherry, now famous for his bombastic television commentary style and technicolor wardrobe.

“He cross-checked me head-first into the boards,” Cherry wrote in “Hockey Stories and Stuff,” published in 2008. “I drilled him and I knocked all his front teeth out.”

Cherry found out the next day that McMahon’s father, a former NHLer, was at the game. “What a bummer,” Cherry wrote.

McMahon’s father, Michael McMahon Sr., also played in the NHL, mostly with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940s. He won the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1944. The father and son share space on the hockey Wall of Fame back in the family’s hometown of Fort Erie.

Michael McMahon Jr., who worked for Brown & Bigelow after his playing days, is preceded in death by his sister Joyce McMahon. Along with Dennahower, he is survived by sons Christopher and Jeffrey; daughter Jennifer; and their mother, Kathy. Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of St. Bonaventure, 901 E. 90th St., Bloomington, with visitation one hour before.


Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

  • related content

  • Bill Goldsworthy (far right) and the boys.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 2 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 9
Washington 0 FINAL
Miami 8
Boston 4 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Houston 3
Toronto - WP: C. Hynes 9 FINAL
Boston - LP: D. Hinojosa 7
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Norberto 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley 0
St. Louis 5 FINAL
NY Mets 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Kansas City 4
LA Angels 1 FINAL
Oakland 4
San Diego 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox 2
Chicago WSox 12 FINAL
Seattle 4
Cleveland 2 FINAL
San Francisco 5
Milwaukee 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 11
Arizona 3 FINAL
Cincinnati 0
Texas 4 FINAL
Colorado 10
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Detroit 78 FINAL
Charlotte 102
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Washington 106
San Antonio 103 FINAL
Orlando 91
Indiana 87 FINAL
Boston 100
Brooklyn 100 FINAL
New York 98
Chicago 91 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Dallas 135 FINAL
Oklahoma City 131
Sacramento 111 FINAL
Houston 115
Toronto 113 FINAL
Minnesota 99
Denver 74 4th Qtr 3:40
Utah 89
LA Clippers 55 3rd Qtr
Portland 68
New Orleans 29 1st Qtr 0:02
LA Lakers 31
Toronto 3 FINAL
Buffalo 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Edmonton 0 2nd Prd 13:56
Anaheim 2
Colorado 0 1st Prd 4:08
San Jose 0
Loyola-Chicago 63 FINAL
ULM 62
Michigan 65
Temple 58 FINAL
West Virginia 66


question of the day

Poll: Who are you rooting for in the NCAA Final Four?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters