Val Fonteyne had four full NHL seasons in which he never was assessed as much as a minor penalty. But the journeyman penalty killer never was awarded the Lady Byng.
In today’s NHL, it’s almost unfathomable that a player would compete for an entire season and not take at least one minor penalty. Ryan O’Reilly, one of the finalists announced for the Lady Byng Award on Tuesday, came with a broken stick/delay-of-game-penalty of accomplishing the feat. He joins Butch Goring as the only skaters to ever play 80 games and be assessed two or few PIM. So imagine a regular minute-muncher doing it four times in a career?
That’s what Val Fonteyne did as a member of the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A native of Wetaskiwin, Alta., who excelled on the penalty-kill, Fonteyne played 820 games in all for three NHL franchises, earning a measly 26 penalty minutes. He played another 149 contests in the WHA and was assessed just two minors. For his achievements, this journeyman left winger, who never was awarded the Byng, is recognized as the cleanest player ever in professional hockey. “I didn’t consciously try not to get penalties,” Fonteyne told The Hockey News in a 1985 story. “It just wasn’t my style.” Here’s the piece from our archives, nearly 30 years ago.