Local Hockey Legend Passes Away

Chatham-Kent hockey legend Ken “Doc” Houston has passed away at the age of 64

Chatham-Kent hockey legend Ken Houston has passed away at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer.

Born in Dresden and a Dresden Minor Hockey product, “Doc” spent ten years in the NHL, playing for the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings.

The 6’1″, 200-pound d-man converted to right winger is thought to be one of the best Chatham Maroons of all time and was drafted to both the WHA and NHL in 1973.  The WHA’s Alberta Oilers selected Houston 58th overall, while the Atlanta Flames drafted him with their 6th round pick, 85th overall.

Houston once recalled the day he was drafted with CK Sports Talk on 99.1 CKXS.

“I was drafted on a Saturday. I remember sitting on my parents couch on the Friday night and Cliff Fletcher called and asked me ‘How’d you feel about being drafted by the Atlanta Flames?’ I said absolutely.”

After two years in the CHL, Ken described himself as a “kid in a candy store” once he found himself in the NHL with the Atlanta Flames. He also found the back of the net regularly. Houston recorded 20-goal seasons in five of his seven years with the Flames. In 570 career NHL games, Ken beat the goalie 161 times and added 167 helpers for 328 career points.

Houston became an instant folk hero in Atlanta during his NHL rookie season in 1975-76. It was January 27, 1976. Dave Schultz attempted to lay a check on the rookie, but Houston was able to avoid the check and score his first NHL goal. Schultz gave him a bump. After some jaw jacking, Schultz dropped his gloves off of the ensuing faceoff, appearing ready to put the rookie back in his place. They squared up and starting throwing. After a little bit of wrestling, the refs attempted to break things up. A furious Houston got an arm free and threw a right hook that was felt by everyone in the building, including Schultz, the league-wide tough guy, who left the game with an injured jaw. Dave “The Hammer” Schultz became the nail and Ken Houston skated away a legend.

Social media was a buzz Sunday morning after news of Ken’s passing went public:


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  • comment-avatar
    Tim Best 6 years

    You and I had the incredible opportunity to coach our boys Ryan Best and Brian Houston to an all Ontario Atom AA Championship 25 years ago. You were such an inspiration to the boys.  A quiet giant but your presence commanded immediate attention and respect.  I, as well as every boy on that Chatham team will never forget you Ken. 
    Tim Best

  • comment-avatar
    Jim Ritchie 6 years

    I was lucky as a young fellow to have so many good players come from my hometown. To me, Ken Houston lead the way, he was the first in my young career to “MAKE IT”. When Ken came home in the summer he was just one other kid from our town. Later in life he became a fellow that I shared many ‘sociables’ with. The stories we shared together about his career and mine, which were different in many ways, he made it, I did not. More than Ken Houston making the NHL, that was his minimal impact in our town. The greatest impact Ken had on me and many others that I have talked to is that he always made us feel we were on the same level as him. As my hockey career evolved into the Jr ranks then the OHL. I have always said the heros in my hockey career before Sittler and Salming and Lanny MCDonald, there was Ken Houston, Al Pray, Walt McFadden, Clare Mallott, Thanny Badder, Bill Latimer, Jeff Jackson, Paul Bellamy, Chris Gagner, Kevin Fox, Rob McFadden, Dwayne Ellis, Darryl Ellis and Mike Zruna. Those guys are the ones l looked up to. In Dresden losing wasn’t an option and winning was expected. I took that in every sense of the word. I made many enemies in the game playing the game that way. I don’t apologize, that’s the way I was raised. I always say as a small guy, playing the game that way became a way of survival and gave me a chance to play at the level that I did. Hockey is an exclusive club that very few can say they belong to, if you have had any success whatsoever in the game you belong to the club. The higher you go the more exclusive club you belong to. The thing about Doc is no matter what he made you feel that you were accepted. That in itself is what makes me love the players from Dresden. I also find that every hockey player I played with from wherever they are from, we treat each other as one. Doc, have a beer on the bar in Heaven waiting for me when I get there, until we meet again my friend, I will miss you. Jim Ritchie

  • comment-avatar
    Patrick O'Hara 6 years

    I first met Ken back in the 90’s when we worked together on the Special Olympics when they were held here in Chatham, I knew of him from my experience with hockey and that he was a NHL’er.  Everything else I heard from others and it would be impossible to find anyone who would have a bad word to say about Ken.  Not just a gentleman but a Gentle Man.

    I next met him during his last battle, what a courageous fight and not a complaining word, it was as if just another day at the mine, take em one at a time, be thankful for the day and the friends/family, glass always half full.

    A short story.  I shared with Ken was that as a Leaf fan I wear a Leaf sweater to the games.  I won the sweater in a silent auction but it had no number on it but lots of signatures.  I asked the people where the sweater came from and was told it was donated by Dave Hutchison, a leaf fan can tell you that Dave played in the 70’s, paired on defence with Salming, and was expected to ‘take care’ of Salming.  I had Dave’s number put on it (#23) and his name.  I asked Ken if he knew him.  If you know Ken then you know what he said “sure do, I fought Hutch twice, once in Atlanta and once in LA, since then Hutch and I have played in a number of Oldtimer games and after the game would all sign sweaters, guess you got one of those”.  Ken went on to share a number of stories about Hutch and life after the NHL but his answer was so unexpected and his comments so nice – not a mean bone in his body.

    We all get to meet someone in our life that we always treasure – I treasure having met Mr. Ken Houston!