Rich Preston was a fantastic defensive forward during the 1980s with Chicago, also spending 2 seasons in New Jersey. He was also a standout in the WHA.
Preston started his hockey career at the University of Denver before turning professional with Houston of the WHA, citing the chance to play with Gordie Howe as his main reason for opting to jump to the WHA. It was with Houston that he first formed a dynamic partnership with center Terry Ruskowski.
In the final season of the WHA, Ruskowski and Preston joined the Winnipeg Jets, and lead the team to the Avco Cup championship. Preston, with 8 goals in 10 playoff games, was named as the post-season MVP.
When the WHA collapsed in 1979, Preston joined the Chicago Blackhawks.
“When the merger talks (between the WHA and NHL) cropped up last season, four or five teams were interested in me, and I was a free agent, so I could talk with them. I signed with Chicago because I like the city, and I know Cliff Koroll and Keith Magnuson from Denver. We all went to college there, and that meant something to me.”
Preston will always be remembered in Chicago as a member of the RPM Line with Grant Mulvey and Ruskowski.
The RPM Line was a very close knit trio, both on and off the ice. Ruskowski and Preston had played together in both Houston and Winnipeg, and Mulvey complimented them nicely.
“Grant Mulvey set himself in a position where he could just one-time it. We worked on it a long time; just passing and one timing it. He was a goal scorer. I passed it to him and he put the biscuit in the basket as we say. Preston was great in the corners. He had very strong legs and a strong upper body. He really dug the puck out. So, it was a combination of three people doing what they do best,” explained Ruskowski,
Preston immediately stepped into a Chicago lineup and scored 31 goals and 61 points, turning many heads.
As the Blackhawks team got stronger over the coming couple of seasons, Preston was relegated more to a defensive role, a role which he enthusiastically took on and excelled at. He was a student of the game and had a good understanding of any situation on the ice. He was a key penalty killer for Chicago as well.
An aggressive player despite an average build, Preston was excellent in the corners, a poor man’s John Tonelli. Preston was also a super team guy in the dressing room as well. He had a contagious attitude. His up beat and positive attitude helped young players and other veterans alike.
While Rich Preston’s hockey career is forgotten about by most now, he should be looked back upon as a good role player whose true contributions could never be quantified, but always were appreciated
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Category: Jets Biographies