|Position: Right Wing
Born: September 11, 1946
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Height: 5'10" Weight: 185 lbs.
Season with Buffalo: 1971-72
Uniform Number: 12
|A Toronto native, Mike Byers played his junior hockey as a member of the hometown Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Associtaion between 1963-64 and 1966-67. While there, Byers played alongside future Sabres Gerry Meehan and Chris Evans. Byers scored 25 goals for the Marlboros in 1966-67, second on the team behind only Meehan, as the Marlboros went on to win the 1967 Memorial Cup Championship. Under the NHL's sponsorship system, which allowed NHL teams to earn the rights to a junior player by sponsoring his junior team, Byers became property of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Upon graduating from juniors, Byers was assigned to the Tulsa Oilers, the Leafs' affiliate in the Central Professional Hockey League. From there, Byers quickly moved up the ranks, earning a promotion to the Rochester Americans, Toronto's top farm club, and a 10 game tryout with the Maple Leafs before his first season as a pro was over. Byers scored 2 goals and 2 assists in his first stint in the NHL.
Byers started the 1968-69 season in Tulsa, where he spent the bulk of the season. He played 5 more games as a Maple Leaf, and was traded before the end of the season to the Philadelphia Flyers. Former Marlboros teammate Meehan was also a part of the trade that sent Byers to Philadelphia. Byers finished the remainder of the season with the Flyers, playing in 5 regular season games and 4 in the Playoffs.
At the beginning of the 1969-70 season, Byers was sent down to the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Quebec Aces. Unable to break into the Flyers lineup, he spent the entire season with the Aces. At the end of the season, Byers was traded again, this time to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings, like the Flyers, were a 1967 Expansion team. Unlike the Flyers, who quickly built themselves into a Stanley Cup contender, the Kings were struggling. Byers might never have broken into the Flyers lineup on a regular basis. With the Kings, he found a regular shift in his first year. Having played only 15 NHL games, Byers was still considered a rookie in the 1970-71 season. In 72 games, Byers scored 27 goals, setting a record for goals by a Kings rookie which stood until the 1981-82 season.
Byers returned to Los Angeles for the 1971-72 season. 28 games into the season, Byers was traded for the third time in four years. On November 16, 1971, the Kings sent Byers along with veteran defenseman Larry Hillman, to the Buffalo Sabres. In return, the Sabres sent defensemen Doug Barrie and Mike Keeler to the West Coast. In Buffalo, Byers was reunited with Meehan and Evans, his former Marlboros teammates. In the ice, Byers was placed on a line with Gilbert Perreault and rookie sensation Rick Martin. Byers was one of several right wings that coach Punch Imlach tried on the Perreault-Martin line during the season. None, Byers included, were able to keep up with the high-flying duo. Byers played 46 games for the Sabres in 1971-72, scoring 9 goals and 28 assists.
At the end of the 1971-72 season, Byers became one of several NHLers to leave the NHL to play in the new World Hockey Association. The WHA came into existence in 1972, and filled out it's rosters by offering big money contracts to NHL players. Byers was just one of several Sabres players drawn to the WHA in it's inaugural season. Forwards Paul Andrea and Danny Lawson and defensemen Jim Watson and Al Hamilton were among the players the Sabres lost in the summer of 1972. More would follow in the years to come.
Byers' WHA career began in 1972-73 with the Los Angeles Sharks. He played only one year with the Sharks, before being traded to the New England Whalers. Byers finished the 1972-73 season with the Whalers, and played two more full seasons there. In 1973-74, Byers scored 29 goals, his career-high as a professional. He represented the Whalers at the WHA All-Star Game that year. Mid-way through the 1975-76 season, Byers was traded to the Cincinnati Stingers. He finished his WHA career there in 1976.
Byers played one more professional season, appearing in 66 games with the Rochester Americans in the 1976-77 season. At the end of the season, Byers retired from professional hockey to pursue a career in finance. Currently, Mike Byers is a Senior Vice-President for an investment firm in Los Angeles, California.
|Mike Byers as a Maple Leaf, 1967|