Right-winger Mark Napier was blessed with blinding speed and a natural scoring ability. He accounted for 235 career goals with four different NHL clubs, won two Stanley Cups then excelled in Europe for four seasons.
The Toronto native starred for the Wexford Raiders of the MTHL before moving up to the OHA’s Marlboros. He was a top scorer with the Marlies for two seasons especially in 1974-75. That year he registered 66 goals in the regular then led all playoff scorers with 24 goals and 48 points when the team won the Memorial Cup. Following the season he was named to the OHA first all-star team.
The speedy 18-year-old forward decided to turn pro with the Toronto Toros of the WHA and scored 43 goals in 1975-76. Napier’s fine effort earned him the Lou Kaplan trophy as the league’s top rookie. He remained with the franchise for two years after it relocated to Birmingham, Alabama. During this time he was selected tenth overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft.
Napier joined the powerhouse Habs as an NHL rookie in 1978-79. He scored 31 points in 54 games when he was often paired with fiery Doug Risebrough. In the post-season he played 12 games while helping Montreal win its fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. As the Canadiens’ retooled in the early 1980s, Napier became a more prominent contributor to the team’s offense. He scored 35 goals in 1980-81 followed by consecutive 40-goal performances. In 1982 he scored three goals for Canada when they won bronze at the World Championships.
On October 28, 1983, Napier and Keith Acton were sent to the Minnesota North Stars for centre Bobby Smith. Napier adjusted slowly to his new team but was playing well by the time the post-season arrived. He scored three goals and contributed to the Stars’ transition game when they reached the semifinals in 1984.
Halfway through the 1984-85 season Minnesota began reconfiguring its roster and sent Napier to the Edmonton Oilers. The fast-paced game of the defending Stanley Cup champions suited the veteran winger. Napier scored 35 points in 33 games. In the playoffs he chipped in with ten points as Edmonton repeated as Cup titleists. Napier scored 24 goals when Edmonton dominated the 1985-86 regular season only to lose in the seventh game of the Smythe Division final to the Calgary Flames.
Napier was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in March 1987 and lent his experience to the young team that was being built around Pierre Turgeon. Following the 1988-89 season he was offered a choice to either return to the Sabres’ training camp with no guaranteed contract or accept former NHLer Ron Chipperfield’s offer to play for the Italian team he managed. Napier opted to shift gears and join the HC Bolzano Club where he was an explosive scorer in the wide open Italian league and helped the club win the championship. The next year he topped the loop with 118 points in 36 games.
Napier played two years with the Milano Devils/Lions under Ted Sator before retiring in 1993. In May 1997 he was named coach of the St. Michael’s Majors which had rejoined the major junior league in Ontario after a long absence, though his tenure lasted just a year.