1954-55 Red Wings: Red Kelly

THE RED KELLY FILE:

Born: July 9, 1927

Position: Defense

NHL games played: 1,316 (846 with Red Wings)

1954-55 stats: 70 GP; G: 15; A: 30; 28 PIM

CAREER: GP: 1316; G: 281; A: 542; PIM: 327

Bobby Orr is often credited with changing the way the game of hockey was played, or at least the way the position of defense was regarded.

Orr, the quintessential “rushing” defenseman, burst onto the scene in 1966 with the Boston Bruins and, well, you know the rest.

But before Orr, the Red Wings employed a defenseman who possessed unique offensive skills and who greatly helped the team move the puck up ice from the defensive zone.

Red Kelly doesn’t get the accolades that have been bestowed upon Orr, but for his time, Kelly was a rarity: the blueliner with puck-moving skills and speed.

Most defensemen in Kelly’s day, before Orr, planted their skates in front of their team’s net and moved forwards away from the goalie. Then when the action moved up ice, the defensemen would lumber ahead, not really participating in the offensive rush.

Hence the term, still used today, “stay-at-home” defenseman.

But Kelly eschewed that style, and his skills with the puck resulted in 15 goals during the 1954-55 season, which was an almost unheard of number from a defenseman—unless you were talking about Red Kelly.

Kelly’s goal totals with the Red Wings in the 1950s were always in the teens, with a peak of 19 in 1952-53.

But things eventually soured for Kelly in Detroit. He hurt his ankle in 1959 and the Red Wings tried to keep the injury a secret. When Kelly let the cat out of the bag in February, 1960, Red Wings GM Jack Adams was infuriated and immediately traded Kelly to the New York Rangers.

Kelly refused to report, threatening to retire instead. The trade was canceled. That’s when Toronto’s coach and GM, Punch Imlach, stepped in and coaxed Kelly into playing for the Maple Leafs. On February 10, 1960, Kelly was dealt to the Leafs for fellow defenseman Marc Reaume.

Stanley Cups followed Kelly no matter where he went. With Detroit, he won four of them. With Toronto, he won four more.

In Toronto, Imlach decided to use Kelly’s puck skills as a forward, and with the Leafs, Kelly became one of the best centers in the league.

His eight Cups as a player are the most in NHL history for anyone who didn’t play for the Montreal Canadiens.

Kelly was a first-team All-Star on defense six times in the 1950s.

Kelly retired after his last Cup win in 1967 and became coach of the expansion L.A. Kings for two seasons. He also coached Pittsburgh for three seasons and Toronto for four.

Part of Kelly’s effectiveness was his ability to stay out of the penalty box. He won four Lady Byng Trophies (gentlemanly play) as a result.

More fun trivia about Red Kelly: He won the first-ever Norris Trophy for best defenseman, in 1954. And while still a player, Kelly got involved in Canadian politics, being elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1962.

He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

NEXT WEEK: Tony Leswick, who once scored one of the most famous goals in Red Wings history.

1954-55 Red Wings: Gordie Howe

THE GORDIE HOWE FILE:

Born: March 31, 1928

Position: Right wing

NHL games played: 1,767 (1,687 with Red Wings)

1954-55 stats: 64 GP; G: 29; A: 33; 68 PIM

CAREER (NHL): GP: 1767; G: 801; A: 1049; PIM: 1685

CAREER (WHA): GP: 419; G: 174; A: 334; PIM: 399

Gordie Howe was 22 years old and his life hung in the balance.

During the 1950 playoffs, in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ted “Teeter” Kennedy ran Howe into the boards and Gordie couldn’t brace himself properly for the collision. The result was that Howe’s head slammed into the unforgiving boards.

Howe’s brain swelled and for a couple of days his prognosis was touch-and-go. Hockey wasn’t the issue—his life was.

Eventually, Howe recovered and he was able to go onto the ice and join his teammates when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup a couple weeks later.

The Cup win was Howe’s first of four with the Red Wings, and he never showed any ill effects from his skull fracture of 1950. Just ask all the opponents who were on the receiving end of elbows, gloves, the butt ends of sticks and, most of all, 801 NHL goals.

If there was an NHL record, Howe broke it. He surpassed Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s career goal total of 544 in November, 1963. Five times Howe scored 40-plus goals in a season, and he surpassed 30 goals 14 times in an NHL career that spanned from 1946-1971.

But you don’t need this blog to tell you how great Mr. Hockey was, do you?

In the 1955 playoffs, to which this series is dedicated, Howe was amazing, tallying nine goals and 11 assists in just 11 games. He also crammed 24 penalty minutes in there, which makes sense when you consider the famous “Gordie Howe hat trick” (goal, assist, fight in the same game).

Howe retired in 1971 but then was given a do-nothing VP job with the Red Wings. Dissatisfied with what he called the “mushroom treatment” (“They keep me in the dark and every so often they throw manure on me”), Howe got restless and had the urge to play again when his sons, Mark and Marty, were signed by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1973.

He called his old teammate Bill Dineen, who coached the Aeros at the time.

“How about a third Howe?” Gordie asked Dineen.

It was a no-brainer for Dineen to say yes.

Howe played six seasons in the WHA before returning to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers at age 51 in 1979.

Howe played in all 80 games for the Whalers in his last NHL hurrah, scoring a respectable 15 goals. For good measure, Howe added one last playoff goal as well.

Today, as you are aware, Howe is battling dementia and recurring strokes at his daughter’s home in Lubbock, TX.

Get well, Mr. Hockey!

NEXT WEEK: Red Kelly, who won the most Stanley Cups (eight) as a player in NHL history who never played for the Montreal Canadiens.

1954-55 Red Wings: Larry Hillman

Larry Hillman

THE LARRY HILLMAN FILE:

Born: February 5, 1937

Position: Defense

NHL games played: 790 (69 with Red Wings)

1954-55 stats: 6 GP; G: 0; A: 0; 2 PIM

CAREER: GP: 790; G: 36; A: 196; PIM: 579

Larry Hillman has the distinction of being the youngest player to ever have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Hillman, a defenseman, was 18 years, two months and nine days old when his name appeared on the Cup in 1955.

Despite only getting into six regular season games in 1955, Hillman played in three playoff games that spring, going pointless.

He wasn’t a Red Wing for very long (two-plus seasons). In fact, Hillman was never really anything for very long.

He did play eight years in Toronto, winning another Cup in 1967, which was the last time the Maple Leafs were Stanley Cup champions.

But other than the eight-year stint in Toronto, Hillman was well-traveled, playing for eight NHL teams and two WHA clubs in a professional career that spanned 22 years.

Along the way, Hillman managed to find himself on no less than six Cup-winning teams.

His younger brother, Wayne, who was also a defenseman, played 17 seasons in the NHL and WHA.

Larry Hillman coached the Winnipeg Jets during the last two seasons of the WHA’s existence (1977-79).

NEXT WEEK: Gordie Howe. Enough said.

Jean Beliveau Passes Away

Jean Beliveau

Jean Beliveau: 1931-2014

A bad November for hockey deaths has now turned into a bad start for December.

Old No. 4 for the Canadiens, Jean Beliveau, has died. He was 83.

Maurice “Rocket” Richard may have been the most explosive and dynamic Canadien of all-time (reflected in his nickname), but Beliveau was the most graceful. He was Montreal’s Alex Delvecchio—a smooth-as-silk centerman who didn’t do anything flashy; he just did it right.

Hockey lost a true giant.

It was fitting and proper that Beliveau’s last game played in 1971 ended with him as a Stanley Cup Champion yet again. His name is on the Cup 10 times as a player and seven more times as a Canadiens executive.

Here’s NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s statement on Beliveau’s passing.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF JEAN BÉLIVEAU

NEW YORK (Dec. 3, 2014) – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman today released the following statement regarding the passing of the legendary Jean Béliveau:

“No record book can capture, no image can depict, no statue can convey the grandeur of the remarkable Jean Béliveau, whose elegance and skill on the ice earned the admiration of the hockey world while his humility and humanity away from the rink earned the love of fans everywhere.

“Mr. Béliveau was a formidable presence and his departure leaves an immeasurable void. As we grieve that he has left us, we cherish what he gave us: A sport elevated forever by his character, his dignity and his class.

“For all the accomplishments he achieved and all the accolades he received, Jean Béliveau was always the epitome of the boy whose only dream was to play for the Montreal Canadiens. Hockey is better because that dream was realized. The National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to Mr. Béliveau’s wife, Élise, and Mr. Béliveau’s family, to his countless friends around the hockey world, and to his beloved Canadiens, who he always represented with such distinction and grace.”

1954-55 red wings: Jim Hay

Jim Hay

THE JIM HAY FILE:

Born: May 15, 1931

Position: Defense

NHL games played: 75 (all with Red Wings)

1954-55 stats: 21 GP; G: 0; A: 1; 20 PIM

CAREER: GP: 75; G: 1; A: 5; PIM: 22

Jim Hay played junior hockey across the Detroit River for the Windsor Spitfires, back when the league was called the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).

Even though his NHL career spanned just 75 games, Hay was around long enough to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 1955 with the Red Wings.

It was in the minor leagues where the defenseman made his, ahem, hay.

Jim Hay played 1,289 games in the minor leagues, and didn’t stop playing professional hockey until he was 40 years old. His last game played was for the Eastern Hockey League’s Jersey Devils, who he coached for one season after retiring (1972-73). Hay was a member of the 1964-65 Portland Buckaroos, who won the Western Hockey League Championship.

NEXT WEEK: Defenseman Larry Hillman, who was half of one of the many brother combos to play in the NHL, and who played for 15 teams in his 22-year pro career.

Pat Quinn passes away

Pat Quinn was one of the toughest SOBs to ever play in the NHL. His crushing hit on Bobby Orr is legendary. Here’s another piece on Quinn.

Pat Quinn passes away after lengthy battle with illness

Former Vancouver Canucks' president and general manager Pat Quinn acknowledges the crowd after being inducted into the team's Ring of Honour before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday April 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Former Vancouver Canucks’ president and general manager Pat Quinn acknowledges the crowd after being inducted into the team’s Ring of Honour before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday April 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Former Vancouver Canucks coach and co-owner of the Vancouver Giants, Pat Quinn, has passed away.

In an announcement on their Facebook page, the Vancouver Giants said Quinn passed away Sunday night at Vancouver General Hospital after a lengthy illness.

“Words cannot express the pain we all feel today for the Quinn family,” said Giants majority owner Ron Toigo in the post. “Pat was an inspiration to all of us. He always said that respect was something that should be earned, not given, and the respect that he garnered throughout the hockey world speaks for itself. He will be sorely missed.”

Those wishing to send messages of condolence are asked to either email patquinn@vancouvergiants.com or send mail to the Giants’ offices at the address listed below.

Pat Quinn

Vancouver Giants

100 North Renfrew Street

Vancouver, BC

V5K 3N7

1954-55 Red Wings: Glenn Hall

Glenn Hall

THE GLENN HALL FILE:

Born: October 3, 1931

Position: Goalie

NHL games played: 906 (148 with Red Wings)

1954-55 stats: 2 GP; 120 MIN; 2 GA; 1.00 GAA

CAREER: GAA: 2.49; SHO: 84; W-L-T: 407-326-163

Glenn Hall began his career as if he was going to be nothing more than the answer to a trivia question. He ended it by becoming a Hall of Famer.

Goalie Hall was a 23-year-old promising netminder for the Red Wings in the summer of 1955, but that was enough to make the team confident enough to trade fellow future Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins.

So when Hall began the 1955-56 season, he was mostly known as “the goalie that caused the Red Wings to trade Terry Sawchuk.”

Hall responded by playing all 4200 minutes of the 1955-56 season, leading the NHL in shutouts (12). That performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors (Calder Trophy).

In fact, Glenn Hall stepped between the pipes in October 1955 and didn’t leave until some seven years later. He played in 502 consecutive games, all without a mask. That durability earned him the nickname “Mr. Goalie.”

Hall was widely credited with having developed the “butterfly” style of goaltending that became so popular. He is absolutely considered one of the best goalies in league history.

Hall was abruptly traded by the Red Wings in the summer of 1957. GM Jack Adams was eager to get rid of Ted Lindsay for his union views, so Adams included Hall in a package that sent both players to Chicago. Among the players the Red Wings received in return were Johnny Wilson (himself an Iron Man) and Forbes Kennedy.

Hall was famously known to throw up before every game due to nerves.

Hall’s career extended all the way to 1971 with the St. Louis Blues. He won a Stanley Cup in 1961 with the Black Hawks.

“Our first priority was staying alive,” Hall once said of the goalie fraternity. “Our second was stopping the puck.”

NEXT WEEK: Defenseman Jim Hay.