THE ALEX DELVECCHIO FILE:
Born: December 4, 1931
NHL games played: 1,549 (all with Red Wings)
1954-55 stats: 69 GP; 17 G; 31 A; 37 PM
CAREER: Goals: 456; Assists: 821; PM: 383
They called him “Fats” because of the baby fat face he sported from the moment he made his NHL debut in 1951 as a 19-year-old out of Fort William, Ontario.
Alex Delvecchio wore no. 17 for his single game in 1951, then switched to no. 15 for a time before eventually donning the no. 10 that would find its way in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
Delvecchio combined with LW Ted Lindsay and RW Gordie Howe to form the second incarnation of the Production Line, as Fats replaced Sid Abel in the middle.
There was nothing flashy about Delvecchio. He just did his job—threading passes to Howe and Lindsay, winning face-offs and staying out of the penalty box. Delvecchio amassed just 383 penalty minutes in 23-plus seasons.
Delvecchio was smooth. He didn’t blow you away with gaudy numbers but he was as consistent as the sunrise.
No. 10 was good for 20+ goals, 35+ assists, every year. Even at age 41 in the 1972-73 season, Delvecchio popped in 18 goals and had 53 assists—the second highest assist total in his career.
Early in the 1973-74 season, Delvecchio was asked to take over as Red Wings coach after Ted Garvin got off to a 2-8-1 start. But Delvecchio had to retire first, as the NHL didn’t allow player-coaches at that time.
The day of his first game as coach, the team failed to file the retirement paperwork in time and so Delvecchio wasn’t allowed to coach—or play. Garvin had already been fired but he agreed to coach one more game. But Garvin walked out of Olympia Stadium halfway through the third period and injured winger Tim Ecclestone coached the rest of the game!
Delvecchio was his usual self in the 1954-55 Cup-winning season, scoring 17 goals and adding 31 assists as a 23-year-old centering Howe and Lindsay. In the playoffs, Fats turned up the heat, tallying seven goals and eight assists in 11 games.
Delvecchio was a 13-time All-Star and a three-time Cup winner, though 1955 was his last, as it was for the franchise until 1997.
Fats coached the Red Wings for parts of four seasons and served as GM from 1974-77. They were dark years for the franchise, but even in his management role Delvecchio maintained the quiet dignity that earmarked his playing career.
NEXT WEEK: Bill Dineen, who was another player-turned-coach in the NHL.