THE TONY LESWICK FILE:
Born: March 17, 1923; Died: July 1, 2001
Position: Right wing
NHL games played: 740 (302 with Red Wings)
1954-55 stats: 70 GP; G: 10; A: 17; 137 PIM
CAREER: GP: 740; G: 165; A: 159; PIM: 900
Tony Leswick played on some pretty bad New York Rangers teams before being traded to Detroit in 1951, but the losing on Broadway was hardly Tony’s fault.
Leswick, a right winger with slick-backed, black-as-night hair, popped in 113 goals in six seasons with the Rangers, but only twice did the Broadway Blues make the playoffs in those old Original Six days.
But Leswick was never a stranger to scoring goals prior to his NHL debut in 1945.
Whether it was in juniors or in the minor leagues, Leswick was a point producer and he gained a reputation for getting under opponents’ skin. Think Kenny “The Rat” Linseman or Theo Fleury.
Finally, Leswick tasted winning hockey when the Red Wings acquired him in the summer of 1951 for Gaye Stewart. In fact, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in Leswick’s first year in Detroit. He would win two more Cups as a Red Wing.
There was great irony in Leswick’s career in the Motor City. His goal scoring dropped dramatically (partly because in Detroit, he didn’t have to be the no. 1 guy), yet Leswick notched one of the most famous goals in franchise history.
It came in Game 7 of the 1954 Stanley Cup Finals against Montreal, in overtime. And it was hardly a Leswick special.
May as well let Leswick himself describe it, as told to Chuck O’Donnell.
“It was early in overtime, I don’t know, maybe four or five minutes in. We were trying to change our forwards. I had the puck around center ice or so and I just wanted to do the smart thing and throw it in. If I get caught with the puck and the Canadiens steal it, we may get caught and they may get an odd-man break. Just like that, the game could be over. So, I’m just thinking of lifting the puck down deep in their end, just making the safe play. So I flipped it in nice and high and turned to get off the ice. The next thing I know, everyone’s celebrating. It had gone in. I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. It went in? Get out of here!””
Yes, it went in. Habs defenseman Doug Harvey went back to glove the puck, but instead deflected it past goaltender Gerry McNeil and into the net for the game-winning goal!
Leswick played on one more Cup-winning team in Detroit in 1955 before he was traded to Chicago in the off-season in a blockbuster deal involving eight players.
Leswick was traded back to Detroit in August 1956, but played only 22 games in 1957-58. Before and after that return to Detroit, Leswick spent three mostly productive seasons playing for Edmonton in the (then) rival Western Hockey League before retiring at age 36 after a nine-game cameo with Vancouver of the WHL.
He tried coaching but it was a disaster. In 1963-64, Leswick guided the Red Wings’ Central League affiliate, Cincinnati, to a 12-53-7 record before getting out of hockey. Perhaps the tone was set nine games into the season, when the team’s arena in Indianapolis exploded during an ice show, forcing the franchise to move to Cincinnati.
More Leswick trivia: one of his nephews is former big league baseball player Lenny Dykstra. Maybe the family genes were passed down; Dykstra also had a reputation for irritating opponents (and teammates).
NEXT WEEK: “Terrible” Ted Lindsay. Need I say more?