THE MARTY PAVELICH FILE:
Born: November 6, 1927
Position: Left wing
NHL games played: 634 (all with Red Wings)
1954-55 stats: 70 GP; G: 15; A: 15; 59 PIM
CAREER: GP: 634; G: 93; A: 159; PIM: 454
It might be a little harsh to say that Marty Pavelich was “scared” into retirement at age 29, but it’s also pretty accurate.
Pavelich was a tremendous defensive forward for the Red Wings, the only NHL team he ever played for (1947-57). His defensive prowess was such that no less than longtime hockey writer Stan Fischler once named Pavelich as the fourth best defensive forward of all time in Fischler’s book, Hockey’s 100: A Personal Ranking of the Best Players in Hockey History.
Pavelich was 20 when he broke onto the NHL scene with the Red Wings after playing four seasons in the Ontario Hockey Association. His game was predicated on checking, with scoring being secondary. His career high in goals was 17, but Pavelich’s job was to “shadow” the opponent’s top scorers.
Pavelich’s reward for his hard work on the defensive end was four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.
Pavelich’s value to the Red Wings was such that GM Jack Adams once referred to Pavelich as “one of the four key men around whom we build our hockey club.”
Probably Pavelich’s best known opponent to shadow was Rocket Richard, who Pavelich held in high regard.
“Well, Richard, that was my job to check him for 10 years and to me, he was the greatest goal scorer of all time,” Pavelich once said. “Even anybody playing today. Richard would have scored … he had a knack of getting the puck to the net. He was a very determined hockey player. Very, very fierce competitor.”
But at age 29, Pavelich hung up his skates.
He and teammate Ted Lindsay had entered into business together, in the plastics manufacturing field. And when Lindsay was traded in the summer of 1957 to Chicago (as punishment for his efforts to start a players union), Pavelich feared repercussions from Red Wings GM Adams once Adams realized that Pavelich planned to run the business while Ted played in Chicago.
So rather than risk a banishment to the minors or a trade, Pavelich retired after the 1956-57 season.
No doubt there were a lot of NHL goal scorers who raised a glass at that decision!
Marty’s younger brother Matt was an NHL linesman from 1956-79. They became the first brothers to form a player/official combo in league history.
Pavelich is long retired now and is living in Big Sky, Montana.
NEXT WEEK: Don Poile, who played just four games in 1954-55.