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Former Leaf farmhand Bob Perreault: opening night shutout in 1962-’63 against the Habs still stands out
Monday, October 25, 2010
One of the things I seem to enjoy is writing about some of the individuals and characters who have played goal for the Maple Leafs in my lifetime, which dates back to the early 1950s.
Not surprisingly, I’ve posted a few times about Johnny Bower, who is certainly a legendary Leaf and helped win those four now long-ago Stanley Cups.
But there have been many others that stood out for me, personally, though they are not as famous as Bower.The list includes Eddie Chadwick and Don Simmons, Terry Sawchuk and Bruce Gamble, Jacques Plante and Al Smith, among others. (Check out the menu on the right if you are interested in reading about any of those former Leaf goaltenders.)
Who knows why we remember certain moments and players from our childhood or why we recall particular things about sporting events from many years ago?
For some reason, today I was thinking about a guy who never actually played a game for the Maple Leafs, but who was in their minor league system for a time back in the 1960s.Maybe it’s the time of year, the fall air and the beginning of the hockey season, but I remember a game from probably mid-October of 1962, which would have made me (just turned) 9 years old at the time.A big hockey fan, and an even bigger Leaf fan, I already had developed a significant dislike for the Montreal Canadiens.I came by that honestly, as I’ve often written, given the passionate support that team received from my Dad and two older brothers. (I chose to be different.)
So it was with some relish that I checked the morning (Detroit Free Press, it would have been) paper that fall day, and was stunned to see that the Canadiens lost their first game of the season by a score of 5-0.Later that day, after I got home from school, the afternoon (Windsor Star) paper was also there, and there was a picture of a goalie I had never heard of before—Bobby Perreault. (Above, you can see a great old Harold Barkley photo of Perreault and Toronto's Dave Keon during a game at the Gardens. In any event, Perreault was an instant hero to me, because he shut out the Canadiens. Perhaps ironically, I believe Montreal also lost the last game of the 1962-’63 season, in the semi-finals against the Leafs, Game 5, by a score of 5-0, but that’s something we can discuss another day.)
I cut out the newspaper picture of Perreault from that Montreal game and put it in my scrap book, because was the guy that shut out the hated (to me) Canadiens.
I kept that scrap book for years, and I wish I could find it now with that exact picture from that opening night action.But I do remember the game, and I have managed to hold on to another picture from that game (see below right, Perreault in action against Jean Beliveau).
For what it’s worth, Boston went on to have another poor season.They were in the midst of a run where, between 1960 and 1967, they never made the playoffs.I remember that they tried many different people in goal during that time- Don Simmons (later a hero in the ’62 playoffs with Toronto) and ex-Leaf Eddie Chadwick.I also remember Don Head played for a time, future Maple Leaf Bruce Gamble was there, too. Ultimately Eddie Johnston took over and ex-Leaf farmhand Gerry Cheevers joined the Bruins as well, eventually backstopping those Boston Stanley Cup teams in 1970 and 1972.
Perreault had the opportunity to earn the top job that 1962-’63 season.But after that opening night shutout, his season didn’t track so well, and he ultimately ended up playing less and less.In the meantime, though, the Star Weekly magazine ran an article about him and his early season success that year in Boston, and as a kid I loved the story of this not-exactly-in-athletic shape goalie getting his first extended shot at playing in the “big-leagues”— at the age of 32.
What I didn’t know, until I thought of him and started writing this piece, is that he had played briefly in the NHL before he ever got to the Bruins.In fact, the Montreal game wasn’t even his first NHL shutout.
Checking out his history, he played a few games for the Canadiens as a back-up to Jacques Plante, registering a shutout in his first NHL game in the 1950s.He played less than a handful of games a few seasons later in Detroit, earning another shutout.The shutout he garnered for Boston against Montreal was the third—and last— of his NHL career.
That said, Perreault had a long and successful minor league career, primarily in the American Hockey League.In fact, he was apparently drafted by the Maple Leafs in the mid-‘60s in the old “intra-league” draft.But the Leafs had Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk at the time, and later Bruce Gamble and Al and Gary Smith, so there was evidently no room on the big club for Perreault.
I had no idea, but he also played a game in the World Hockey Association for Los Angeles (Sharks) in 1972-’73 at the age of 42.Amazingly, this guy played about 1,000 pro games as a goalie, a grand total of only 31 in the NHL.And in those few NHL games, he managed 3 shutouts, yet couldn’t get a full-time gig in the old six-team NHL, or even when the league expanded to twelve teams.
And he’s just a name that popped out to me recently, and it triggered my memory of that opening-night shut out against Montreal.
Vintage Leaf Memories has evolved since its launch in September of 2009. VLM began as a site almost exclusively about my memories as a Maple Leaf fan growing up in Ontario in the 1950s and into the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was born in 1953, and it was a golden era to grow up a Leaf fan, given their tremendous success under Punch Imlach in the 1960s.
I hope that the site will continue to grow! Thanks to everyone for their feedback.