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Eddie Litzenberger: the good luck charm

Many fine players go through their entire career without being on a Stanley Cup winner. That should not diminish their legacy, but there is no question that being on a “winner” only helps a player’s lasting reputation.

I remember Bill Gadsby, a solid defenseman in my youth with the Red Wings (he played earlier in his career with New York and Chicago), missed out on a Cup, despite 20 great NHL seasons. He came close with the Wings three times in the 1960s, but his club lost in the finals each time.

Yet the Cup seems to follow other players around. In modern times, one of the all-time great ‘agitators’, Claude Lemieux, was in that category. While there can be a degree of good fortune in terms of being in the right place at the right time, Lemieux certainly was a factor in his teams winning Cups in Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado.

Back in the late 1950s and early 60s, one player, Eddie Litzenberger, contributed to a five Cup victories—with three different teams.

Litzenberger played his first NHL game with Montreal in the 1952-’53 season. Montreal won the Cup that season, and though Litzenberger didn’t play in the playoffs, he did contribute a goal in two regular season games with the Habs.

He was traded to Chicago during the 1954-’55 season, when the Hawks weren’t a very strong team. He became a leader on the team, which turned the corner in the late 50s with youngsters Pierre Pilotte, Bobby Hull, Glen Hall and Stan Mikita, among others. Litzenberger captained the Hawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup, upsetting Montreal in 6 games in the first round, and then defeating Detroit, also in 6 games, in the final.

Litzenberger started the next season with the Wings, but was traded to Toronto mid-way through the season. What happened? The Leafs won the Cup, with Litzenberger earning a couple of assists in the playoffs.

He was a significant contributor for the Leafs when they had an outstanding 1962-’63 season, as they finished first in the regular season and needed only 10 games to earn another Cup. Eddie scored a goal and added 2 assists that spring. (We’ve included a game-action photo of Litzenberger in his time with the Leafs.  Eddie is on the far right.)

By the following season, Litzenberger was not playing regularly, and spent more time in the minors than with the Leafs, but he did play a game in the ’64 playoffs, as the Leafs won their third Cup in succession- four in a row for Litzenberger.

Litzenberger completed his career in the Leafs minor-league system, retiring after the 1965-’66 season. Remarkably, he helped Rochester win the American Hockey League championship in 1965 and 1966, meaning he was part of championship teams from 1961 through 1966.

And, when you look back, he was actually part of five teams that won the Stanley Cup- outstanding by any standard.

A good player. And definitely a winner.

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