Custom Search

Terry Sawchuk’s 100th shutout in 1967

Hockey fans all know that Martin Brodeur has now broken Hall-of-Famer Terry Sawchuk’s longstanding NHL record of 103 regular-season shutouts. What Brodeur has done in this day and age of 32 teams and constant air travel is amazing, though what Sawchuk accomplished against the best players available in the world in his era was no less significant.

I certainly won’t try to compare the two men or give an opinion as to who was/is “better”; many other sites and posts have done just that quite capably.

What I’m remembering about Sawchuk right now is the night he earned his 100th career regular-season shutout against the powerful Chicago Black Hawks at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in March of 1967.

The game is shown fairly regularly on Leafs TV. If you haven’t seen it, you might enjoy it. The game itself was a rather ordinary affair in terms of excitement. The Leafs were trying to push their way up in the standings, the Hawks looking to solidify their hold on first place heading into the playoffs—which were just around the corner.

The Leafs won that night, and Sawhuck earned the milestone shutout against Hull, Mikita and a great Black Hawk team that did go on to finish first that season.

But the thing that stands out was the interview Sawchuk did with Ward Cornell (the Ron Maclean of his day) right after the game.

What’s interesting is that Sawchuk had a reputation as a cantankerous, edgy guy. But on this night, right after he posted a ‘number’ many thought would never be surpassed, he was so sincere, so grateful in speaking with Cornell. He was, at the time, a man of 37, a grizzled veteran, but so clearly appreciative of the moment. He thanked a number of teammates by name, and beneath his calm, soft-spoken manner you could feel his excitement.

I found it quite touching.

Sawchuk only netted three more regular-season shutouts in his career, though I believe he earned another one in the playoffs with the LA Kings the next season. He finished with 103 regular-season goose-eggs, and 12 more (including a stunning four shutouts in the 1951-’52 playoffs alone) in his playoff career. He finished his NHL career with 5 Stanley Cups.

Sadly, Sawchuk died just a few years later, apparently after suffering injuries in an off-ice incident involving a teammate.

Sawchuk played in an era with fewer teams and far fewer players. It was a slower game, with only a relatively small number of guys who had the kind of shooting power we see from almost everyone nowadays. But for his time, he was something special. He played injured. He played against the best players of his era. And when the Leafs needed him against the best team in the world in the spring of 1967, the Montreal Canadiens—despite two rough games earlier in the series—Sawchuk was outstanding in Games five and six.

If not for Sawchuk (and Johnny Bower, too, earlier in the series), Leaf fans would be saying “45 years and counting…”, instead of 42.

Brodeur deserves the accolades he is receiving now. He has authored a wonderful career. While Sawchuk’s name has been pushed down in the record-books, anyone who ever saw him play—and I was one of them—knows he was one of the finest goalies of all-time.

No comments:

Post a Comment