Leaf of the Day - Apr 7, 2009 - Terry Sawchuk

Apr 7, 2009 - 1978-79 - Terry Sawchuk


Terry Sawchuk plays such a big role in Leaf lore that it's really forgotten just how short his time here was.  He only played 91 games over three seasons and was just .500 in the playoffs, but he was instrumental in that last win in 1967.  He beat Bobby Hull and the Black Hawks in the first round and was huge in the second round as well once Bower went down to injury.  His last moment as a Leaf was a victorious one and he left as a champion.

His arrival in Toronto was kind of unusual.  Toronto had just won the 1964 Cup (beating Sawchuk and the Wings) and Johnny Bower was not about to retire.  Teams generally went with a single goaltender at that time.  Eddie Johnston played all 70 games as recently as 1964 and typically a starter would play 65 of 70.

Toronto, with Bower advancing in age and becoming more prone to injuries, had been getting about 20 games per year out of Don Simmons.  They saw an opportunity to upgrade this by picking up Sawchuk in the intra-league draft.  Rather than seeing Terry as a threat, Bower welcomed the addition, saying he couldn't play a full season anymore and he welcomed the help.  In 1964-65, Toronto led the league in GAA and Bower announced he wouldn't accept the Vezina unless Sawchuk's name was on it as well.

The Leafs had to make a call in the summer of 1965.  They could only protect two goalies in the intra-league draft and they had to choose between Sawchuk and a kid in Rochester named Gerry Cheevers.  The Leafs went with Sawchuk and Boston nabbed Cheevers.  Gerry wasn't ready for prime time for a couple of years yet, but this left the Leafs with only the two old war horses in goal (this would really matter by 1968).  Punch felt the old guys had one last hurrah in them.

That success had to wait until 1967, though.  That year, the Leafs actually used five goalies, getting 28 games from Sawchuk, 27 from Bower, 23 from Bruce Gamble, 2 from Gary Smith and a single from Al Smith.  Terry had the best record, at 15-5-4 with a .920 save pctg, but the nod went to Bower to start the playoffs.  When he was lit up, Terry came in and stoned the Hawks.  Against Montreal, Terry got off to the rough start, Bower came in and stoned the Habs and it looked like Bower's series until he popped a groin.  Terry came back in to finish the job.

The other accomplishment Sawchuk had in the '66-67 season came when he registered his 100th career shutout.  This had been his 'Centennial Project' and he managed to get it done late in the year.

When Sawchuk retired, 447 wins and particularly 103 shutouts looked pretty much untouchable.  Particularly through the 1980s, when shutouts were really hard to come by and good goaltenders might retire with 20 over a career, the thought that this record would fall was ludicrous - yet here we are.

Brodeur can't break the record tonight.  Odds are it will take until next season.  But it will fall.  It's only a matter of time.  Now, aside from the records that Brodeur sets himself, the only untouchable one is 502 consecutive games.  That should last a while yet.

Sawchuk is another of the players that it's interesting to watch on LeafsTV.  I'd always heard it said that he looked like a gorilla in net.  The pictures don't do it justice.  You need to see game footage.

Some film:

Terry's stats:

1945-46 Winnipeg Monarchs MJHL 10 0 5.80 2 0 2 0 0 6.00
1946-47 Galt Red Wings OHA-Jr. 30 4 3.13 2 0 2 0 0 4.32
1947-48 Windsor Spitfires OHA-Jr. 4 0 2.75
1947-48 Windsor Spitfires IHL 3 3 0 0 0 1.67
1947-48 Omaha Knights USHL 54 30 18 5 4 3.21 3 1 2 0 0 3.00
1948-49 Indianapolis Capitols AHL 67 38 17 2 2 3.06 2 0 2 0 0 4.50
1949-50 Indianapolis Capitols AHL 61 31 20 10 3 3.08 8 8 0 0 0 1.50
1949-50 Detroit Red Wings NHL 7 4 3 0 1 2.29
1950-51 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 44 13 13 11 1.99 6 2 4 1 1.68
1951-52 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 44 14 12 12 1.90 8 8 0 4 0.63
1952-53 Detroit Red Wings NHL 63 32 15 16 9 1.90 6 2 4 1 3.39
1953-54 Detroit Red Wings NHL 67 35 19 13 12 1.93 12 8 4 2 1.60
1954-55 Detroit Red Wings NHL 68 40 17 11 12 1.96 11 8 3 1 2.36
1955-56 Boston Bruins NHL 68 22 33 13 9 2.60
1956-57 Boston Bruins NHL 34 18 10 6 2 2.38
1957-58 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 29 29 12 3 2.94 4 0 4 0 4.52
1958-59 Detroit Red Wings NHL 67 23 36 8 5 3.09
1959-60 Detroit Red Wings NHL 58 24 20 14 5 2.67 6 2 4 0 2.96
1960-61 Detroit Red Wings NHL 37 12 16 8 2 3.13 8 5 3 1 2.32
1961-62 Detroit Red Wings NHL 43 14 21 8 5 3.28
1962-63 Detroit Red Wings NHL 48 22 16 7 3 2.55 11 5 6 0 3.18
1963-64 Detroit Red Wings NHL 53 25 20 7 5 2.64 13 6 5 1 2.75
1964-65 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 36 17 13 6 1 2.56 1 0 1   0 3.00
1965-66 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 27 10 11 3 1 3.16 2 0 2   0 3.00
1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 28 15 5 4 2 2.81 10 6 4   0 2.65
1967-68 Los Angeles Kings NHL 36 11 14 6 2 3.07 5 2 3 1 3.86
1968-69 Detroit Red Wings NHL 13 3 4 3 0 2.62
1969-70 New York Rangers NHL 8 3 1 2 1 2.91 3 0 1 0 4.50
Leaf Totals   91 42 29 13 4 2.81 26 12 12   1 2.74
NHL Totals 971 447 330 172 103 2.51 106 54 48 12 2.54

Calder Memorial Trophy (1951)
First All-Star Team Goalie (1951, 1952, 1953)
Lester Patrick Trophy (1971)
Second All-Star Team Goalie (1954, 1955, 1959, 1963)
Vezina Trophy (1952, 1953, 1955, 1965)

- Traded to Boston by Detroit with Marcel Bonin, Lorne Davis and Vic Stasiuk for Gilles Boisvert, Real Chevrefils, Norm Corcoran, Warren Godfrey and Ed Sandford, June 3, 1955.
- Missed remainder of 1956-57 season recovering from nervous exhaustion, January 16, 1957.
- Traded to Detroit by Boston for John Bucyk and cash, July 10, 1957.
- Claimed by Toronto from Detroit in Intra-League Draft, June 10, 1964.
- Claimed by Los Angeles from Toronto in Expansion Draft, June 6, 1967.

- Traded to Detroit by Los Angeles for Jimmy Peters, October 10, 1968.
- Traded to NY Rangers by Detroit with Sandy Snow for Larry Jeffrey, June 17, 1969.

the HHOF take on Terry:

Called "the Uke" or "Ukey" because of his Ukrainian heritage, Terry Sawchuk played more games and recorded more shutouts than any goalie in the history of the NHL. When he was 12, Sawchuk hurt his arm badly playing a friendly game of rugby. He kept the injury to himself and two years later doctors discovered the arm had been badly broken and subsequently healed poorly; it was two inches shorter than his left arm, but even this did not dampen his dream to become a pro hockey player.

Although he was originally Boston property, he was traded to Detroit before he played in the NHL. His big break came toward the end of the 1949-50 season when Red Wings incumbent Harry Lumley was injured and Sawchuk had to play seven games toward the end of the season. He allowed just 16 goals in those games and along the way earned his first shutout.

Detroit general manager Jack Adams showed enormous confidence in Sawchuk based on those seven games he'd played. The Wings won the Cup that spring of 1950 with Lumley back in goal, but over the summer Adams was so sure of Sawchuk that he traded Lumley to Chicago. The next season, 1950-51, Sawchuk played every game for the Red Wings and led the league in wins and shutouts, winning the Calder Trophy in the process. Sawchuk's first years as a pro were remarkable in that he was the first player ever to be named rookie of the year in three different leagues: with Omaha in the USHL, with Indianapolis in the American Hockey League and in his first full year with Detroit in the NHL.

Indeed Sawchuk wasn't a relaxed goalie. The pressure of playing in the NHL got to him and affected his health and he was battling some sort of injury for most of his career. He had bone chips removed from his elbow after the 1952 Stanley Cup, he suffered chest injuries from a car accident and his back was perpetually in knots because of his style of play. And he won more games than any other goalie in the history of the game.

During his 1956-57 season with Boston, Sawchuk retired from the game at the age of 27, citing extreme emotional strain. But by the next season he was back with Detroit, although circumstances had changed greatly. Montreal was now the dominant team and the Wings were only decent. Bobby Hull and his slapshot were all the rage in Chicago, and Ukey felt the full wrath of the changing times when Hull hit him flush in the face one night in 1963. Sawchuk started to wear a mask, but then Bob Pulford of Toronto skated over his hand and Sawchuk needed surgery to sew up the deep, long wound.

In the summer of 1964, Detroit left the aging goalie exposed in the Intra-League Draft and Punch Imlach of the Leafs claimed him. For three years, Sawchuk paired with Johnny Bower to form the most successful duo in the league. Sawchuk was 37 years old and Bower was 42 when they won a historic Stanley Cup in 1967. After three final seasons with successive teams - Los Angeles, Detroit and New York - tragedy befell Sawchuk at a bar near his beach home in New York.

On April 29, 1970, he was having a few drinks with his close friend and teammate Ron Stewart. All the details will never be known, but they began to horse around and after some playful wrestling Sawchuk wound up landing awkwardly on Stewart's knee. He had to be rushed to hospital, where his gall bladder was removed, and just a month later he died from internal injuries, some of which, like the broken arm, he'd probably had for some time without even knowing or bothering to have checked out.

The usual five-year waiting period was waived for Sawchuk's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Dead at 41 years of age, he finished with an incredible 447 wins and 103 shutouts in 971 games played.


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