Monday

Gerry Foley

Gerry Foley was born in Ware, Massachussetts, making him one of the rare American born hockey players back in the 1950s NHL. But he actually grew up in Garson, Ontario and fell in love with the great Canadian game.

Foley was a solid right winger said to thrive in physical games. Originally Toronto's prospect, he played just 4 games for the Leafs before joining the New York Rangers via a now long defunct intra-league draft.

It was a good pick up for the Rangers, who employed Foley for both the 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons. He didn't score often - 9 times in 137 games - but he was known as a hard worker and serviceable forward.

That didn't keep him in the NHL though. For the entire 1960s he toiled in the minor leagues, most notably with the Springfield Indians. But when the NHL expanded in 1967-68, the Los Angeles Kings purchased the entire Springfield team and turned them into a minor league affiliate. Foley continued to toil in the minors, but was called up for one more NHL game - a full 10 years after his last appearance with the Rangers!

In 142 total NHL games Gerry Foley scored 9 goals and 14 assists for 23 points.

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Saturday

Larry "Pope" Popein

Larry "Pope" Popein was a speedy defensive centre and penalty killer. He played in the NHL with the New York Rangers, but he spent most of his career playing with two non-NHL teams nicknamed Canucks.

Popein started out as an offensive dynamo with the Moose Jaw Canucks. He turned pro in 1951 with the WHL version of the Vancouver Canucks.

After three years in Vancouver Popein got the call up to the New York Rangers. Imagine that - the kid from small Yorkton, Saskatchewan on his way to the Big Apple. But it really is a small world. In Popein's first NHL game, against the Detroit Red Wings, he faced off against townsman Metro Prystai.

"That was the very first NHL game I ever saw. And I was playing in it," Popein remembered.

He would go on to play in 449 NHL games. He was a small center who brought his proverbial work boots and lunch bucket to every game. He often centered the Rangers big line with Andy Bathgate and Dean Prentice on the wings.

But by the 1960s he was back in Vancouver, starring with the WHL Canucks. He would stay in Vancouver until the NHL expanded in 1967-68 when he got another shot in the big leagues, this time with the Oakland Seals.

Popein hung up the blades by 1970, the same year the Vancouver Canucks became a NHL franchise. Popein, who called Vancouver home, began a coaching career which include a stint coaching the Rangers in New York.

Popein's coaching highlight, however, may have come in 1970. He coached the Omaha Knights to a CHL championship. On that team was future NHL star Syl Apps, Jr., the son of Hockey Hall of Famer and Popein's idol as a youth Syl Apps Sr.

Popein returned to Vancouver and worked in various capacities with the Canucks from 1974 to 1986. He later worked with Calgary primarily as a scout.

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Wally Hergesheimer

Winnipeg born Wally Hergesheimer was the toast of New York in the early 1950s. Never more so than in 1952-53 when he finished 4th in league scoring behind three guys named Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Rocket Richard.

That's pretty impressive company for the man they dubbed "The Garbage Collector." Playing on the "Light Brigade" line with Paul Ronty and Herb Dickenson, Wally always could be found crashing the net, banging away at loose pucks and rebounds.

It worked well, as Wally totalled 114 goals (and 199 points) in 351 career games, mostly with the Rangers. He briefly appeared with Chicago as well.

Not too bad of a career for a man who was missing parts of two fingers. Long before he was in the NHL, Wally lost parts of his right index and middle finger in a punch-press accident.

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Monday

Charlie Mason

Long before anyone had ever heard of Charles Manson, there was a pint sized winger named Charlie Mason speeding down the wings in the National Hockey League.

Given the close resemblance to the infamous serial killer itt is an unfortunate name to have. Fortunately Charlie Mason had a nickname he was often better known by - Dutch Mason.

Dutch, a native of Seaforth, Ontario who starred as an amateur in Saskatchewan, played with the New York Rangers for the better parts of two seasons - 1934/35 and 1935/36. Otherwise he bounced around the minor leagues with brief NHL appearances with Toronto and Chicago. In 93 total NHL games he scored 7 goals and 18 assists for 25 points.

Mason returned to Saskatoon after his hockey career came to end. He opened a hotel.


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Tuesday

Mike York

Mike York cherished his time on hockey's cloud nine.


The Waterford, Michigan native became a two-time Hobey Baker finalist as the top college hockey player in all of the United States in his four year tenure with Michigan State. 

The speedy all-American made an impressive jump to the National Hockey League upon his graduation in 1999. He flourished on the New York Rangers' lethal "FLY" line, quickly becoming a fan favorite while playing with veterans Theo Fleury and Eric Lindros. He scored 26 goals and 50 points in his rookie season, impressing many with his darting speed and surprising toughness that defied his small stature. He also garnered recognition for his reliable defensive play and hard work away from the puck.

"Growing up as a kid I always dreamed of playing in the NHL and then to finally make it here is very special. But at the same time, you have to work just as hard to stay here," York said.

And stay he did. In total he played 579 games (127 goals, 195 assists, 322 points), including three seasons with the Rangers and the next three with Edmonton where he was counted on for his offensive contribution. He also teamed with the Oilers Todd Marchant to become one of the league's top penalty killing duos. York was also part of Team USA's silver medal win at the 2002 Salt Lake games.

York later toiled with the New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Columbus. His skating and defensive conscience helped keep him in the league even when he was not scoring. He was a complete player who most coaches could always find a job for. York was a versatile player who happily put the team first and did whatever was asked of him.

During the lockout season of 2004-05 York travelled to Germany and played for the Iserlohn Roosters. He enjoyed his time there so much, he returned at the end of his NHL career. He extended his playing days by playing in Europe at the end of his career.

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Wednesday

Joe Cooper

Joe Cooper (12) celebrates with Bryan Hextall, Sr. (11).
Joe Cooper was a Winnipeg born defenseman who started and finished his NHL career with the New York Rangers. But the bulk of his career came in the years between in Chicago. He also played in Ottawa with the Commandos hockey team as part of his service in World War II.

Cooper (who actually overcame a scary fractured skull injury early in his career) was a solid, competent but unspectacular defender. But one night he was mistakenly given credit for near-Superman like strength.

In March 1947 the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens had some sort of a disagreement result in an all out brawl. Cooper squared off with big Murph Chamberlain. With one fantastic punch Cooper knocked Chamberlain into the timekeeper's booth. However newspaper reports mistakenly said that Cooper had knocked Chamberlain into the Madison Square Gardens press box, which was located some 50 feet above the timekeeper's spot.

Needless to say, fans reading this story the next morning must have been in great awe!

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Hank Damore

Comedians Abbott and Costello were the hottest act in Hollywood in the 1940s. So when the New York Rangers found Lou Costello lookalike Hank Damore in there own backyard, they were quick to sign him up and promote his resemblance if not his hockey ability.

Not that Damore lacked playing ability. He was starring with the New York Rovers of the Eastern Hockey League where he starred as an artistic and speed forward despite his short and pudgy stature. He was a fan favorite with the Rovers, so the Rangers were willing to give him a shot.

Damore only got a four game try-out in the big leagues. He scored a single goal. 

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Jack Stoddard

Stan Fischler has long been enamoured with New York hockey players, especially from eras long gone by.

Take Jack Stoddard for example. Here's what Fischler wrote about Stoddard in his famous book Fischler's Hockey Encyclopedia.

"If Jack Stoddard had been able to play as well as he looked he might have been in the NHL for a long time. The Rangers obtained the tall, handsome forward from Providence of the American League in 1951-52 amid considerable fan fare."

The Rangers did trade a considerable amount to get him - Pat Egan, Zellio Toppazzini and Jean Paul Denis. After all, Stoddard was a big part of championship success with the Providence Reds. But it never really worked out for Stoddard in Manhattan.

"It was a measure of Stoddard's ineffectiveness that his only claim to fame was his number - 13," continued Fischler. "In 1952-53 Jack played a full sixty game schedule, scoring 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points. It was his last experience in the big time."

Nicknamed "The Octopus" because of his long arms, Stoddard soon returned to amateur hockey in Ontario. In 1960 he helped the Chatham Maroons win the Allan Cup as Canada's national amateur champions.

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Tuesday

Herb Dickenson

Herb Dickenson was a promising left winger out of Hamilton with all seemingly all the talent in the world. In 1949-50 while playing with the Guelph Biltmores, Herb picked up 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 48 games before wowing everyone in the playoffs. In 24 post-season games, he scored 18 goals!

Dickenson followed that up with a second season in Guelph with 27 goals and 63 points in 49 games. Needless to say, the New York Rangers felt they had one of the top quality prospects coming their way. After beginning in the 1951-52 apprenticing the minor leagues, he was called up to the Rangers. In 37 games with the Rangers, he had 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points. At a time when 20 goals in a single NHL season was considered an accomplishment, 14 goals in half a season was very impressive. 

Dickenson began the 1952-53 season on the top line with Paul Ronty and Wally Hergesheimer. Herb was off to another fine start - in 11 games he had 4 goals and 4 assists - before tragedy struck. On November 5, 1952, his NHL career came to a sudden end. 


During the pre-game warm up at Maple Leaf Gardens, Dickenson was struck in the eye by a puck. The resulting injury was so bad that he would never play hockey again. 
Just like that, the career of one of hockey's most promising stars came to an end.

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Friday

Fred Shero

He is known as one of hockey's greatest coaches.

After nearly 15 as a successful minor league coach, Freddy "The Fog" Shero stood behind NHL benches for 10 years. His teams made the Stanley Cup Final four times, including three in a row. His Flyers won two of those Stanley Cups, in 1974 and 1975. He was revolutionary in that he was the first to hire assistant coaches, employ in-season off-ice training and among the first to adopt morning skates. Though his teams' trademarks were toughness and physicality, he was obsessed with study Soviet hockey and all their systems and tactics.

But did you know Fred Shero played in the National Hockey League, too?

Shero was a long time vagabond minor league player, like so many coaches seem to be. He broke up all that bus travel with 145 games with the New York Rangers in the last 2 1/2 seasons in the 1940s. The defenseman scored 6 goals and 20 points while picking up 137 PIMs in his short NHL career.

Shero disappeared from the NHL scene in 1950. He continued to play until 1958 when started coaching in the Saskatchewan junior leagues. His notoriety as coach slowly built, and by 1971 he was an over night sensation, back in the NHL coaching Bobby Clarke and Philadelphia's "Broad Street Bullies."


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Sunday

Doug Brennan

Doug Brennan played three seasons with the New York Rangers from 1931 through 1934. The Rangers acquired him from the Vancouver Lions of the PCHL. They had good connections with Vancouver back then, acquiring a few players from the opposite coach back then. Obviously it helped, as the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1933.

Brennan was good size, tough defenseman. In 123 games with the Blue Shirts he scored 9 goals, 7 assists and 16 points. He also earned 152 penalty minutes.

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Friday

Danny Lewicki

When Dashin' Danny Lewicki looked back at his nine year stint in the NHL he has this rather brutal assessment of himself:

"A hockey player who didn't reach his potential. I always felt I could have done better and should have done better."

An excellent skater who stickhandled and shot well, Lewicki played with Toronto, NY Rangers and Chicago.

"Possibly I was a little ahead of my time," he says. Could he play defensively? "Never!" he joked. "Oh, I did a bit, but at 170lbs I wasn't able to hurt anybody."

Lewicki scored 105 goals and 135 assists in 461 regular season games. He is one of the few players to win the Memorial Cup (Port Arthur Bruins, 1948), Allan Cup (Toronto Seniors, 1949) and Stanley Cup (Toronto Maple Leafs, 1950). In fact, he is the only player to win all three while still of junior age.

Despite his fantastic start with the Leafs he always had a frosty relationship with the Leafs. According to his autobiography From The Coal Docks To The NHL, Lewicki said his junior days decision to stay home and play in Stratford rather than immediately report to the Toronto Marlies angered Leafs Boss Conn Smythe and he was never forgiven.

But Lewicki's ability was too good to keep out of the Leafs lineup. A nasty injury - a badly torn groin as a result of stepping on a paper clip - of all things - on the ice, did, however. The Leafs rushed him back for the playoffs even though he knew he was not healthy. It would take a while to truly find his game back - the perfect opportunity for Smythe to bury Lewicki in the minors.

Lewicki finally escaped the Leafs grasp in 1954 and exploded with a 29 goal campaign with the New York Rangers. He would play three more seasons with the Rangers and one with Chicago.

After leaving the NHL in 1959 Lewicki rounded out his career with 4 years in the minors before calling it quits. He regretfully looks back and realized maybe he quit to soon as the NHL expanded just a couple of years after he retired.

Lewicki became a sales representative with CHUM radio for 13 years before joining Acklands as an automotive supplier.

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Rene "Trudy" Trudell

Rene “Trudy” Trudell came out of Mariapolis, Manitoba with a reputation as a fine skater and stickhandler. But his NHL career was grounded before it even started, thanks to World War II.

Trudell, who actually played a season in Harringay, England, enrolled with the Canadian military. Stationed in Winnipeg he continued to star at hockey with the RCAF Bombers. He served there for four years before finally getting a chance at the NHL.

Not a lot hockey playing World War II veterans cracked NHL lineups after their service was done. The NHL had found a new wave of younger talent, and welcomed back many of the old familiar names, making it tough for a player like Trudell to crack a line up. But crack a line up he did, playing with the New York Rangers for two and a half seasons.

Trudell, a cousin of Chicago Black Hawks forward Lou Trudel, died on March 19th, 1972. He had moved to San Francisco and opened a restaurant.

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Sunday

Jean Paul Lamirande

"Promising 23-year-old French Canadian Jean Paul Lamirande, who hails from Isle Maligne, Lake St. John, Quebec, has been added to the New York Rangers' line-up," exclaimed the New York Times on October 10th, 1946.

The Montreal Gazette lamented the loss of "Montreal's great amateur star" to the American city. The paper championed Lamirande's blocking and rushing ability.

Unfortunately "JP" never fulfilled his promise. He would go on to play high level professional and senior hockey until 1961, but only get into 49 NHL contests. In that time he scored 5 goals and 10 points.

While he started with the Rangers in 1946, an injury sidelined him and upon his recovery he was demoted to the minor leagues. He rarely returned.

His finest moment came on November 30, 1949 when Jean Lamirande, just called up, scored two goals as the Rangers beat Montreal, 5-2.

Late in his career he returned to amateur status and played with several senior teams in Quebec and Ontario. In 1958 he was a star defenseman with the Quebec Aces, but was a last minute addition that season to Whitby Dunlops. The Dunnies won the Allan Cup as Canada's amateur champions and were about to head overseas to participate in the World Hockey Championships, but not before adding the talented Lamirande. Lamirande starred in Oslo that spring, picking up six assists including setting up Bob Attersley's gold medal winning goal!

Lamirande so enjoyed his European vacation that he did it again the following year. Now a member of the Belleville McFarlands, this time he, too, tasted Allan Cup champagne before heading to Prague. Lamirande was named as the tournament's top defenseman while leading the Canadians to another world title.

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Monday

Brian Leetch

Though he was born in the least likeliest of hockey hotbeds, Brian Leetch went on to become perhaps the best National Hockey League defenseman of his era.

Brian was born in Corpus Christie, Texas, but he did not live there long. His father was a Navy pilot, flying C-130 transports to Vietnam. In 1973, when Brian was about 5 years old, the navy decommissioned Leetch's squadron, and the family moved to San Francisco where Jack flew Boeing 707s for Pan Am. Later he was hired by Shell Oil, who stationed him first in Oregon then Connecticut, back close to the Leetch family.

Despite all the travel to unlikely hockey places, Brian had already fell in love with the game of hockey. His father passed that on to him. You see, Jack Leetch was quite the hockey player in his day, too. He was a walk on at Boston College and became an All American by 1963. Playing on the American national team, he was one of the last cuts for Team USA's entry to the 1964 Olympics.

Brian was destined to follow in his father's glorious footsteps, and then some. He was a high school superstar, and NHL scouts flocked to Avon Old Farms prep school to see him. The New York Rangers were so impressed, they took a chance on the high school kid with the 9th overall draft pick in 1986. It turned out to be a chance well taken, as Leetch may be the best player out of that draft class.

The Rangers would have to wait to get Leetch in a Blueshirts jersey though. He had his mind and heart set on following his father to Boston College. He would play just one year there, joining future NHL star Craig Janney under the guidance of legendary coach Len Ceglarski. Leetch was named rookie and player of the year in Hockey East, and became the first freshman to be named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as US college's top hockey player.

Leetch dropped out of college the following year, but not to chase the big bucks of the NHL, but Olympic gold. He was named US team captain, and was the clear star of the team. Unfortunately a knee injury left him on crutches heading into the 1988 Calgary Olympics. He would still play in all 6 games, but the Americans would not medal.

Leetch would embark upon his NHL career immediately following the Olympics, finishing the 1987-88 NHL season with 2 goals and 14 points in 17 games, serving notice of what was to come. In his rookie season the year later, he wowed everyone around the league with a 23 goal, 71 point campaign.

One of the keys to Leetch's early NHL success was coach Michel Bergeron. Bergeron was a fiery coach who insisted on passion, and was not known for tactics and Xs and Os. Leetch was free to play his game, which is so rare for any player nowadays. He was allowed to show what he could do.

That was great for the beginning of Leetch's career, but he truly became the NHL's top defender upon the arrival of coach Mike Keenan and former Oiler Mark Messier. Leetch would develop special bonds with both, especially Messier. Those bonds would teach him how to become one of the NHL's all time great players.

In 1991-92, Leetch became only the 4th defenseman in league history to record 100 points in a season. His 80 assists were a team record. His dominance earned him his first Norris Trophy as the league's best rearguard.

However it was the 1993-94 season that ranks highest on Leetch's incredible list of accomplishments. After another impressive regular season of 79points, Leetch led the New York Rangers in the playoffs, scoring 11 goals and a league high 23 assists and 34 points on route to the first Stanley Cup championship on Broadway in 54 years. Leetch was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff's most valuable performer, the first non-Canadian born player to do so. The finals against Vancouver are considered to be one of hockey's greatest clashes, and Leetch stood tallest among many giants in that series.

The Rangers fortunes dramatically declined following the Cup win, but Leetch was constantly the brightest star on Broadway. He was named to 5 NHL all star teams, and won another Norris Trophy in 1997. He also returned to the Olympics in both 1998 and 2002, finally winning a silver medal in his last Olympiad.

The key to Leetch's game was always his mobility and vision. He was a terrific skater and stickhandler. Everyone marveled at how he could sidestep the league's best forecheckers and make a great breakout pass, often creating something out of nothing. He was a good rusher too, and manned a power play point as good as anyone. Defensively he overcame relatively small size with impeccable timing and positioning. He was never adverse to the physical game either. He truly was one of the all time great defensemen.

Leetch bled Rangers blue and he was greatly disheartened when the Rangers moved him at the trading deadline in 2004 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished the year there, and then sat out the lost lockout season of 2004-05. He was again heartbroken when the Rangers showed no interest in his return post-lockout. Prompting him to return for a final and uneventful season with the Boston Bruins.

In 1205 NHL games, Brian Leetch scored 247 goals, 781 assists for 1028 points. He also added 97 points in 95 post season contests. One day his jersey #2 will hang high in the rafters of Madison Square Gardens.

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Adam Graves

In an era when the NHL was being dominated by hockey's version of globalization, Adam Graves was very much the traditional Canadian hockey player.


"He's very physical, he will do anything to get his team geared up," said one NHL coach. "He plays the game every inch of that ice. He wants to command, and he commands a lot of respect out there. He's a total player. He's a spark. He's an inspiration. There's an MVP guy, let me tell you. He's just an outstanding player and an outstanding person."

"Adam was always the type of kid you wanted to make it," Colin Campbell, his former coach said. "He is conscientious, nice, hard-working, respectful. And usually those guys don't make it. Adam is the milk-drinker who goes through hell for you."

He played a rugged, aggressive game of hockey, with a mean streak that enhanced his talent and inspired his teammates. He parked his often bruised body in front of the net, especially when playing on the power play. Graves was a willing fighter, often known as Mark Messier's bodyguard, both in Edmonton and later New York. Kevin Lowe, teammate of both in both cities, called Graves "the sheriff" for his willingness to defend fellow Rangers.

Graves was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings out of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He finished the 1988 season with the Wings after leading the Spitfires to the OHL championship. He split the 1988-89 season with the Wings and their AHL affiliate. He was quickly traded in the beginning of the 1989-90 season in a huge trade. Graves, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy and Jeff Sharples were all moved to Edmonton in exchange for Michigan-born Jimmy Carson and long time Oiler tough guy Kevin McClelland.

Graves filled a similar role to McClelland while in Edmonton, but possessed much more promise which never really was tapped in the City of Champions. He played 2 seasons with the Oilers, scoring 15 goals in 139 games. He teamed with Martin Gelinas and Joe Murphy to form the Oilers version of the "Kid Line." The trio combined speed and youthful enthusiasm in a supporting role in the Oilers 1990 Stanley Cup Championship.

The New York Rangers plucked Graves away from Edmonton in 1991 via the free agency market. It was in New York that Graves blossomed into a star. He erupted in 1991-92 to score 26 goals, doubling his career total. The next year he improved to 36 goals and by 1993-94 he joined Vic Hadfield as only the second New York Ranger in history to score 50 goals. In fact Graves' 52 goals better Hadfield's then-team record by 2. Graves would add 10 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games to help bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Broadway for the first time since 1940.

Graves would have trouble reaching the same plateau again. Playing in pain but rarely missing a game, he became a consistent 20 goal scorer in the years following. His body was banged up, later in his career he went through a tough time, losing his infant son and his father to deaths within months.

Through it all, Graves played with the highest dignity and class, and truly bled Rangers blue. The 1994 King Clancy Memorial winner and 2000 Bill Masterton Trophy winner, Graves participates in many activities involving under privileged kids in New York.

He now serves as the Rangers' director of community relations.

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Friday

Dan Olesevich

Anyone who has studied hockey prior to the 1960s will notice that most teams only carried one goalie. That goalie would play in every game of the season, or be sent to the minors to be replaced by someone else.

Quite often team's employed assistant equipment trainers. Not because the full time equipment trainer needed help necessarily, but to play the role of practice goaltender. That way the goalie to get his rest before the game while shooters could sharpen their skills with a goalie in the nets.

Everyonce in a while a goalie would get hurt during the game. A number of times the assistant trainer/practice goalie would be called in to finish the game. More often than not it would be that trainer's only shot at NHL action.

This happened on the night of October 21, 1961. The New York Rangers were in Detroit playing the Red Wings. In the second period, Rangers goalie Gump Worsley got injured and couldn't continue. Because the practice goalie rarely travelled with the team, the Rangers asked permission to use the Red Wings practice goalie in order to finish the game. The Red Wings agreed.

The practice goalie that season was Dan Olesevich. He stepped in and played 29 minutes. He allowed just 2 goals and earned a tie against the team that gave him his paycheck.

Unlike a lot of practice goalies who stepped in for a few minutes of action, Olesevich had a decent background as a goaltender. He played for the Hamilton Tiger Cubs for 4 seasons starting in 1953. He however was basically a spare goalie there too. He did jump to the pro ranks in 1958 when he split the season in the EHL and NOHA. He played in 56 games that season.

However Olesevich realized he wouldn't likely make a living as a goaltender, so when the Red Wings offered him a position as trainer/practice goalie in the summer of 1959, he retired as an active goalie and began working for the Wings.

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Wednesday

Butch Keeling

Butch Keeling was a regular left winger with the New York Rangers in the 1930s. Playing behind the famous Boucher-Cook brothers line, Keeling pulled second line duty often with Murray Murdoch and either Cecil Dillon or Paul Thompson.

Words that commonly described him as a player were "underrated," "consistent," and "reliable." Keeling was known as a big and strong player, although he was clean and rarely took penalties. He was a solid goal scorer, though not much of a set up man. His best season came in 1936–37 when, playing on a line with Phil Watson and Dillon, he led the Rangers with a career-high 22 goals, the third highest total in the league. In the playoffs he notched three goals and five points before bowing to the Detroit Red Wings.

Keeling was a member of the Rangers 1933 Stanley Cup championship team. In fact it was Keeling who assisted on Bill Cook's famous Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime.

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Tuesday

Tomas Sandstrom

Tomas Sandstrom was one of the most hated players of his day.

He had a reputation as a shit disturber at best, and as a dirty player at worst. He was very abrasive, always yapping, giving facials with his gloves and keep his stick high whenever someone came nearby. He infuriated opponents regularly enough that they would often try to retaliate, allowing Sandstrom's team to go to the power play. Once in a while they got him good, like, infamously, Dave Brown:



Sandstrom had the finesse skills to make that team pay, too. He combined good size, speed, strength and skill. Nine times in his career, including seven seasons in a row, Sandstrom topped 25 goals or more, including a couple of 40 goal campaigns. He surprised goalies with virtually no backswing to his shot, showing velocity and accuracy regardless. He could even release shots while the puck was still in his feet. He was also an underrated passer.

Despite his reputation as a dirty player, the bottom line on Tomas Sandstrom was that he loved to compete and you had to respect that. That being said, he had a general disregard for his opponent's safety, and that does not need to be respected. He was like an Esa Tikkanen or Claude Lemieux - an elite pest with a good all around game to match it.

Sandstrom was best known as a New York Ranger until he and Tony Granato were traded to Los Angeles. That trade was not without controversy - heading to New York was Bernie Nicholls, the long time popular King who had scored 70 goals along side Wayne Gretzky the previous season.

Sandstrom never put up incredibly unusual numbers along side The Great One, but he did have a real strong playoff in 1993. The Kings made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals that year, bowing out Montreal. Sandstrom's most famous moment as a King - being winked at by Patrick Roy in that Stanley Cup final.



Sandstrom later joined the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, continued to being overshadowed by superstar teammates like Mario Lemieux and Paul Kariya/Teemu Selanne.

He also briefly played with Detroit, finally winning a Stanley Cup in 1997.

All told Tomas Sandstrom played 983 career NHL games, scoring 394 goals and 462 assists for 856 points. He also registered 1,193 career penalty minutes.

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Miloslav Horava

When Miloslav Horava came to the NHL late in the 1988-89 season he was a 27-year old veteran of both the Czechoslovakian league and the Czech national team. He had already participated in two Olympic tournaments, three Canada Cups and four World Championship tournaments. He went on to play in two more Olympic tournaments for a total of four. Miloslav played well over 200 games for the Czech national team.

Miloslav grew up playing in Kladno. He played for PZ Kladno between 1969-77 and then continued to play for Poldi Kladno in the Czech league as an adult. Miloslav wasn't the easiest player to coach when he was a youngster. He didn't like to listen to the advice given to him by older players and coaches. He was very outspoken and often said things that didn't sit well with people around him, mostly coaches. His coaches let him get away with a lot of stuff because he was a great talent, and he displayed that talent best when he got some slack. In his early years he was an offensive defenseman with a booming shot. He had one of the better shots in the entire Czech league.

Miloslav's long time dream of playing in the NHL became a reality when he laced 'em up for the NY Rangers at the end of the 1988-89 season. He played six games. Before the 1989-90 season was to begin a lot of changes happened in New York. Miloslav had to start from scratch during the training camp. He played so well that he earned himself a regular spot on the blueline for the 1989-90 season

Miloslav was greatful to his Swedish teammate Tomas Sandstrom who helped him a lot. They used to play against each other in Europe. Sandstrom gave him valuable advice.

"Now you are in America, which means that everything for you will be a new experience. Try to adapt to the flow of the game, because if you don't then you'll be history pretty fast," Sandstrom advised "There will be times when you'll hit rock bottom. You'll come up with thousands of reasons to leave and go back home. Don't do it, there will be times when you are dead tired, but you have to dig in and continue. Around you there are a lot of wolves who can't wait until they can get a bite of you, get rid of the uncomfortable European. There will be moments when you will be ready to throw in the towel, but you have to fight through it and work even harder.Just smile and stare them in the eye, and tell them them that you expected it to be a lot worse. That way you'll earn respect and the guys who want to take your spot will be perplexed, asking themselves: ' we are down on our knees and this Horava guy is still going.'  This will eventually cut you some slack."

Sandstrom's pep talk was really important to Miloslav who often thought about Sandstrom's words when he had doubts about himself. The change wasn't just huge on the ice but off the ice as well. Miloslav barely could speak English and he wasn't used to all the luxury given to him by the Rangers. They fixed him a huge house in Rochester and a fancy car. Miloslav, who was a pretty well travelled fellow, was impressed by how professionally things worked in the NHL.

He also admitted that he didn't realize how stereotypical an NHL'ers life was. Eat, sleep, travel, train and play hockey day in and day out. The rebel in Miloslav was still present and he had a hard time to cope with the constant roster changes. One day you were in and the other you were out of the lineup without any explanation from the coach.

After the 1990-91 season Miloslav left North America to play in Sweden and Modo. He was one of the best defensemen in the league and played there until 1994. He then went on to play for Slavia Prague in the Czech league and Karlovy Vary, also of the Czech league. He retired in 2000.

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Friday

Bob "Killer" Dill

Decades after the infamous incident, Bob "Killer" Dill still denies it.

Dill, a gigantic tough guy out of Minnesota, was quickly carving out a reputation as the baddest man in hockey. Opponents feared Dill's rabbit punches that annihilated many players.

Dill's reputation, and his effectiveness as a NHL hockey player, came to an abrupt halt at the hands (quite literally) of Rocket Richard. Dill was assigned the duty of neutralizing the Rocket one night at the Madison Square Gardens. The idea was to intimidate the Canadiens superstar.

Legend has it that as the two tangled for the first time that night, Richard had knocked out Dill with a quick fist to the head before Dill even had a chance to land a punch. Minutes later, Dill staggered to the penalty box, yelling and taunting Rocket the whole way. Rocket, who was in the penalty box already, didn't appreciate whatever Dill had to say. With no barrier to separate the two penalty boxes, Richard leaped into Dill's area, and caught him with another blow, knocking out the big bad Dill for a second time!

"Its a hell of a thing to be remembered for, especially since the incident never took place," said Dill.

"Sure, the Rocket and I had a little set-to in that game and he knocked me down and I was groggy. And yes, we got penalties. In the box, I called him a dirty so-and-so and he reached over and punched me over the eye. It bled a little enough for three stitches as I recall. But that was it. There was no second knockout. Geez the reporters built it up and the books have been written with they story about how I got beaten up that night. You'd think I had been knocked out for 15 minutes the way it was told."

Dill's son Bill Jr. also denies the accuracy of this legend.

Dill Jr. says "I do have the original paper from the famous fight and it does not mention anyone being knocked out etc. It was described like just like my father's description."

While Dill's reputation had taken a beating more so than his body, common sentiment was that Killer Dill's career was ruined because of this incident. He quickly disappeared from the NHL scene after playing in just 76 games, scoring 15 goals and 30 points, plus 135 PIMs.

Not so, says his son Bob Dill Jr.

"The truth is that after the 44-45 season Boston wanted to make a trade for him but Lester Patrick refused because he wanted my father to play for St Paul in the USHL, reason being my father was from St Paul and Lester saw in him as a hometown favorite to draw the crowds which he did for the next 5 years."

"His game never changed," Dill Jr. goes on to say "as he was selected twice to all star teams and lead St. Paul in scoring for a defenseman each of the 5 years and also in penalty minutes."

"Lester Patrick was not a huge supporter of the American player (there were very few in the NHL at that time) and that bothered my father more than any fight, as he had many many more during the rest of his career.

As his son points out, he did go on to a strong career outside of the NHL - a career that was distinguished enough to land him in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Hopefully this article will help dispel the myth of the Dill/Richard encounter.

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Alexander Karpovtsev

Moscow native Alexander Karpovtsev was an intriguing Soviet import.

Blessed with good size (6'2" and 210lbs) and great skating strength (in terms of balance and agility, and even quickness out of his pivots), the New York Rangers had high hopes for Karpovtsev when they acquired him from the Quebec Nordiques. The Nords drafted the Moscow Dynamo defenseman 158th overall in the 1990 Entry Draft but never brought him to North America. That only happened after the Rangers, led by general manager Neil Smith's enthusiasm for Soviet players, brought him over in 1993. Sergei Nemchinov, Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov were also amongst the influx.

Karpovtsev enjoyed 5 seasons in New York, including in 1994 when the team won the Stanley Cup. It may have been the Rangers' first championship in over 50 years, but Karpovtsev hoisted the chalice as a NHL rookie. In doing so, he, Nemchinov, Kovalev and Zubov became the first Russian players to have their name on the Stanley Cup!

But Karpovtsev never really got untracked. The Rangers had great depth on the blue line, limiting Karpovtsev's playing time. Also limiting his playing time was a series of injuries. He missed half of two seasons in New York due to injuries.

The Rangers moved Karpovtsev to Toronto in 1998 in exchange for Mathieu Schneider. The Rangers were looking for an experienced upgrade as they figured Karpovtsev was no better than a third pairing dman who could make safe outlets from his own zone, tie up larger forwards in front of the net and maybe eat up some second pairing power play minutes.

Karpovtsev played two seasons in Toronto (quietly having a really solid 1998-99 season) before moving to Chicago for four seasons. He seemingly spent as much time in the medical room as he did on the ice, drawing famous criticism of his desire to play. Chicago broadcaster Pat Foley was not shy to rip into Karpovtsev's character, damaging Karpovtsev's reputation. He essentially left the NHL, rightly or wrongly, known for poor work ethic. He certainly is remembered in Chicago with great despise.

Karpovtsev briefly appeared with the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers, but for all intents and purposes he moved back to Russia to complete his career. He retired from the game for good in 2007.

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Wednesday

Troy Mallette

Troy Mallette certainly made quite the impact on the NHL when he first came into the league.

The 22nd overall draft pick in 1988, Mallette joined the New York Rangers a year later, tallying 13 goals and an  amazing 305 penalty minutes. He followed up that with a sophomore season that saw him register 12 goals and 252 penalty minutes.

Mallette's reputation was pretty much set by that stage. He was hard working, hard hitting winger who would crash and bang on his wall and in the corners. He could be counted on to score a few goals and drop the gloves regularly. But he was a bundle full of energy and guts, but he was not exactly the most menacing player in the league.

When the New York Rangers signed Adam Graves to a free agent contract in 1991, the NHL awarded the Oilers Mallette as compensation. Graves of course went on to become a 50 goal scorer in New York. After just 15 games Mallette demanded to be traded.

Mallette's wish was granted later in the season, moved to New Jersey in exchange for David Maley.  But he would not fit in well there either. He would sit out many games as a healthy scratch.

Mallette badly wanted to be a regular player, but increasingly it became obvious that if he was going to stay in the NHL he needed to accept the role of team goon. He didn't have the speed or puck skills to play a significantly bigger role, no matter what the uninformed free agency arbitrator said.

Mallette went on to play in Ottawa, Boston and Tampa Bay. When all was said and done he played in 456 NHL games, scoring 51 goals, 119 points and 1226 penalty minutes.

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Monday

Julian Klymkiw

Born on July 16th, 1933 in Winnipeg Manitoba, Klymkiw was a former junior and senior goaltender, mostly with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Warriors, who was serving as the Detroit Red Wings assistant trainer and practice goaltender in the 1958-59 season.

When the New York Rangers came to town to play the Wings on October 12, 1958, Ranger goalie Gump Worsley was injured in the third period. Without another goalie, the Red Wings agreed to allow the Rangers to use the 25 year old practice goalie to complete the game.

When Klymkiew entered the game, the score was 1-0. Klymkiw would play the final 19 minutes of the game, surrendering 2 goals as the Wings went on to win the game 3-0.

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Wednesday

Jeff Beukeboom

Jeff Beukeboom was forced to quit the game he loves because of repeated head injuries.

Beukeboom was originally injured Nov. 19, 1998 at Los Angeles when he was savagely sucker punched from behind by Los Angeles tough guy Matt Johnson. Johnson received a 12 game suspension for that hit.

Beukeboom paid much more than that. Though Jeff returned he was hurt again in December and his season ended with another concussion on Feb. 12, 1999 against Carolina. The concussion third concussion was very concerning for Beukeboom and his doctors.

"The thing that is most glaring, the thing that makes it easy is that the Feb. 12 knock was quite slight, something you see most every night in the NHL," Beukeboom said. "My situation over five months, the symptoms have not subsided."

Beukeboom said he suffers from headaches and loses concentration in conversations. He has been unable to work out or do anything physical since the February injury.

"It's a medical retirement. I'm not able to come back and compete in the NHL the way I'd love to. Everything in the game comes to your health. My body is healthy. My mind is not healthy right now." said Jeff.

Jeff grew up in a hockey environment. He is the nephew of former NHLer Ed Kea, and fellow-NHLer Joe Nieuwendyk is his cousin. When Jeff played in Edmonton and Joe played in Calgary, the two were forced to wage physical wars against each other in the dreaded Battle of Alberta during the late 1980s.

Jeff's hockey career started with Sault. Ste Marie of the OHL. In three seasons with the Greyhounds, Jeff scored 10 goals and totaled 75 assists. In 48 playoff appearances, Jeff tallied six goals and contributed 17 assists. He was an OHL First Team All-Star and a member of the Canadian team that won the World Junior Tournament in Finland in 1985. His fine defensive and physical play got him noticed by the NHL scouting fraternity as the Edmonton Oilers selected Jeff in the first round, 19th overall, in the 1983 entry draft.

The Oilers felt Jeff needed some seasoning and sent him to the minors. Jeff got his first shot at NHL duty in the playoffs of all times! He appeared in a game against the Vancouver Canucks on April 10, 1986.
Although he battled through some injuries, Beukeboom made the Oilers on an almost full time basis the following year. He even notched his first NHL goal on December 30, 1986 against the Vancouver Canucks. He scored 3 goals and 11 points in 44 games and helped the Oilers win their 3rd Cup in 4 years in the playoffs.

The 1987-88 season was Jeff's best from a statistical standpoint. He scored 5 goals and career high 20 assists for 25 points for another modest career high. Jeff even went on a scoring rampage in January of that season, scoring goals in 4 consecutive games. Not bad for a guy who only scored 30 goals in his entire career!

Times were tough for Jeff in the next two seasons. In a preseason game before the 1988-89 season Jeff left the bench to join in an altercation. For his actions Jeff served a mandatory 10 game suspension and had to report to the minors for conditioning purposes once the ban was lifted. Later in the season he suffered a knee injury and only played in 36 games. Injuries again limited Jeff's appearances in the 1989-90 season. He healthy enough to appear in only 46 contests that year.

Jeff played another season and a half in Edmonton before he was traded to New York in 1991-92. Jeff was traded to the Rangers in exchange for David Shaw on November 12, 1991 to complete the huge Mark Messier trade to the Big Apple earlier that season.

New York was a good destination for Jeff. Playing on the high profile Edmonton Oiler teams of the 1980s meant Jeff was overshadowed by the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Lowe etc. And while he certainly didn't over shadow names like Messier, Adam Graves, Brian Leetch or Mike Richter, Jeff's play was well appreciated by both the Ranger fans and media. Jeff got a lot of credit for helping the turn the Rangers into a solid NHL contender. The Rangers of course went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1994. For Jeff it was his 4th Stanley Cup ring.

Age and slowing mobility caught up to Jeff in his last couple of year limiting his effectiveness. Then came the concussion injuries. Beukeboom played in 45 games with nine assists and 60 penalty minutes in what proved to be his last season. In 804 NHL games, he scored 30 goals with 129 assists and 1,890 penalty minutes.

You could say Beukeboom was a checker. At 6'5" and 230lbs, Beukeboom took up a lot of room on the ice, and when he caught a hold of you, he used every ounce of his body to smack you into the boards, if not right through them. Although he certainly was no angel himself, Beukeboom was a clean hitter. With his long reach and good hands with his stick, he was a very effective poke checker and sweep checker. And he was great in front of his own goal too, quickly disposing of any opposition forward who dared to get into the slot.

Not a great skater, Beukeboom was content to stay within his limitations and play a simple, defensive game. He reached the peak of his career when paired with Brian Leetch, who of course was a offensive oriented defenseman. Beukeboom's steady defensive play allowed Leetch to constantly jump up into or lead an attack. Plus Jeff's physical presence meant Leetch could play defense more by playing the angles more than the man, thus saving the much smaller Leetch some wear and tear. It comes as no coincidence that Leetch's best years came when Beukeboom was healthy.

Beukeboom of course benefited from playing with Leetch too. Beukeboom had little offensive upside and although he was a good skater, he certainly wasn't the swiftest guy out there. Beukeboom would often let Leetch clear the puck out of their zone as Beukeboom's lack of skills and creativity limited him to simple dumping the puck into the neutral zone. Beukeboom also seemed to have a knack of getting caught on bad pinches from the point. If he failed to keep the puck in on a pinch attempt and the opposition squeezed the puck off the boards and behind him, Jeff would be caught out of position and lacked the speed to catch up to the ensuing odd man rush against.

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Monday

Pentti Lund

Pentti lund was only the second Finnish born player in the NHL ever (after Al Pudas). He was also the second European born player ever to win the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the year in 1949 (after Dave "Sweeney" Schriner).

Pentti was born in Karijoki, Finland in 1925 and came to Thunder Bay in Canada as a six-year old. He got all his hockey training over in North America.

Before he came to the NHL he played for the Port Arthur West-Enders / Navy in the Thunder Bay junior hockey league where he led the league in scoring two seasons in a row. He also spend three years in the Canadian navy during WW II.

Pentti continued with his success in the EHL where he played for the Boston Olympics. He led all playoff scorers in the 1946 playoffs with 13 goals. The next season (1946-47) he dominated the EHL and scored a league high 49 goals and 92 points in 56 games for the Olympics. He was also the leading scorer in the playoffs with 8 assists and 15 points. His impressive season even gave him the opportunity to make his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins in the 1947 playoffs (one game).

He played in two more playoff games the next season before Boston shipped him to the NY Rangers  to complete an earlier transaction involving Grant Warwick on February 6, 1948. As a rookie for the NY Rangers, Pentti was an instant hit,scoring 30 points (14 goals and 16 assists) in 59 games. Although his numbers aren't impressive by today standards it was enough to earn him the Calder Trophy.

The next season (1949-50) Pentti scored 18 goals, but he was more noted for his heroics in the playoffs. He not only led all playoff scorers with 11 points (6 goals and 5 assists) in 12 games but also managed to shut down Montreal's super star Maurice "Rocket " Richard. Richard only managed to score in one of the five games thanks to Pentti's relentless checking of him
.
Pentti himself managed to score a hat trick in a 4-1 win in game 3. After the series he was dubbed "Lucky Lund" by the Montreal media. He then continued with his fine play in the finals where the Rangers eventually lost in 7 games to Detroit.

His playoff heroics proved to be his last big moment in the NHL. He slumped to just four goals and 20 pts in 1950-51. He was dealt back to Boston with Gus Kyle for Paul Ronty on September 20, 1951. Pentti suffered a serious eye injury during the 1951-52 season that almost ended his career. He rebounded back from the injury and played the entire season in Boston where he scored 17 points (8 goals and 9 assists). Pentti finished his career with the Soo Greyhounds of the NOHA. (North Ontario Hockey Association). where he played until 1955.

Pentti's brother Joe also played professionally for a long time although he did not quite make it to the NHL. After Pentti's career was over he became a longtime sports editor of the Thunder Bay Times-News.

He later split his time between Thunder Bay and Florida.

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Wednesday

Larry Kwong


As a child, Larry Kwong shared the same dream as most other proud Canadian boys living in the small town of Vernon, British Columbia - to play hockey. He'd play every day as a child, dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League. And Larry was one of the lucky few who were able to one day play in the NHL - mind you it was just for one game.

The one thing that separated Larry from every other hockey loving Canadian was the fact that he was Asian. In fact, Larry Kwong was the very first person of Asian descent to appear in the NHL.

Larry (birth name was Eng Kai Geong) lost his father when he was just 5, and his mother was not supportive of his hockey hobby. However she did allow him to play as he his reward for helping out with the raising of his 14 siblings.  He would go on to play for several local hockey teams - Nanaimo, Trail, Vancouver, even Red Deer, Alberta - but always remained close to home to help his mother.

But that all changed in 1946. A year after returning from military service, Larry was summoned to the bright lights of the big city of New York. The NHL Rangers at the time operated an EHL farm team out of the Madison Square Gardens called the Rovers. Larry was brought into help out that team, and he did an admirable job, scoring 32 goals in 64 games over two seasons in the EHL.

Moving from small town Canada to New York City was quite an adjustment for "The China Clipper."

"Don't forget, I was a young kid from Vernon, British Columbia. I think the town had a population of about 5000 people. Just coming to New York was something," he said.

During the 1947-48 season injuries started taking their toll on the Rangers lineup, and call-ups from the minor league team were frequent. Larry was red hot in the minors and the Rangers took the opportunity to market "King Kwong" as a gate attraction.

Though Kwong was used to playing in the Madison Square Garden, he described his only NHL appearance there as "overwhelming." He wasn't used to the full house of spectators that was almost 4 times as many people as the population of his hometown, and there was much media hullabaloo surrounding his Chinese heritage.

Canada's discrimination against the Chinese in those days is a bad secret that is tried to kept swept under the rug. He had trouble travelling with teams let along finding a barber or finding a job. When he played for the Trail Smoke Eaters, all other players worked at high paying jobs at the local smelter that owned the team. A job was arranged for Kwong, but no at the smelter but rather as a bellhop at a local hotel.

"Being Chinese, you were watched all the time. In those days, where I came from, you were confronted with discrimination. Chinese people were not hired by people to work. It was that kind of discrimination. I felt I had to try to do my best to show everyone we were just as good as them."

Kwong did just that by appearing in the big leagues, though his appearance was short. Kwong doesn't have a great recollection of the game, calling it a blur. He knew it was against the Montreal Canadiens but he couldn't tell a recent magazine reporter the score or the details of the game.

Kwong was sent back to the New York Rovers. The whole team quickly left the EHL and joined the QSHL. Larry would go on to become a top player in the QSHL, with the Valleyfield Braves. In fact in 1951 Kwong was named as the league's MVP.

Kwong played in the Q until late in his career when he would end up toiling in the IHL and EOHL before spending a season over in Britain - where no doubt they made a big deal about the Chinaman hockey player.

Hall of Fame goaltender Chuck Rayner remembered Kwong and described him as having "good skating skills and pretty good stick handling skills. He always gave it that old college try."

And by doing so, Larry Kwong made history.




Also See:

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Sunday

Fred Hunt

Fred started his junior career in his hometown of Brantford. He played for the Brantford Lions (OHL) between 1933-35. He was no star in Brantford, but he was a pretty complete player who could be used in all situations. Between 1935-37 he continued his junior career for the St. Michaels Majors, also in the OHL. During the 1937 playoffs he showed his fine skills as he scored 17 points (10 goals and 7 assists) in 13 games.

After finishing his junior hockey in Canada, he went to the Boston Bruin training camp in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1937. Fred was offered a contract to play pro in Providence, but turned it down and stayed to play for Hershey of the EHL (Eastern Amateur Hockey League).

Years later Fred looked back at that moment when he was at the 1937 training camp.

"Terry Reardon was at the same camp and turned pro with the Bruins. My center was Lloyd Blinco, who became the general manager and president of the Hershey Bears," Fred recalled.

"There's one thing about that first pro training camp I'll never forget. The Bentleys - Max and Doug - were sent home after being told they weren't even good enough to be offered Providence contracts."

In Hershey (EHL) Fred had a pretty successful stint. When he was offered to play with the Hershey team in the AHL he declined to play with the pro club.

"I was doing all right in amateur. Heck, I was making more than some of the pros. But the big thing was the amateur club got room and board thrown in, besides our salary, while the pros had to pay for both. I was actually winding up with more money as an amateur than a lot of the pros were." Fred said.

In 1938-39 Fred scored a respectable 54 points (22 goals and 32 assists) in 53 games for the EHL Hershey team. Obviously a city the size of Hershey couldn't support two hockey teams so the amateur club (EHL) folded after the 1938-39 season. Fred was signed by the New York Americans on September 29, 1939 and went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles in the EHL in 1939-40 and scored 58 points (31 goals and 27 assists) in 59 games as the Orioles won the EHL title.

Then in the fall of 1940, legendary Eddie Shore acquired Fred and took him to Springfield in the AHL. Fred remembered his first pro game:

"Do I remember my first pro game? You bet. I scored three goals in Philadelphia against the Ramblers. The late Max Kaminsky was my center. I guess I had a couple of assists, too, and we won easily."

Fred went on to score 44 points (17 goals and 27 assists) in 40 games for Springfield. He played so well that he was called up in early December and made his big league debut in the old Madison Square Garden against the rival NY Rangers. Fred scored 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists) during his 15 game stint with the New York Americans.

Soon the New York Americans disbanded and dropped out of the NHL and Eddie Shore lost his arena in Springfield to the U.S. Army for a quartermaster's depot. Eddie Shore made a deal with his old buddy Lou Jacobs who had a pretty lousy team in Buffalo. Eddie brought in his Springfield players who had finished first in their division and mixed them with some of the Buffalo players. Eddie Shore became the general manager and part owner of the team and Art Chapman who coached the NY Americans moved in as a playing coach.

This combination was an instant success as the Buffalo Bisons won the Calder Cup (AHL's Stanley Cup) the first two years. This proved to be an important move for Fred who made his home in Buffalo for the rest of his life. There he met his wife Alda and enjoyed his most successful seasons. Fred played for Buffalo between 1942-44 and 1945-49.

His best seasons in Buffalo came in 1942-43, 57 points (27 goals and 30 assists) in 50 games. In 1943-44, he had 80 points (27 goals and 53 assists) in 52 games and finished as the runner-up in the scoring race. His 53 assists was tops in the league. He also collected 16 points (5 goals and 11 assists) in 9 playoff games. The 11 assists was also best in the league. Then in 1945-46 Fred scored 70 points (27 goals and 43 assists) in 62 games and had a league leading 11 assists and 16 points (5 goals and 11 assists) in 12 games.

"I always had a clause in my contract - in Buffalo, that is - calling for a bonus for scoring 25 or more goals. And I always just squeezed past it - 27, 27, 27 and 26. But I felt I earned the money. I killed penalties, played the power plays...did everything they asked me to do" Fred said.

He formed one of the best lines in the AHL during the 1940's together with Fred Thurier and Larry Thibault. They were called the THT line. When Fred had his second stint in the NHL 1944-45 with the NY Rangers he played on the same line as Fred Thurier. Fred H. scored 22 points (13 goals and 9 assists) in 44 games. The New York Rangers had acquired his rights in a special dispersal draft on September 11, 1943.

In 1948-49 Fred was considering retiring as the February deadline for changing players approached. But before he made a decision, the Bisons made it for him. They traded him to Hershey as payment for two players they had recieved earlier. The move almost payed off as Fred almost won another Calder Cup.

" We were winning three-one in games over Providence in the finals and in the fifth game, in Providence, I went into the boards and wound up with 60 stitches and a concussion. We lost the series in seven games. I had been thinking about quitting anyway, and that spill was my last appearance as an active hockey player." Fred scored a total of 418 points (175 goals and 243 assists) in 416 regular season AHL games.

Fred went on to a successful precision casting business as well as an automobile agency. But in 1952 he was back in hockey and went on to become the GM of the Buffalo Bisons for over two decades.

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Rod Gilbert


Rod Gilbert overcame a serious injury to not only become a legend of the ice but to become one of the brightest stars on Broadway.

During a junior game, Gilbert skated over a piece of debris on the ice and suffered a broken back. He had two operations to correct the damage from the injury and he almost lost his life as a result of the surgeries.

"During a home game I tripped over a cardboard lid from an ice cream container and wound up breaking my back," said Gilbert in Stan Fischler's book Heroes and History. "From that point on I went through hell - trips to the Mayo Clinic, spinal fusion and doubts that I'd play again - but the Rangers stuck with me. They provided me with the best of care and eventually, I was on the road to recovery. The Rangers, by this time, had figured that I could be an important player for them during the 1960s and my junior record showed why they had such faith," said Gilbert

Indeed it did. He played 4 years with the Guelph Biltmores, and in his final season scored 54 goals and 103 points in just 47 games!!

Gilbert persevered through the freak injury and reached his goal of playing in the NHL with the New York Rangers by 1962-63. For his persistence he would be given the Masterton Memorial Trophy late in his career.

His start actually happened in the spring of 1962. Forward Ken Schinkel had broken his toe and was unable to continue in the Rangers playoff series with the Maple Leafs. Gilbert was called up and played on a line with Dave Balon and Johnny Wilson, and impressed with 2 goals, both in his first game, and 5 points in 4 games, although the Rangers would ultimately lose the series. Gilbert's postseason impression though was enough to keep him in the city that never sleeps for the next 18 wonderful years!.



Gilbert teamed with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield to form that GAG (goal a game) line, one of the most feared threesomes in hockey history. Gilbert and Ratelle had played together since they were 10 years old. Gilbert lived next door to the esteemed Brothers of Sacred Heart school where Ratelle, a gifted student, was enrolled. Playing shinny and keep-away on the frozen ponds of the school grounds, the two immediately formed a friendship and hockey tandem that was clearly something special.

When I first saw (Ratelle) on the ice, I said, 'You play with me all the time, okay?' We started playing peewee and played in the finals at a tournament in the Montreal Forum when we were twelve years old," recalls Gilbert with a grin.

The Rangers were impressed by Gilbert at the early age of 14.

A man named Yvon Prud'homme invited me to play senior hockey with men in their late-twenties. We played for the Allan Cup. I was just fourteen. This man, Yvon Prud'homme, had been hired by the New York Rangers to start a competitive Junior B league in Montreal. When he signed me, I told him, 'I have a friend I've been playing with since I was a kid and he's better than me. Sign him up and we'll play together.' He signed Jean Ratelle without ever seeing him play."

Clearly it was the best thing that had happened in Manhattan's hockey landscape since the days of Lester Patrick and Boucher and the Cook brothers.

"When I got to New York, the Rangers were in last place. We were re-building," states Rod

But soon the franchise began to make some pro-active moves. Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964-65, bringing Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown, Bob Nevin and Dickie Duff to Broadway. Later, Emile Francis secured Eddie Giacomin for goal. The team drafted Brad Park, too. Then, Gilbert and Ratelle found the winger they needed to form one of the most explosive forward lines in NHL history - the GAG Line (Goal A Game).

"Jean and I needed somebody to go to the front of the net and hold his ground. Emile Francis decided that Vic Hadfield was the guy. Vic had a very short fuse. He was a tough guy; very robust. He established himself well in front (of the net) and could shake himself loose from the defense. The two of us (Ratelle and Gilbert) got him the puck and he scored fifty goals one year (1971-72). By being in front and yelling for the puck, Vic developed really good scoring skills."

In 1971-72 the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup final, Gilbert's one and only shot at a league championship. However Bobby Orr's Boston Bruins were too powerful for the arch-rivals from New York.

"Boston acquired Phil Esposito from Chicago and this young kid that came out of Oshawa named Bobby Orr. They picked up Gerry Cheevers and soon Boston and New York were one and two in the standings," recalls Rod. "We were supposed to win the Stanley Cup in '71, '72 and '73. We had a really good team but Bobby Orr made the difference between the two of us. Boston won two Cups instead of the Rangers. What a rivalry we had! We were very close in talent."

That 1971-72 season was magical for the GAG line. Vic Hadfield topped the 50 goal mark, while Ratelle and Gilbert most likely would have as well, but both were felled with injuries late in the season, causing them to miss time and the magical 50 goal mark. Imagine that - all three members of a forward line scoring 50 goals!

"That was the best team I ever played for and it showed. Jean Ratelle led in scoring even though he played in only 63 games. Vic Hadfield was second on the club and we were strong up and down the line, from Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure in goal, to Brad Park, Dale Rolfe and Rod Seiling on defense. Fellows like Walt Tkaczuk, Billy Fairbairn and Peter Stemkowski gave us tremendous balance."

Gilbert was also member of Team Canada during the legendary September 1972 Summit Series versus the former Soviet Union. He helped his country win one of the greatest hockey series of the century.

"The biggest moment was when we won Game Eight. I made the play to Bill White to tie the score at three-all. And then we got the win and that was exhilarating, emotional and very satisfying."

"Yvan Cournoyer told me, 'I would give up all my Stanley Cups for that one experience.' Of all the Cups he won, that was his biggest thrill; his biggest accomplishment. That win with Team Canada in 1972 was my Stanley Cup."

Gilbert went on to compete for the Rangers until the 1977-78 season. Over his 18-year career, Gilbert recorded 406 goals, 615 assists and 1,021 points in 1,065 regular season games. In 79 playoff games, he collected 34 goals and 67 points. He set or equaled 20 team scoring records and when he retired in 1977, he trailed only one other right winger (Gordie Howe) in total points.

While the Stanley Cup is the goal of every hockey player, only a select few get to sip champagne from it. It was not in Rod Gilbert's destiny to win the Cup, but that in no way should diminish the contributions he made to the game of hockey.

"I would have loved to have played on a Stanley Cup winner; that's for sure. But I had my share of thrills and, in a lot of ways, I was very lucky guy considering my dream of making the NHL and being able to do what I did with all those back problems."

Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, Gilbert was a fan favorite in New York, and is often considered to be the greatest New York Ranger in the team's long history. Given the competition such as Frank Boucher in the early days and Mark Messier in the current era, that is a fascinating feat on its own.

"Rod Gilbert was our Wayne Gretzky, or our Bobby Hull, or our Rocket Richard," said Emile Francis.

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Frank Boucher

Often considered to be the Wayne Gretzky of his day because of his superior playmaking skills and understanding of the game, Frank Boucher had the gentility, class and manners rarely matched at such an elite level. In a game that is enthralled by it's violent behavior, Boucher won the Lady Byng Trophy, emblematic of gentlemanly play and excellence, 7 times from 1928-1935. In fact in 1935 he was given the trophy to keep, and a second trophy was created to give to the annual winner.

Barely standing 5'9" and weighing a mere 135lbs, he was strong and sleek on his skates. He was a genius of a puck handler, with this uncanny ability of drawing defenders to him while the his linemates Bill and Bun Cook raced to open holes. Selflessly, and almost without fail, he would thread the puck through defenders, right on to the stick! He was truly the balance wheel on arguably hockey's best line. He also was credited for perfecting the drop pass so common in today's game.

He debuted in 1921-22 in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. A native of Ottawa, Boucher grew up playing hockey from dawn to dark on the frozen Rideau River. It was at this early age that he developed his meticulously clean style of play, emulating the great Frank Nighbor - his idol. But soon his hockey journey moved him out to the Vancouver Maroons of the PCHA where he starred for 4 years in the NHL calibre league.

Boucher was acquired by the NY Rangers in 1926-27 and was paired with the Cook brothers Bill and Bun. The "A" Line or "Bread" Line quickly became the most feared in hockey, and remains one of the most potent in NHL history. The threesome would lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in just their second year.

Feathering pucks masterfully to the Cooks in a Gretzky-like fashion, "Raffles" led the league in assists three times. While it is tough for a modern fan to comprehend just how impressive Boucher's statistics were, Total Hockey once did an interesting study to translate old scoring totals into modern times. The study really puts Boucher's brilliance into perspective. In his first 5 seasons Boucher would have scored 100 assists! In fact, Boucher's league leading 16 assists in the assist-rare 1928-29 season would translate into 151 assists today! And in Boucher's first 4 seasons Boucher would have averaged about 175 adjusted point! In total, Boucher's adjusted career totals would have been 401 goals, 1000 assists and 1401 points!

Of course such studies are fun though flawed and in the end interesting but useless. Frank's real career totals with 160 goals, 263 assists, and 423 points in 557 games. What no statistic or study will ever reflect would be the true artistry of this great hockeyist. When modern fans compare Wayne Gretzky to Frank Boucher, the compliment is very telling of just how good Frank was!

While best known as a player, it should be noted Boucher later coached the Rangers and captured the Stanley Cup in his first season as a coach. His coaching record isn't great as his team was decimated by War and struggled for years to regain elite status. Boucher's biggest problem was he never had a player as good as he was. He was an innovative coach. He developed the now common box penalty kill formation. He also was the first coach to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Its really too bad that only the old timers got to witness Frank Boucher, as he'd be one of the all time greats if he played post WWII. One of the old-timers that did really respect Boucher's skills was legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt. While broadcasting the 1972 Summit Series in 1972, the highly skilled Soviets reminded Hewitt of Boucher.

"There aren't many people around to remember" Hewitt said, even 30 years ago. "but the way the Russians play reminds me of the old Rangers, especially the line of Boucher and the Cooks. They were even better than the Russians. When Frank, Bill and Bunny were on the ice, it always seemed to me they had the puck on the string."

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Thursday

Bob Chrystal

Bob Chrystal, born in Winnipeg in 1930, played two seasons with the New York Rangers. He patrolled the Broadway blue line in 1953-54 and 1954-55, providing a physical presence with his rugged and enthusiastic play. He also added 11 goals and 25 points in 132 total NHL games.

Before turning pro, Chrystal was a key member of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Manitoba Junior League, twice appearing in the Memorial Cup, including in 1949 when they lost a heart-breaker to the Montreal Royals.

After his junior career Chrystal spent a year in the USHL with Denver before spending two seasons with the AHL Cleveland Barons. After his two years with Cleveland he was traded to the NHL Rangers.

After his two year stint in the Big Apple concluded, Chrystal returned to the Canadian prairie and the old Western (professional) Hockey League. After a year with the Saskatoon Quakers he returned to Brandon to play with the Regals. Unfortunately the Regals moved to Saskatchewan and later St. Paul, Minnesota, so Bob's homecoming was short though sweet.

In 1958-59 Chrystal played his final season of serious hockey in his hometown with the Winnipeg Warriors.

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Doug Sulliman

One of the greatest lines in the history of hockey came out of the WHA and the city of Winnipeg. Bobby Hull joined European imports Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg on hockey's most exciting line of the 1970s.

Nilsson and Hedberg jumped to the NHL's New York Rangers by the end of the decade. To begin the 1979-80 season, who did they start playing along side? A rookie named Doug Sulliman.

Hopefully nobody actually expected Sulliman to be the next Bobby Hull. History tells us he was not even close. He survived in the NHL as a decidedly average player in almost every regard other than skating speed. He would develop into a 20 goal scorer in the high scoring 80s. A versatile winger who could move around the line up, he could play a third line checking role or moving up to a secondary offensive role.
 After two disappointing seasons in New York the Rangers traded Sulliman as part of a package to acquire Mike Rogers. Although his best statisical season (29 goals and 69 points in 1981-82) came in Hartford, most of Sulliman's best years came with the New Jersey Devils. After a 27 goal, 53 point season in 1986-87 he was honoured as the team's Players’ MVP, Fan Club MVP, Good Guy Award, and was the team’s nominee for the NHL's Masterton Trophy.


Playing on some rather weak teams allowed Sulliman to assume a more offensive role than he probably should have. Sulliman played 631 career NHL games, scoring 160 goals and 168 assists for 328 points.

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Tuesday

Bill Fairbairn

Bill Fairbairn, who was nicknamed Bulldog as a junior, was a tenacious two-way hockey player who loved to hit.

"I used the boards a lot, grinding it up and down one side," explained Bill as described his style of play. "I stayed on my wing and used the boards as sort of a cushion you might say. It was a pretty hard cushion, but a cushion nonetheless."

But unlike many pugnacious wingers of his day, Fairbairn was fair, pardon the pun. He was a very clean player for the most part. He only accumulated 173 PIM in 658 regular season games. His highest PIM seasonal total was 53 PIM in 1971-72, and that was uncharacteristically high for the little guy.

Bill Fairbairn was born in Brandon, Manitoba. He grew up as a star local player, culminating in his joining of the famed local junior club, the Brandon Wheat Kings, a New York Rangers sponsored junior team, in 1964-65. In 55 games he scored 28 goals with 31 assists. Fairbairn's sophomore season was even better. In 60 games he recorded 36 goals along with 76 assists. During Bill's last season in Brandon, 1966/67, he served as team Captain of the Wheat Kings and posted an incredible 60 goals and 81 assists in 55 games.

The 1967-68 season found Fairbairn playing with the C.H.L. Omaha Knights. He was teamed up with his former Wheat King teammate, Juha Widing and the two quickly found their rythym. Fairbairn's first season in the minors saw him record 23 goals with 33 assists for 56 points, just 4 points behind Widing for the team lead. The following season Fairbairn and Widing took their game to a higher level. In 68 games recorded 28 goals and 47 assists for 75 points. That placed Bill second in team scoring (behind Widing) and 6th overall in league scoring. For his efforts Bill was named to the CHL second All Star team and even got a one game call-up with the NY Rangers.

The 1969/70 season was Fairbairn's first full season in the N.H.L.. Fairbairn and Widing were both promoted to the Rangers squad, but not on the same line. Widing was soon traded to Los Angeles which meant Fairbairn had to find a new niche. He found that niche came on the Rangers checking line.

Fairbairn found a home with Dave Balon (later Steve Vickers) and Walt Tkaczuk on the "Bulldog Line." The trio were renowned for their hard hitting, hard forechecking style. Though defense was their primary concern, the line chipped in offensively as well. Fairbairn scored more than 20 goals 4 times and even topped the 30 goal mark in 1972-73. In all Fairbairn played with Rangers for 7 years. He was a consistent 60 point contributor who was at his best when he was running into people and causing havoc with his spirited, "bulldog-like" play.

Bill was traded to the Minnesota North Stars on November 11, 1976. By this point of his career Bill had clearly lost a step and injuries were starting to take their toll on the physical winger. He was exposed on waivers and claimed by the St. Louis Blues on October 24, 1977, which is where he ended his career the following season.

In Fairbairn's 10 year N.H.L. career he appeared in 658 games, scoring 162 goals with 260 assists.

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Rod Seiling


This Rod Seiling hockey card is O-Pee-Chee card #71 from 1968. It is not his rookie card (that came out in the 1964-65 season) but I am a big fan of this 1968 set with the fake, colorless background and the contrasting highlighted featured player.

Now coming out of junior, Seiling was a heck of a player. Coach Emile Francis, a contagiously enthusiastic speaker, once said "the prize of all our defensemen is Rod Seiling and he's only 20. He can be great. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he becomes another Doug Harvey."

Wow - now that is high praise. Many people still consider Harvey to be the 2nd greatest defenseman to ever play the game, behind Bobby Orr. And more than a few lingering old timers would give Harvey the edge over Orr in that debate.

Seiling never did quite enter that echelon of hockey stardom. But he was a quality blue liner for 11 seasons in Manhattan.


Seiling was a finesse defenseman at heart, which was not always a good thing in New York. The Rangers fans notoriously favored rough and tumble hockey players, especially on the back end. They hounded Hockey Hall of Famers Allan Stanley and Harry Howell with choruses of boos because they were rambunctious enough back there.


Seiling made the most of us his first impressions with the Rangers faithful. He was of good size, though he never had the inclination to be a true bruiser. But he would hit to make a play, like he famously did on his first shift in his first game. He slammed Chicago great Pierre Pilote with a thunderous and clean hit, earning many cheers from those in attendance at Madison Square Gardens that night. Such hits may have been rare by Seiling, but the boos never did come for #16.


Best known for his defensive game rather than his offense, similar to a contemporary player like Teppo Numminen. Seiling scored 50 goals and 248 points in 644 games with the Rangers. He later moved on to play Washington, Toronto, St. Louis and Atlanta, upping his NHL career totals to 979 games played with 62 goals and 331 points.

Seiling was never an All Star or a threat for the Norris Trophy, but he was invited to Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series. It was thought Seiling would be a valuable asset against the Soviets, as he was one of the few NHL players to have previously played them. Seiling previously played in the Olympics as an amateur in 1964. However Seiling was ineffective against the Soviets of '72, and dressed for only three contests.

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Friday

Fred Thurier


Fred Thurier, who was born in Granby Quebec on January 11, 1916, played with the American Hockey League's Springfield Indians from 1937 through 1942, with brief appearances (30 games total) with the NHL's New York Americans.

Thurier's best season in the Indians came in 1939-40 when he scored 28 goals and 60 points. Thurier led the AHL in goals with 29 in 1940-41 despite playing just 41 games. He also saw his first action in the NHL, scoring 2 goals and 3 points in 3 games. Thurier then split the 1941-42 season between the AHL and NHL, scoring 20 goals and 44 points in just 22 AHL games, and chipping in 7 goals and 14 points in 27 games with the NY Americans.

Thurier then spent most of the next two years serving military time based in Montreal, where he also played with in the local senior league circuit. Thurier did not exactly want to be involved in the war effort, however. On November 13th, 1942, the RCMP arrested Thurier for failing to report to military training.

For the 1944-45 season, the New York Rangers acquired Thurier's playing rights. Thurier was relieved of his military commitments earlier than many NHLers, and his reward was his only full NHL season. He scored 16 goals and 35 points in 50 games. However by the following season the NHL was once again stocked by its returning war heroes, and Thurier lost his NHL job.

Thurier spent the next 7 seasons playing with the AHL's Cleveland Barons before retiring in 1952. The small but slick center enjoyed his finest season in 1950-51 when he scored 32 goals and 95 points in 64 games while adding another 12 in 10 playoff games.

He later served as a long time AHL referee, while also owning a meat packing company in Ohio.

A heartwarming moment happened in 1996. Thurier was inducted into the Springfield Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. It was his first time back in Springfield since 1942 when he left the city to play with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL. He looked up a sweetheart of his and was surprised to find her still in the area. Since they were both widowed, they rekindled their romance and were married soon after.

Thurier, who is also a member of the Cleveland Hockey Hall of Fame, scored 25 goals and 52 points in 80 NHL games.

The Springfield Union-News featured an obituary for Fred Thurier. He passed away on November 20, 1999 in Florida. He was 82.

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