Neil Colville

Neil Colville was a celebrated junior hockey player in his hometown of Edmonton when the New York Rangers discovered him. The Rangers sent original Ranger Murray Murdoch, a western Canadian hockey legend who grew up close to Edmonton, out west to sign Neil. He was given permission to sign brother Mac Colville too, if that is what it took to get Neil to New York.

The rest as they say is history. After some minor league seasoning, the Colvilles and fellow western Canadian Alex Shibicky formed one of the greatest lines in the N.H.L.'s six-team era, anchoring the Rangers 1940 Stanley Cup championship. Known as the Bread Line, the three were groomed by Lester Patrick, who orchestrated the Ranger clubs that won Stanley Cups in the late 20's and early 30's, to follow in the footsteps of the Cook brothers and Frank Boucher.

Neil Colville was the best of the three, hence his inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He cracked the the top ten in scoring five times in a row. He also earned spots on 3 NHL All Star Teams.

Following his military service as a navigator with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Neil returned to New York but the time away had eroded the Bread Line's chemistry. Neil reinvented himself as a defenseman and team captain for four season.

Neil went on to coach the Rangers in 1950 and for part of 1951. He had to leave the post because of health reasons. Severe recurring ulcers forced doctors to remove half of his stomach.

After getting out of hockey Neil relocated to Vancouver. He became heavily invested in laying television cable all the way up to the Yukon, so much so that when money was being stretched too thin he would go up north to climb poles and lay line himself.

He was selected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967. By 1975 he was asked to be a member of HHOF selection committee, a post he cherished for 9 years. He was forced to retire from that job as he lost his leg to cancer.

Neil Colville passed away the day after Christmas, 1986, following a long struggle with bone cancer.


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