Martin Brodeur eventually broke his unbreakable record for total career regular season shutouts forty years later but, Terry Sawchuk will always be the name in the minds of true hockey fans when asked who was the best goaltender to ever play in the NHL.
Shutout : The Terry Sawchuk Story is a 252 page book that was written by Brian Kendall in 1996 which chronicles the personal life and hockey career of the often controversial goaltender that forever left his imprint on the world of hockey. From his early days growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba to his untimely and tragic demise on Long Island, Sawchuk fought as many demons as he did pucks.
Terry appeared in 971 regular season games in the National Hockey League, as well as 106 more in the Stanley Cup playoffs. His NHL career was born during the 1949-50 season and he played until his death after the 1969-70 season. Terry played fourteen seasons with his beloved Detroit Red Wings over three different periods. He also played years with the Boston Bruins, three with the Toronto Maple Leafs and one each with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers.
The book brings to light his constant pain, not just physically as most goaltenders of the time had to but emotionally and mentally. Because of the less than effective protective equipment in the early history of the NHL and the lack of a backup goaltender, Terry lived through most of his playing days with some sort of nagging, if not serious, injury. As with most goalies in the days before the mask, Sawchuk’s face was a roadmap of scars.
Kendall tells of the Terry Sawchuk that was not a very good public figure for the league and was a lonely player that was always insecure about his own abilities. He was considered one of the best goalies in hockey, along with Jacques Plante, but always was sure that he was letting his team down when score was not in their favour. The reporters were always on alert around Terry because they never knew what personality would show through, the grouch or the good guy.
What is quite evident is that Sawchuk had Detroit Red Wing blood running through his veins. He was shipped to Boston for the 1955-56 season and, although he played well for the Bruins he did nothing else but try and get returned to Michigan for the two seasons he was in a Boston jersey. He did return to Detroit for the 1957-58 season. Again, after leaving the Wings following the 1963-64 season, he would return again for a season after being away for three with Toronto and one with Los Angeles.
The book culminates in the tragic events the surrounded Terry’s death in 1970. What started as a drunken quarrel between roommate Ron Stewart and Sawchuk about money owed and whether they should be cleaning their rental house before abandoning it for the summer, ended in Sawchuk being taken to hospital and never coming back out. Fisticuffs broke out between the two and when a friend of Sawchuk’s came to stop the fight, Terry fell awkwardly causing damage to his liver and unstoppable internal bleeding.
In 1971, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the standard three year waiting period after a player’s retirement to be considered for induction. Terry entered the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously a year after his death. Terry’s career featured four Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies, the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and, of course, the 103 regular season shutouts.
Shutout : The Terry Sawchuk Story is a great read full of interesting details about Terry and about the game in general.