Posted by: cedarsurf | March 16, 2010

The Man They Call Mr. Goalie

The Man They Call Mr. Goalie – Glenn Hall
By Tom Adrahtas
Greystone Books

As a future Hall of Fame Goaltender Glenn Hall was blessed with quick reflexes, a quicker wit and a weak stomach. Hall had to hurl before getting into the net before each game. “I was just so excited to go out and play it made me throw up,” he recalled. “I thought of it as a strength.”

Although he became known as Mr. Goalie, he was known as Ghoulie by his teammates for his white, pale post-hurl complexion. Hall who was born in Humboldt, Saskatchewan would retire before each season to “paint his barn” and ultimately would be lured back to the game so he could become a “more comfortable farmer.”

Hall was also the inventor of the Butterfly style of goalie dropping to both knees to stop the puck in a V style. The Detroit Red Wings at a regional camp they were putting on in Saskatoon scouted Hall. Hall was now on the Red Wings radar. Hall had the best glove hand Red Wings scout Jimmy Skinner had ever seen. Hall was a reflex goalie.

Hall began his professional hockey career at the Wings farm club in Indianapolis. “ I was elated to be going to the AHL,” he said.” That meant I was going to play professional hockey.” The team that Hall would play with in Indianapolis was bolstered by the presence of future NHL stars Johnny Bucyk, Vic Stasiuk and Norm Ullman.

Hall’s got the call to play in Detroit when Terry Sawchuk injured himself. Hal arrived but his equipment was left behind. Hall would borrow the equipment of the Detroit trainer Lefty Wilson, himself a goalkeeper who often practiced with the club. Hall borrowed the equipment and then had to face the Montreal Canadiens at the Forum with borrowed equipment.

After the first period the Wings trailed 1-0. Gordie Howe got into a fight just before the period ended. “The Wings always sipped tea between periods,” recalled Red Wing coach Tommy Ivan. It was thought that tea would calm a player’s nerves between periods and help him settle down. “I was sitting near Glenn trying to calm him down a bit when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. A baggage trunk separated Howe from Lefty Wilson who was serving the tea. Instead of rising to each for the paper cup of tea, the Big Guy turned the blade of his stick flat and had Wilson put the cup on it. Nonchalant as you please, he pulled the stick toward him without spilling a drop. Mind you he wasn’t showing off.”

Howe’s firm hand said to his teammates that he wasn’t nervous about facing down the Habs without Sawchuk. The Wings came back and tied the Canadiens 2-2.The Wings were outshot 34 to 17 in his NHL debut.

Sawchuk would eventually be traded to make room for Hall. Here Hall would develop his V style He says he developed it as a result of trying to see around Jean Beliveau. “ I started using the V to cope with seeing around and through Beliveau. I couldn’t move him, so I would drop down to cover as much net as possible while still trying to locate the puck. In order to stop it, you have to see it, and the ‘V’ gave me a chance to see it.”

Hall was an independent, intelligent athlete in an age when players were treated like cattle. When Hall walked into Jack Adam’s office to negotiate his sophomore contract contract, he went in feeling he deserved a raise from the NHL minimum $7,500 he’d received in his rookie year. Adams responded that there was just no way the Norris family could afford to pay Glenn anything more. Hall didn’t back down, and Adams relented, magnanimously assenting to a $500 bonus “because you came so close to winning the Vezina, Now, son, I don’t want you talking to anyone about me giving you this raise.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Adams,” Glenn replied as he got out of his chair. “I won’t. I’m ashamed of it too.” Adams, unused to such sarcasm, was taken aback. He didn’t like the backtalk, and his relationship with Glenn began to sour.

Before the 1956-57 season NHL players led by Hall’s teammate Ted Lindsay began to talk of forming a union. Jack Adams was pressured by the league to help quash the movement. Hall and Lindsay were traded to the cellar dwelling Chicago Black Hawks. Things would improve slowly for the Hawks who now had Stan Makita and Bobby Hull in their lineup.

In 1960-61 Hall and the Hawks would win the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens string of five Stanley Cups would come to an end. When the last of the champagne was poured, Mr. Goalie headed back home to Western Canada and his summer job at a fast food restaurant flipping burgers. When your salary was $11,500 for a Stanley Cup season that was how you spent your summer vacation.

Glenn Hall’s durability was phenomenal. Coming into the 1961-62 season, he’d played every game, regular season and playoffs, for his teams for all six seasons of his NHL career. IN all Hall played 500 consecutive games –all without a goalie mask. If you include his AHL games Hall played all 881 games in which he was eligible to play. No wonder he hated practices.

Things were about to change however as the two goalie system was introduced and in the 1963-64 season Denis DeJordy became Hall’s sidekick. Despite Dejordy’s presence Hall would play 65 out of 70 games that season. Hall was notorious for being extremely hard on himself if he believes he had a bad game. No one could be harder on Hall though than the Chicago fans who would boo him mercilessly if he had an off game.

Hall however never admitted to hearing catcalls from the stands. “When I was playing, I’d only hear one guy in the stands,” he said. “ He was the guy who’d say, ‘Beeeeer.Get your cold beeer.”

In the summer of 1965 Hall purchased a small grain farm in Stony Plain, Alberta. “There had been nights when I almost wished I didn’t have to go out on the ice,” he recalls. “ All I wanted to do is stand out in the middle of the 160 acres …and holler, ’Damn you! Damn you! Damn you! Until I’m good and hoarse and hear the ‘You! You! You! Echo back across the field.”

With that Hall informed Hawks general manager Tommy Ivan that he would be retiring from the game. The start of the 1966-67 season for the Hawks represented a now or never situation for the team. Bobby Hull was at the peak of his powers and Stan Mikita had become one of the premier forwards in the league. Nikita was centering the “Scooter Line” of Ken Wharram and Doug Mohns. Hull’s center, a young guy named Phil Esposito was showing some promise. All that was missing was there goaler.
Hall was about to turn 35, he discovered that finding a job in town while continuing to work the farm was a tall order. Ivan offered Hall a raise of $40,000, which kept him the highest paid goalie in the league.

Hall returned and this year the two goalie system was in full swing. But this didn’t bother Hall. “Glenn never broods when he’s on the bench,” recalled Hawks coach Billy Reay”…it’s though you offered him $1,000.”

Unfortunately the Hawks again failed to win the Stanley Cup and on the horizon was the expansion of the six-team league to double its size.

Despite winning the Vezina Trophy in 1967, Hall was left unprotected for that summer’s NHL expansion draft. The 36-year-old veteran was chosen by the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, one of six expansion franchises in their first year in the league, stocked themselves with veteran talent including Red Berenson and Phil Goyette, and won the Western Division playoffs in two seven-game series. Hall’s play led them all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Most hockey fans expected an utter rout when the established Canadiens faced the 1st-year expansion Blues. But this was Hall’s third trip to the finals, and his goaltending was the most outstanding contribution to the surprisingly good performance of the Blues against the Montreal Canadiens. The Blues lost the best-of-seven series getting swept 4–0, but in 4 exciting 1-goal games (3–2 (OT), 1–0. 4–3 (OT), and 3–2). Hall’s remarkable play was recognized by the award to him of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ Most Valuable Player, an award rarely going to a player from a losing team.

In 1968, veteran goaltending legend Jacques Plante joined the Blues, sharing duties with Hall. The two put together a fine season in 1968-69, winning the Vezina Trophy.
He had retired after the 1968–69 season season, but Hall came out of retirement to play 18 games in 1969–70 season.

Hall’s career ended after the 1970–71 season when he announced his retirement at the age of 40. In 1975 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hall won his third Stanley Cup as the goaltender coach with Calgary Flames in 1989.

Hall ended his career with 407 wins, 84 shutouts, a career GAA of 2.49, and was voted to eleven All-Star Games. Hall still holds the record for the most First Team All-Star selections (7) which he achieved while playing the same era as other greats, Sawchuk and Plante –as well as other Hall of Famers, such as Johnny Bower and Gump Worsley.

In 1998, he was ranked number 16 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, currently the highest rank for a living former goaltender (No. 13-ranked Jacques Plante died in 1986, and No. 9 Terry Sawchuk in 1970).

This book is superbly written due to Tom Adrahtas’s insider knowledge o the game. Adrahtas has coached hockey for 22 years and bring s a keen understanding and appreciation of the goalkeeper position. The book was written with the full co-operation of Hall and is reflected in the tone, which has awry, wise humorous look at the game.

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