|Hockey Hall of Fame, 1971|
December 28, 1929|
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
May 31, 1970 (aged 40)|
New York City, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)|
|Weight||195 lb (88 kg; 13 st 13 lb)|
Detroit Red Wings|
Toronto Maple Leafs
Los Angeles Kings
New York Rangers
Terrance Gordon Sawchuk (December 28, 1929 - May 31, 1970) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played 21 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. He won the Calder Trophy, earned the Vezina Trophy in four different seasons, was a four-time Stanley Cup champion, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame the year after his final season, one of only ten players for whom the three year waiting period was waived.
At the time of his death, Sawchuk was the all-time leader among NHL goaltenders with 447 wins and with 103 shutouts. In the many decades following his death, his NHL win record has been surpassed by only seven goaltenders, and his NHL shutout record has been surpassed by one goaltender, though Sawchuk will forever remain the all-time leader in wins and shutouts by goaltenders who played in the Original Six era (1942 - 1967). In 2017, Sawchuk was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players".
Sawchuk was born in the North End of Winnipeg and raised there until his family moved to Bowman Avenue in East Kildonan, a working-class, formerly Ukrainian section of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was the third of four sons and one adopted daughter of Louis Sawchuk, a tinsmith who had immigrated to Canada as a boy from Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ukraine), and his wife Anne (nee Maslak), a homemaker. The second son died young from scarlet fever and the oldest, an aspiring hockey goaltender whom Terry idolized, died suddenly of a heart attack at age seventeen. At age twelve, Sawchuk injured his right elbow playing rugby and, not wanting to be punished by his parents, hid the injury, preventing the dislocation from properly healing. Thus, the injury left his right arm with limited mobility and was now also several inches shorter than the left, which bothered him for his entire athletic career. After inheriting his good friend's goalie equipment, Sawchuk began playing ice hockey in a local league and worked for a sheet-metal company installing vents over bakery ovens. His goaltending talent was so evident that at age fourteen a local scout for the Detroit Red Wings had him work out with the team, who later signed him to an amateur contract and sent him to play for their junior team in Galt, Ontario in 1946, where he also finished the eleventh grade but most likely did not graduate from high school. He excelled in many sports. He played baseball for a number of years for the Elmwood Giants first in the Manitoba Senior AA League starting in 1948, when he won the league's batting title, and then in Mandak League. He played in both the infield and the outfield.
The Red Wings signed Sawchuk to a professional contract in 1947, and he quickly progressed through their developmental system, winning honors as the Rookie of the Year in both the U.S. and American Hockey Leagues. Sawchuk also filled in for seven games when the Detroit goalie Harry Lumley was injured in January 1950. Sawchuk showed such promise that the Red Wings traded Lumley to the Chicago Black Hawks, though he had just led the team to the 1950 Stanley Cup. Nicknamed "Ukey" or "The Uke" by his teammates because of his Ukrainian ancestry, Sawchuk led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups in five years, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie and three Vezina Trophies for the fewest goals allowed (he missed out the other two years by one goal). He was selected as an All-Star five times in his first five years in the NHL, had fifty-six shutouts, and his goals-against average (GAA) remained under 2.00. In the 1951-52 playoffs, the Red Wings swept both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, with Sawchuk surrendering five goals in eight games (for a 0.625 GAA), with four shutouts. During the last of these eight games, the Legend of the Octopus began as the first of the eight-limbed molluscs was hurled onto the ice from the stands.
Sawchuk was ordered by Detroit general manager Jack Adams to lose weight before the 1951-52 season. After his weight loss, his personality seemed to change and he became sullen and withdrawn. He became increasingly surly with reporters and fans, preferring to do crossword puzzles than give interviews. He also struggled for years to regain the weight. Also contributing to his moodiness and self-doubt was the pressure of playing every day despite repeated injuries -- there were no backup goaltenders. He frequently played through pain, and during his career he had three operations on his right elbow, an appendectomy, countless cuts and bruises, a broken foot, a collapsed lung, ruptured discs in his back, and severed tendons in his hand. A standup goaltender, he adopted a crouching stance to see through the legs of skaters. Years of crouching in the net caused Sawchuk to walk with a permanent stoop and resulted in lordosis (swayback), which prevented him from sleeping for more than two hours at a time. He also received approximately 400 stitches to his face (including three in his right eyeball) before finally adopting a protective facemask in 1962. In 1966, Life Magazine had a make-up artist apply stitches and scars to Sawchuk's face to demonstrate all of the injuries his face sustained over the years. The make-up artist did not have enough room for everything.
The Red Wings traded Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins in June 1955 because they had a capable younger goaltender in the minor leagues (Glenn Hall). This devastated Sawchuk. During his second season with Boston, Sawchuk was diagnosed with mononucleosis, but returned to the team after only two weeks. Physically weak, playing poorly, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown and exhaustion, he announced his retirement in early 1957 and was labeled a "quitter" by team executives and several newspapers. Detroit reacquired Sawchuk by trading young forward Johnny Bucyk to Boston. After seven seasons, when they had another promising young goalie (Roger Crozier) ready for promotion from the minor leagues, Detroit left Sawchuk unprotected in the 1964 intra-league waiver draft, and he was quickly claimed by the Maple Leafs. With Sawchuk sharing goaltending duties with the forty-year-old Johnny Bower, the veteran duo won the 1964-65 Vezina Trophy and led Toronto to the 1967 Stanley Cup. In Sawchuk's last game with the Maple Leafs, he stopped 40 of 41 shots in 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the Cup clinching game 6. Left unprotected in the June 1967 expansion draft, Sawchuk was the first player selected, taken by the Los Angeles Kings where he played one season before being traded back to Detroit.
In June 1969, the Red Wings traded Sawchuk and Sandy Snow to the New York Rangers for Larry Jeffrey. Sawchuk played sparingly for the Rangers, starting only six games. On February 1, 1970, in only his fourth start of the season, he recorded his 103rd and final shutout of his career by blanking the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-0. This was also his last NHL win. His last regular season start was on March 14, 1970 in a 7-4 loss to the Chicago Black Hawks. Sawchuk's last playoff start was in a 5-3 playoff quarterfinals loss to the Boston Bruins on April 9, 1970. Sawchuk appeared in his last NHL game on April 14 in the same playoff series. In game 5, after Phil Esposito had scored at 7:59 of the third period to put Boston in the lead, Rangers coach Emile Francis, in an effort to slow down the game, replaced goalie Ed Giacomin with Sawchuk. He was in the net for less than a minute before Giacomin returned and the Rangers lost the game 3-2. Boston went on to win the series 4 games to 2.
Sawchuk married Patricia Ann Bowman Morey on August 6, 1953 after a brief courtship. They had seven children, and the family endured many years of Sawchuk's increasing alcoholism, philandering (he impregnated a Toronto girlfriend in 1967), and verbal and physical abuse. Morey threatened to divorce him numerous times, and finally did so in 1969.
Sawchuk struggled with untreated depression, a condition that often affected his conduct. After the 1969-70 season ended, Sawchuk and Rangers teammate Ron Stewart, both of whom had been drinking, physically fought over expenses for the house they rented together on Long Island, New York. Sawchuk suffered severe internal injuries during the scuffle from falling on top of Stewart's bent knee. At Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Sawchuk's gallbladder was removed and he had a second operation on his damaged and bleeding liver. The press described the incident as "horseplay", and Sawchuk told the police that he accepted full responsibility for the events.
At New York Hospital Manhattan, another operation was performed on Sawchuk's bleeding liver. He never recovered and died shortly thereafter from a pulmonary embolism on May 31, 1970 at the age of 40. The last reporter to speak to him, a week before his death, was Shirley Fischler (wife of Stan Fischler), who went to see him in the hospital as a visitor, not identifying herself as a reporter. Sawchuk told her the incident with Stewart "was just a fluke, a complete fluke accident." Fischler described him as "so pale and thin that the scars had almost disappeared from his face." A Nassau County grand jury exonerated Stewart and ruled that Sawchuk's death was accidental. Sawchuk was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Pontiac, Michigan.
During his career, Sawchuk won 501 games (447 regular season and 54 playoff), while recording 115 shutouts, (103 in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs). Sawchuk set the standard for measuring goaltenders, and was publicly hailed as the "best goalie ever" by a rival general manager in 1952, during only his second season. Sawchuk finished his hockey career with 447 wins, a record that stood for thirty years, and his career record of 103 shutouts remained unsurpassed among NHL goaltenders, until Martin Brodeur bested that mark on December 21, 2009. In 1971, Sawchuk was posthumously elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contribution to hockey in the United States. The Red Wings retired his number 1 in 1994. In 1996, the book Shutout: The Legend of Terry Sawchuk by sports author Brian Kendall, was published. A second book Sawchuk: The troubles and triumphs of the World's Greatest Goalie was published in 1998 by David Dupuis, with the participation of the Sawchuk family. In 2001, he was honored with his image on a Canadian postage stamp, even though he had become a U.S. citizen in 1959. In 2008, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, a book of poetry about Sawchuk by Randall Maggs, was published. The Terry Sawchuk Arena in his hometown of Winnipeg is named in his honour. In 2019, a film about his life and times was released, titled Goalie.
When he joined the Maple Leafs, Sawchuk originally wore jersey number 24, but switched to 30. In the decades since, NHL goaltenders have chosen numbers in the 30s inspired by his example and that of players like the Canadiens' Patrick Roy, who would have used 30 but was forced to pick another since it was already taken by right winger Chris Nilan (he chose 33, which itself became popular as a choice).
|1946-47||Galt Red Wings||OHA||30||--||--||--||1800||94||4||3.13||--||2||0||2||125||9||0||4.32||--|
|1949-50||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||7||4||3||0||420||16||1||2.29||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|1950-51||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||44||13||13||4200||138||11||1.97||--||6||2||4||463||13||1||1.68||--|
|1951-52*||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||44||14||12||4200||133||12||1.90||--||8||8||0||480||5||4||0.63||--|
|1952-53||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||63||32||15||16||3780||119||9||1.89||--||6||2||4||372||21||1||3.38||--|
|1953-54*||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||67||35||19||13||4004||129||12||1.93||--||12||8||4||751||20||2||1.60||--|
|1954-55*||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||68||40||17||11||4040||132||12||1.96||--||11||8||3||660||26||1||2.36||.893|
|1957-58||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||29||29||12||4198||206||3||2.94||.905||4||0||4||252||19||0||4.53||.855|
|1958-59||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||67||23||36||8||4019||207||5||3.09||.896||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|1959-60||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||58||24||20||14||3476||154||5||2.66||.909||6||2||4||405||19||0||2.82||.899|
|1960-61||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||37||11||17||8||2148||112||2||3.13||.897||8||5||3||465||18||1||2.32||.921|
|1961-62||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||43||14||21||8||2580||141||5||3.28||.888||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|1962-63||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||48||21||16||7||2760||117||3||2.54||.912||11||5||6||660||35||0||3.18||.893|
|1963-64||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||53||25||20||7||3139||138||5||2.64||.916||13||6||5||677||31||1||2.75||.912|
|1964-65||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||36||16||13||7||2160||92||1||2.56||.915||1||0||1||60||3||0||3.00||.923|
|1965-66||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||27||10||11||3||1519||80||1||3.16||.903||2||0||2||120||6||0||3.00||.917|
|1966-67*||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||28||16||6||3||1409||66||2||2.81||.917||10||6||4||563||25||0||2.66||.931|
|1967-68||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||36||10||17||5||1934||99||2||3.07||.891||5||2||3||280||18||1||3.86||.871|
|1968-69||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||13||4||5||3||640||28||0||2.63||.912||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|1969-70||New York Rangers||NHL||8||3||1||2||412||20||1||2.91||.893||3||0||1||80||6||0||4.51||.872|
* Stanley Cup Champion.