Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Hockey » Terry Sawchuk Biography - Growing Up, Rookie Of The Year, Chronology, A Dark Temper, Sawchuk: The Troubles And Triumphs Of The World's Greatest Goalie

Terry Sawchuk - A Dark Temper

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But even in those early years, Sawchuk revealed a dark, depressive temper. The first time Detroit sports writer Joe Falls ever saw Sawchuk in 1953, "he was raging with anger and shouting obscenities and throwing his skates at a reporter," Falls is quoted as saying in McDonell's Hockey All-Stars. A 1954 photograph taken at the Red Wings' Olympia Stadium shows Sawchuk climbing a metal fence to get into the crowd and confront a heckler. He got married in 1953, to Pat Morey, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a Detroit-area golf course owner, but he often took his drunken rage out on her after spending nights carousing with Detroit Lions football players. In February 1955, coach Jack Adams briefly benched Sawchuk because of his drinking and ordered him to undergo psychiatric counseling. (Adams only told the press he was resting Sawchuk.)

In 1955, Adams traded Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins. The trade shook Sawchuk's confidence. He did well during his first season in Boston, posting nine shutouts, but faltered in 1956-57. He came down with mononucleosis, missed several games, and came back to play before he was fully recovered. He didn't play as well after his return, still feeling sick and weak, and worried about his performance until he began to suffer from insomnia. Miserable, he told the Bruins he was retiring from the game rather than let his team down on the ice—and his angry coach labeled him a quitter in the papers. He went back to his home in Detroit, where the Red Wings' team physician examined him and declared he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He called a press conference, explained his decision, and announced he might return to hockey if his health improved. He tried to work as a car dealer, insurance salesman, and bartender. When the Red Wings decided they wanted him back for the next season, he gladly returned to hockey. But his mental instability had become public knowledge, a famous example of the self-doubt and lonely despair that can take over a goalie's mind.

Sawchuk spent seven more seasons as the Wings' goalie, but the team wasn't quite what it once was. He was still a solid, talented goalie, but never posted the amazing statistics of his first years. During the 1960-61 season, as more teams began to carry two goalies on their rosters, he had to share goaltending duties with Hank Bassen. "It really rocked his world," his wife, Pat, told Dupuis for his book. "If he sat out a game, there are no words to describe his depression." He still drank heavily, which caused pain to flare up in his legs. He frequently lashed out at his wife and children, and his infidelities became obvious. Twice, his wife filed for divorce but reconciled with him.

Sawchuk: The Troubles and Triumphs of the World's Greatest Goalie

On January 10, an ankle injury forced Terry from the second period of a game at the Forum. He was expected to miss the next game against the Leafs two nights later, but ever the warrior, Terry recovered and suited up….

With sixty-three seconds left in the opening period, Terry dove to make his ninth save of the game and had Leaf Bob Pulford fall over his outstretched body. Terry put his catching hand down on the ice in an attempt to keep his balance. At that exact moment, Pulford, trying to get back on his own feet, accidentally stepped on the back of Terry's hand. The pain shot up Terry's left arm. Throwing off his glove, he looked at the back of his hand.

"It looked like a little cut at first," he said later, "then it opened up and I could see the knuckle bones. I tried to open my hand as I was going off the ice but the fingers snapped right under. Funny thing, it hurt very little."

Terry was rushed to Toronto East General Hospital, where he was diagnosed as having three severed tendons above the knuckle. The one-hour surgery included gouging the hand to refind the severed retracted tendons, multi-stitching to reconnect the tendons, and then closing the wound….

Terry's injury led to an innovation. Wings' trainer Lefty Wilson designed and attached a hard protective covering over the exposed knuckle area of Terry's catching glove. The feature was quickly adopted by all goalies in the NHL.

Source: Dupuis, David. Sawchuk: The Troubles and Triumphs of the World's Greatest Goalie. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1998, pp. 158-159.

Awards and Accomplishments

1950-51 All-Star First Team
1950-51 Calder Memorial Trophy
1951-52 All-Star First Team
1951-52 Vezina Trophy
1952-53 All-Star First Team
1952-53 Vezina Trophy
1953-54 All-Star Second Team
1954-55 All-Star Second Team
1954-55 Vezina Trophy
1958-59 All-Star Second Team
1962-63 All-Star Second Team
1964-65 Vezina Trophy
1970-71 Lester Patrick Trophy
1971 Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

In his twenty years as an NHL goaltender, Sawchuk suffered repeated injuries and was in and out of hospitals all the time. As a young player, he had multiple elbow surgeries to remove bone chips from youthful injures. In his first years in the NHL, when each team had only one goalie and no one wore a mask, games would stop if a shot or a stick cut a goalie's face, the team's trainer would quickly sew up the wound, and the goalie would keep playing. Sawchuk got an estimated 400 stitches in his face and head before he started wearing a mask in 1962. He broke bones and suffered concussions. Once, in 1963, a teammate's skate slashed his hand open. "It looked like a little cut at first," he said (according to Dupuis's Sawchuk), "then it opened up and I could see the knuckle bones." Doctors had to reattach his tendons in surgery.

Terry Sawchuk - Sawchuk: The Troubles And Triumphs Of The World's Greatest Goalie [next] [back] Terry Sawchuk - Chronology

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over 8 years ago

The suddenness of Sawchuk's "depression", behavior changes, and so many injuries makes you wonder if he didn't have some concussion syndrome

and permanent brain injury from hockey.

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about 11 years ago

Sawchuk was hands down the best ever to stand between the pipes. Shame he didn't live long enough to know...

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almost 12 years ago

It irritates me when people eho never saw Terry sawchuk play,- go onto to name other golatenders as the best goalie ever.

Those who did see Terry play, especially in his prime with Detroit or in the 1967 playoffs, know better.

All that any fair peson can do is name the best goalie that they have ever SEEN,- and for me, the choice of Terry Sawchuk is a " no-brainer. "

Brian Kelly

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almost 10 years ago


I do not think it is fair that Tery's Record of Shutouts be surpassed by Martin Breodure when Terry played less games and it took Martin a lot more games to get near Terry's record.So something has to be done in that regard to keep Terry's Record intact.

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about 8 years ago

Comments to various posts here:

1. I did see Terry play quite a lot and he was not the greatest goalie ever. He was the greatest during 1950-55, but after Hall and Plante came into the league he was surpassed. His untimely death exaggerated his accomplishments in many people's eyes, but his numbers and records do not compare to Hall or Plante. All time, Sawchuk is behind Hall, Plante, Brodeur and Roy.

2. DuPuis' book is excellent, and the poster pretends that distant cousins knew better than his wife and child. Ridiculous criticism of a great book. The people who spent the most time with him during those years were his teammates, who loved him but acknowledged he was a seriously depressed alcoholic.

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over 11 years ago

I am very disappointed in Dupuis' book. He has taken only the information from an estranged wife, a son who was a very young teenager when Terry died and an uncle (Nick) who had left Winnipeg before Terry was a junior hockey player and only saw Terry when the Wings played in Chicago. Dupuis did not speak to other members of Terry's family, I mean cousins who grew up with him nor did he talk to Terry's brother Gerald, who remained close to Terry until Terry's death. The book is warped and does not really depict the real Terry Sawchuk. Terry was not a disfunctional alcoholic as described in the book and if he was your friend he was your friend for life, ask Vince in winnipeg. Terry's family on his mother's side, the Maslaks, were a close knit family and he did not have any family members from the Sawchuks (his Dad's family)as Louie was an adopted boy and had no immediate family such as brothers or sisters. Dupuis should have done much more research beofre writing about anyone..poor job in that regard.

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almost 2 years ago

my grandmother & terry's grandfather were brother & sister; i was always told my dad to 'watch that terry sawchuk play'; the family on the maslak side was proud of terry; despite stories that surround many NHL players. rest in peace, cuz.

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almost 10 years ago

I was born in '52', the year Terry started with the Wings. At 3, my Dad took me to my first Wings game. We had seats in the corner and there he was. Sawchuck. I still remember telling Dad that I wanted to be Terry Sawchuck. and I wanted to be a goalie. The next day, Dad built me a big rink in the backyard and Grampa built me 2 nets. I became a goalie at 3 years old. He got me some double runner skates and I just took off. I could skate better than I could walk. My Dad was shocked. I stayed on the ice except to eat every year untill it melted. I started organized hockey when I was 6. Thank God I never had to play back-up goalie. My buddies and I took the the bus to the Olympia for Wings practice and autographs and possibly get an autographed stick. I got Howes', Delvechios' but Sawchuck wouldn't give his up. Got his autograph though. I kept going back to him to ask if I could have his stick. Then I told him I played against his son, who also was a goalie. He said he'd seen me play twice against his kid. He said I'm a pretty good goalie. My buddies never stopped talking about that, still. He gave me his stick and signed it and had some other players sign it. He signed my buddies sticks to. Me and one of those buddies, Dave Roberts, made the Wings and they sent us to their farm club in Pittsburg whitch eventually became the Penguins. I took a direct hit to the kneecap and that was the end of my hockey career. A pretty sad day. I have the 3 sticks under glass with my trophies. I can't imagine what they're worth. I could never sell them even when I was broke. Hockey was the best part of my life. A class sport. Except for Sean Avery. What a peice of work. He's an embarassment to hockey. Peace man