His Last Years
The Los Angeles Kings took Sawchuk in that year's expansion draft, and the aging goalie played for three different teams in the next three years. By the time he was traded back to Detroit and then to the New York Rangers, the aging goalie was serving as a backup. Early in 1969, after more of Sawchuk's alcoholic fits of temper, his wife left him, taking their seven kids, and divorced him. He moved in with some of his teammates.
His violent temper led to his tragic death. In April 1970, Sawchuk got into an argument with roommate and teammate Ron Stewart. They got into a shoving match, then both fell to the ground. Sawchuk suffered internal bleeding, and surgeries failed to heal the injuries. He died on May 31, 1970.
Sawchuk's record of 103 shutouts may never be broken. He played in a record 971 regular-season games; he was one of the last great goaltenders from the era when goalies played every game, when their careers were one long endurance test. All goalies sacrifice their bodies, absorbing the blows of speeding pucks, and all struggle with the intense mental challenge of carrying the praise or blame for their teams' successes and failures. Sawchuk faced those trials in more games than any other goalie, and may have suffered more than anyone else. His achievements and his tragedies, his physical stamina and mental torment, make him not only hockey's best goalie, but the ultimate goaltending legend.