Terry Sawchuk (Terry Gordon Sawchuk)

Terry Sawchuk

The Red Wings signed Terry 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 Trophy as the top rookie (the first to win such honors in all three professional hockey leagues) 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. Terry Sawchuk was ordered by Detroit general manager Jack Adams to lose weight before the 1951–52 season, and his personality seemed to change when he dropped more than forty pounds, becoming sullen and withdrawn. He became increasingly surly with reporters and fans, preferred doing crossword puzzles to giving interviews, and struggled for years to regain the weight. Also contributing to his moodiness and self-doubt was the pressure of playing day in and day out 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 instep, 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 skater due to screen shots and box-crowding became more prevalent to counter his agility. 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 to his face over the years. The make-up artist did not have enough room for everything.

The Red Wings traded Terry Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins in June 1955 because they had a capable younger goaltender in the minor leagues (Glenn Hall), which devastated the self-critical goalie. 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. Left unprotected in the June 1967 expansion draft, Terry Sawchuk was the first player selected, taken by the Los Angeles Kings where he played one season before being traded back to Detroit. Terry Sawchuk spent his final season with the New York Rangers, where he played sparingly, 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 goaltender win. His last regular season start was on March 14, 1970 in a 4–7 loss to the Chicago Black Hawks. Terry Sawchuk’s last playoff start was in a 3–5 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 2–3. Boston went on to win the series 4 games to 2.


More Images

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  • terry_sawchuk_face_of_goalie_1966 -


  • December, 28, 1929
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


  • May, 31, 1970
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • pulmonary embolism


  • Mount Hope Cemetery
  • Pontiac, Michigan
  • USA

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