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Top 100 Goalies: No. 6 — Glenn Hall

‘Mr. Goalie’ became the benchmark of steadiness, in part, by bravely falling down

When it comes to consistency between the pipes, no one will ever touch Glenn Hall.

The Chicago Black Hawks legend holds the record for most consecutive NHL starts with 502, a number that is impossible to fathom in the modern era. And if it wasn’t for a back problem in 1962, his record would’ve been even longer. On the flip side, it also could have been shorter. Hall considered retiring during his streak due to a policy enacted by GM Tommy Ivan that fined players for “indifferent play.” Hall was among Ivan’s victims. “The GM said, if you don’t like the fine, quit. So I contemplated that. I really, really did,” Hall told The Hockey News. “I went back to my wife and we talked about it. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do anything else. So I paid the ransom and continued to play.”

Playing without a mask and with a heap of pressure as the last line of defense, Hall famously threw up before most games, causing a pale complexion that inspired teammate Ed Litzenberger to nickname him ‘Ghoulie.’ But that anxiety spurred Hall on, and when he was happy in net, he found he played his worst hockey. “I played well when I threw up before games,” he said. “If I was just whistling relaxed, I was horses---, so I forced myself.”

Breaking in with Detroit, Hall played a smattering of games in the early 1950s before his first full season in 1955-56. With 12 shutouts in 70 games, Hall won the Calder Trophy and was named a second-team all-star. That campaign also began the streak of starts that made Hall an icon. After one more season in Detroit, Hall was traded to the Black Hawks, where he compiled all-star accolades and came close to the Hart Trophy on numerous occasions. That earned him the more well-known moniker, ‘Mr. Goalie.’

Though Chicago was generally outgunned by Toronto or Montreal in those days, the Black Hawks did have top-end talent in front of Hall with Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Pierre Pilote, among others. In 1961, the Hawks upset Montreal in the first round of the playoffs before bouncing Hall’s old Red Wings to win Chicago’s first Stanley Cup since 1938. Despite the strong cast, the Black Hawks did not win another title until Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane led the franchise back to glory in 2010.

Hall came close on several other occasions, however. Chicago got back to the final the next year, but lost to Toronto. They also fell short in 1965, when they were defeated by the Canadiens. When the NHL ballooned to 12 teams in 1967, Hall was claimed in the expansion draft by the St. Louis Blues after Chicago left him unprotected in favor of a younger goalie, Denis DeJordy. The 35-year-old Hall was selected third overall, behind fellow future Hall of Famers Terry Sawchuk (Los Angeles) and Bernie Parent (Philadelphia).

Thanks to the NHL’s friendly set-up in those early days, all the expansion teams were in their own division, giving St. Louis a much easier path to the Cup final in 1968. The squad beat Philadelphia and Minnesota en route to the final, where Hall was magnificent in defeat against the powerhouse Canadiens. Despite losing, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The Blues made the final three seasons in a row, only to be swept by either Montreal or Boston.

Hall was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, and there was never a doubt that he was one of the top goalies of his era. As time has progressed, his legacy and consistency become even more impressive, but the Black Hawks legend was also a pioneer. In a maskless era where most netminders remained upright on their skates as much as possible, Hall was not afraid to go down on the ice to make a save. His style set a blueprint for future Hawks goalie Tony Esposito and generations after that, where the butterfly technique eventually became the dominant style of goaltending in the hockey world. That Hall did it without facial protection makes his innovation that much more impressive – but at least he knew rocket-launching Hull was shooting on the guy in the other net at the time.

While Esposito eventually broke most of Hall’s franchise records in Chicago, there’s no doubting the impact and legacy Hall had in the Windy City. He won two Vezina Trophies with the Hawks and one with the Blues, back when the award went to the netminder who surrendered the fewest goals in the regular season. For more than 50 years, Hall has lived in a farmhouse in Stony Plain, Alta., near Edmonton, with generations of family always around. Like an NHL crease, Hall has found a place he’s comfortable with long term. Eventually, the town even named its arena after him.

Born: Oct. 3, 1931, Humboldt, Sask.
NHL Career: 1952-71
Teams: Det, Chi, StL
Stats: 407-326-163, 2.49 GAA, .917 SP, 84 SO
All-Star: 11 (First-7, Second-4)
Trophies: 5 (Vezina-3, Smythe-1, Calder-1)
Stanley Cups: 2

DID YOU KNOW?

Chicago might have stayed in the basement of the NHL had the Hawks not acquired Hall from Detroit, but the reason for the deal was inane. Red Wings GM Jack Adams decided to make an example of Ted Lindsay for attempting to unionize NHL players by trading him to the lowly Hawks, and Hall was an add-on. Hall had allegedly talked back to Adams once and was seen to have sympathy for Lindsay’s cause.

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