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Top 100 Goalies: No. 63 — Chico Resch

After taking a roundabout route to the NHL, Resch arrived with the up-and-coming Islanders before scaling the Rockies.

Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch started off in hockey in an unusual way. He played on an outdoor rink in Regina – but in rubber boots. At eight, he still couldn’t skate. A coach told him he had to learn to wear blades and, eventually, Resch became a Stanley Cup champion with the New York Islanders. But the path wasn’t easy.

In junior, Resch was stuck behind three other goalies on the Regina Pats. All three happened to get hurt before the 1967 playoffs, so 18-year-old Resch got a chance to show his stuff for a round-and-a-half before the others returned to health. That summer, Pats coach Bob Turner visited Resch while the youngster was working at a meatpacking plant and gave him a pitch. “He said, ‘I’ll put you in the NHL.’ ” Resch said. “I said ‘Bob, you can’t even get me on the Regina Pats.’ ”

Resch’s playoff run attracted NCAA interest, so the netminder headed off to Minnesota-Duluth. As a late bloomer, he liked the idea of being able to develop until he was 23 in college, whereas his junior career would have been done years earlier. Resch ended up making a significant mark in Duluth, where his No. 1 jersey was recently retired.

Turner went on to work as a scout for the Oakland Seals with Bill Torrey. When Torrey became GM of the expansion New York Islanders in 1972, he asked his former scout if he knew any players, and Turner gave him Resch’s name. “In effect,” Resch said, “he did put me in the NHL.”

After a couple seasons in the minors, Resch was 25 when he made his NHL debut with the Isles in 1973-74 and, two years later, he began a platoon with future Hall of Famer Billy Smith. Resch focused on making sure he didn’t have any glaring weaknesses. “You’ve got to see below the surface,” he said. “There were guys with more natural talent, but they wouldn’t accentuate it.”

Resch modelled his game after his hero, Rogie Vachon. But he also wanted to stand out himself. To that end, Resch was part of the first wave of goalies to have his mask painted. And in an era where goalies generally stepped onto the ice slowly, he made to sure to blast out of the doors: he wanted to do everything with energy.

New York began to assemble a lethal lineup in the mid-1970s, from Bryan Trottier and John Tonelli to Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin. A juggernaut was born. Bringing it all together was Torrey, the brilliant GM, whose trades gave the team confidence. “It just got you fired up,” Resch said. “Why can’t we win the Cup?”

And of course, there was the legendary man behind the bench. “Al Arbour was an incredible coach,” Resch said. “There was nobody better. He was the thread that ran through the team. He was wise, we knew we could trust him because of his decision-making, and he was tough. But you never felt like you let him down. He never got mad at your core.”

Resch won the Cup with the Islanders in 1980 but was traded the next season to the awful Colorado Rockies. He understood the trade – New York had some injuries at the time and was primed for the second of four straight Cups with Smith as the starting goalie – but it was still difficult to leave a championship squad in favor of the floundering Rockies.

The New York media saw him battle in Colorado and spearheaded the vote to honor the 33-year-old Resch with the 1982 Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship and perseverance, something Resch credits with revitalizing his career. He followed the Rockies to New Jersey, when they became the Devils, before ending his playing days in Philadelphia. Resch took on several hockey jobs from there, doing one year as GM of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, acting as a goalie coach for the Ottawa Senators, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia and even getting behind the bench for the Minnesota high school team in Brainerd. After that, he became an acclaimed TV color commentator for the Devils, retiring from that gig in 2014 but still doing radio to this day.

Born: July 10, 1948, Moose Jaw, Sask.
NHL Career: 1973-87
Teams: NYI, Col/NJ, Phi
Stats: 231-224-82, 3.28 GAA, .891 SP, 26 SO
All-Star: 2 (Second-2)
Stanley Cups: 1

DID YOU KNOW?

Resch got the ‘Chico’ nickname from Isles teammate Doug Rombough. They lived together in Hempstead, N.Y., where a lot of their neighbors spoke Spanish. Resch liked to talk to the neighbors and tried to learn the language. Rombough teased him for it and compared him to a sitcom character on Chico and The Man. The fact Resch had dark hair and a moustache sealed the deal. Once the press found out, he was ‘Chico’ for life.

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