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Top 100 Goalies: No. 87 — Eddie Johnston

The game that gave him a living almost took his life. That makes his career all the more incredible.

Extremely fast with a heck of a shot would be one way to describe Bobby Orr’s play. Eddie Johnston experienced first-hand what that shot was like.

On Halloween in 1968, Johnston took an Orr slapshot to the temple in the warmups before a game in Detroit, leaving him in a coma for six weeks. The injury was so severe that Johnston lost 40 pounds in two days, and blood clots formed in his head. During the time he was in the coma, he didn’t realize his family came to visit or that a priest showed up for two weeks.

Miraculously, after six weeks, Johnston came out of the coma. Three weeks later, he was back on the ice. There were no hard feelings between him and Orr. In fact, Johnston made Orr godfather to one of his sons, and the two retirees remain friends.

Resiliency is part of what made Johnston great. While some goaltenders settled into retirement by their late 30s, Johnston pushed the bounds of longevity, playing 38 games in back-to-back seasons at 40 and 41 for the St. Louis Blues, then 16 games between two teams in his final NHL season at 42. His stats at the end weren’t nearly as good as they were during his halcyon years with the Bruins, but Johnston was willing and able.

Johnston didn’t play his first NHL game until the season he turned 27, but when he made it, he really made it. By his second season in 1963-64, Johnston played every minute of all 70 games for the Bruins. He’s the last goalie to complete an ironman season. He faced an NHL-high 2,454 shots that year without a mask. That season, he tied a career-best .914 save percentage with a respectable 3.01 goals-against average for a Bruins team that went 18-40-12.

Born: Nov. 24, 1935, Montreal, Que.
NHL Career: 1962-78
Teams: Bos, Tor, StL, Chi
Stats: 234-257-80, 3.25 GAA, .896 SP, 32 SO
Stanley Cups: 2

DID YOU KNOW?

At the start of Johnston’s AHL coaching career in 1978-79, the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to hire him as their coach the following season, but Chicago denied the transfer, promising Johnston the gig for 1979-80.

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