When you read that Vic Hadfield was 6-feet tall and 175 pounds during his playing days, you think he's small by today's standards. If you stand in front of Hadfield, 68, you'd see a well-balanced, muscular, stocky body, perfectly built for throwing checks, banging along the boards and fighting for position in front of the net.
Hadfield looks like the kind of guy who could, one-on-one, push Brian Urlacher back 6 feet. This is to establish that Hadfield was and is one rugged dude. But Hadfield is actually a cream puff, a big guy with a big heart who has been moved by tragedy into a role in which he truly has made an important difference.
After his career ended, the former New York Rangers great was consulting for New York businessman Manny Arturi when Arturi's infant daughter, Daniella Marie Arturi, fell ill with an unknown blood disorder in 1996 and died. Doctors were baffled but the disease was later identified as Diamond Blackfan Anemia. It changed the lives of Manny Arturi and his wife, Marie, as well as Hadfield's.
"We were sitting in his office on Wall Street, and Manny asked me how could we raise awareness about this awful disease that just took his daughter," Hadfield recalled. "Someone else in the Arturis' position might have sued because of the misdiagnosis and subsequent treatment, but they looked past that to see how they could help families who would be dealing with this in the future. To be fair, it was such an unknown disease then that doctors probably didn't know what to do at that time. Manny said, 'Don't be too hard on the doctors, we lost a child and it was sad.' They took that and reversed it and ran with it.
"It didn't take me long to come up with something because I owned a golf course in Ontario and had started a charity tournament with Wayne Gretzky. Right from his rookie season, Gretzky was raising money for charity. Later, we ran a tournament with Paul Coffey. Both raised millions for children's hospitals in the Toronto area.
"I knew I could do it for Manny and Marie because I'd done so many and what's better than a charity golf tournament? The first year we brought out 80 people and netted $45,000."
More than $28 million has been raised in the 11 years since the Arturis started the Daniella Marie Arturi Foundation for Diamond Blackfan Anemia. They hired a Washington lobbyist, and Congress has responded generously. They have made major financial contributions to the Schneider Children's Hospital, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
You can also help out and have a great time in the process. Sign up to play in the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation 11th Annual Golf Outing which benefits research and clinical-care initiatives in Diamond Blackfan Anemia. The outing is set for Monday, Oct. 6, at the Edgewood Country Club, River Vale, N.J.
In past years, the event has brought a large crowd of former New York Rangers and other New York-area professional athletes, many of whom contribute important, signed memorabilia from their careers for the silent auction. The day consists of a morning brunch, an afternoon "scramble" golf tournament, a cocktail party, dinner, silent auction and raffles.
For more information, contact Lauren Carroll at 201-590-8916 or go to the charity website, http://www.dmaf.org/html/golf_outing.html
Hadfield retired from the NHL in 1976 after playing 16 seasons in which he scored 323 goals and 389 assists in 1,002 games. Hadfield, who took no guff, also had 1,154 penalty minutes. He led the NHL with 151 penalty minutes in 1963-64, his rookie season.
At the high point of his career, he played left wing on one of the greatest lines in NHL history, the GAG (goal-a-game) Line, with center Jean Ratelle and right wing Rod Gilbert, two lighter men whose skills earned them entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was their protector and much more than that. He had the heart of a champion and was named their captain.
Hadfield is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame for perhaps the same reason that group of Rangers didn't win the Stanley Cup. There is a window of opportunity that extends several years for a team and then closes. That window closed, in many people's minds, when the Rangers were the best team in the NHL for most of the 1971-72 season and then faltered when Ratelle was injured in the season's final weeks. As it was, they were still good enough to get to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Boston Bruins.
In the latter stages of that season, opponents' slashes broke both of Hadfield's thumbs. He still managed to become the first Ranger to score 50 goals in a season, getting two goals against the Montreal Canadiens in the regular-season's final game. He was the Rangers' second-leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that year.
Hadfield was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1974 season and played two seasons and nine games of another before retiring. He opened a golf course in his native Ontario and worked a variety of jobs over the years in the New York area.