In this edition of the "85 Years" series, Blackhawks Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman discusses coaching Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall.
Glenn Hall certainly doesn’t need any introductions around Chicago, where he spent most of his career as a Hall of Fame goalie and was probably the most important player when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1961.
But I was fortunate enough to witness the next chapter in Glenn’s amazing career. He basically put hockey on the map in St. Louis. That might sound crazy now, because the Blues are so successful and have become such a great rival of the Blackhawks. Believe me, though. It’s all true.
Before the 1967-68 season, the National Hockey League took a giant step by expanding from its Original Six teams to 12. In addition to St. Louis, franchises were awarded to Los Angeles, Minnesota, Oakland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
When St. Louis got the team, Lynn Patrick was named the first general manager and coach. He knew me from junior hockey, and he brought me into the NHL as an assistant in both roles with the understanding that I would eventually replace him as coach after one year while he concentrated on being GM. As it turned out, Lynn left the bench early in that first season and made me head coach of the Blues at age 34.
No question our greatest asset was Glenn, whom we got in the expansion draft. There were actually two separate drafts to stock the six new teams. One was for position players. Each Original Six franchise protected 11 skaters. When each lost a player in the draft—theoretically the 12th best in your organization—you would “fill” with your 13th. Then if you lost your 14th, you would protect your 15th, and so on until the six new teams were stocked.
In the goalie draft, each Original Six team could protect only one. Understand, teams didn’t really use two goalies in those days, but there were some good ones available. Chicago protected Denis DeJordy, a younger goalie who was thought to be the heir apparent to Hall. Plus, the Blackhawks assumed Glenn was going to retire, because he threatened to retire every year.
Anyway, Los Angeles had the first choice in the goalie draft. Jack Kent Cooke, the Kings’ owner, was a Canadian, and he felt he could make a big splash by taking Terry Sawchuk, who had helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Cup the previous year. Next was Philadelphia. Bud Poile, the Flyers’ GM, had Hall in junior hockey. As the story goes, Bud talked to Hall and asked what it would take for him to play in Philadelphia. Glenn said $50,000.
“That’s more than I make,” said Poile.
“But you don’t have to stop pucks,” said Hall.
The Flyers passed and took Bernie Parent from Boston. Obviously that turned out well for the Flyers. We were third and selected Hall. All we had to do was sign him, which was a gamble. He asked for $50,000. Patrick said he was prepared to offer $45,000. So they split the difference. I hate to think what would have happened if we couldn’t agree on terms. In the end, our first year payroll for the Blues was $475,000, which means Glenn accounted for one-tenth of the total. But he was worth every cent.
At the start, we weren’t drawing that well, maybe 5,000 or 6,000 in a big building. But gradually the Blues caught on in St. Louis, and Glenn became the face of the franchise. He played 49 games—Seth Martin was his backup—had five shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.48. Off the ice, Glenn fit in perfectly. He was great in the locker room, the guys loved him and he grew into a fan favorite.
We played just 12 games against the Original Six—one home-and-home with each. The rest were against teams in our division, the West, versus other expansion teams. We finished third in a really tight race, three points out of first and three points ahead of fifth, and then Glenn really put on a show in the playoffs.
In the first round, we played Philadelphia, which finished first. Glenn beat them 1-0 in the opener, and we won in seven games, including two overtimes, giving the Flyers just 17 goals. In the second series, we went seven again with the North Stars, with four games going into overtime, including Game 7, which we won 2-1 on Ron Shock’s goal at 2:50 of the second overtime. I want to say Glenn faced 55 shots and stopped 54. He stood on his head because he had to. Minnesota’s goalie, Cesare Maniago, was also terrific.
Interesting story. Glenn struggled in Game 6, which we lost 5-1. Afterward, he pulled me aside and said he was worried. He said he wasn’t moving well, didn’t feel right. Now I’m worried. We sent Glenn to our team doctor to check his eyes, his reflexes, everything. He was our bread and butter. We needed him for Game 7. Well, he got sick before the deciding game, so I knew he was OK. We heard the stories about how Glenn would throw up all the time before games in Chicago, even between periods. He was fabulous in Game 7, and we went on to the finals against the Montreal Canadiens. It was East versus West in the finals then, even though the Original Six obviously had more talent.
We got swept, but listen to this: Glenn won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs. You won’t see that often, but he deserved it. All four games against Montreal were decided by one goal, two in overtime. He played all but 73 minutes in 18 playoff games and had a goals-against average of 2.43. Fabulous.
Now we had to sign him again for the next season. Glenn had that same story he had in Chicago about how he was going to retire and paint his barn up at his farm in Alberta. Well that summer I went up there with one of our owners, Sid Salomon III, to see Glenn. We found him on his porch, drinking a beer. We also discovered that he never did have a barn. Glenn signed for $50,000, which made him the third highest paid player in the NHL behind Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. Again, well-deserved.
In 1968-69, Glenn split the duties with Jacques Plante, another future Hall of Famer who came out of retirement. Between them they had 13 shutouts, eight for Glenn and five for Plante. They shared the Vezina Trophy, and Glenn was named the First Team All-Star goalie. We gave up 157 goals in 76 games, which was unbelievable. Glenn played two more seasons for us before he really did call it a career, and even in 1970-71, his last year, he had a goals-against average of 2.42.
When I see Glenn now, he still talks about how he appreciates his tenure in St. Louis, where he was treated so well by ownership and fans. But I appreciated him, too. He was zero maintenance. You just left him alone and let him play. We had a grinding type team that checked and played tight defensively, but he was the guy because we were so confident in him. Glenn was sort of a semi-butterfly goalie; he didn’t play on his knees. What he had were tremendous reflexes. To this day I’ve never seen a goalie who was so good on his skates that he could do a pirouette with all that equipment on. In those days, not all goalies were good skaters, but he was like a figure skater, a tremendous athlete. Beyond that, though, he was a tremendous guy, a joy to coach, a terrific teammate with a really dry wit.
Glenn still is sharp and funny. Whenever he sees me, he says thanks for his time with the Blues. As someone who was just starting out in the NHL, I felt the same way. Thanks for Glenn Hall.