Blackhawks Hall of Fame defenseman Pierre Pilote hasn’t skated in an NHL game in almost 40 years, but the accolades from his playing days just keep coming.
One of Pilote’s favorite recent stories involves an encounter with longtime Boston Bruins rival Johnny Bucyk, whom he met at a Hockey Hall of Fame golf outing.
“Johnny came up, sat beside me and all of the sudden looks at me and says, ‘Thanks a lot, you little bugger,’” recalls Pilote. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He says, ‘You separated my shoulder once.’
“After a while I say, ‘I didn’t know that – that’s great!’ It was a great compliment.”
Pilote spent 13 years in a Blackhawks sweater intimidating offenses with his physical play and surprising defenses with his adept passing ability. But when Pilote, a three-time Norris Trophy winner and eight-time NHL All-Star, discusses his career, he’s most satisfied that he played hard every game. Despite playing at a diminutive 5’10” and 165 pounds, Pilote gained a reputation as one of the NHL’s toughest hitters and most fearsome competitors, something he takes personal pride in.
“Defensemen, in those days, were always bigger than the forwards,” recalls Blackhawks Hall of Famer and former teammate Stan Mikita. “I looked at Pierre and he and I were the same weight and height. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Geez, if I get into a scrap somewhere is this guy going to be able to help me?’ I found out very quickly that he sure as hell could help you. He was not afraid to hit people.”
“He was a great player, no doubt about that,” says Blackhawks Hall of Fame goaltender and Pilote’s former teammate Glenn Hall. “We played ten years together, and he won the Norris Trophy three times. You don’t win the Norris by accident. To win one is something, but to win three… that’s something else.”
Pilote tallied 77 goals and 400 assists in his 13-year NHL career and helped the Blackhawks regain their competitiveness in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When Pilote joined the Blackhawks in 1955, he immediately became the physical presence that would protect offensive stars like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Bill Hay, and provided the foundation for a solid blue line in front of goaltender Glenn Hall.