There's little doubt that goalies are a big key to success in hockey. Over their eight decades, the Blackhawks have had some of the most talented netminders to ever patrol the crease, and each added another legend to their storied history.
The Hawks’ first star goalie was Charlie Gardiner, who led the team to its first Stanley Cup in 1934. The Hall of Famer’s most memorable game might have been his last, when he shut out Detroit 1-0 to clinch the 1934 championship. Sadly, Gardiner passed away two months later from a brain tumor.
Chicago’s 1938 finals appearance against Toronto started in dramatic fashion when the team's lone goalie, Mike Karakas, suffered a broken toe in the previous series. The Hawks asked to use New York goaltender Dave Kerr as a substitute, but Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe refused the request and the Blackhawks were forced to pull minor-leaguer Alfie Moore out of a pub just hours before the game. After allowing one tally in the first period, Moore stonewalled the Leafs and the Hawks won 3-1. The angered Smythe wouldn't allow Moore back for Game 2, but Karakas came back for Games 3 and 4 and Chicago went on to win their second Cup.
Sam LoPresti became the answer to a trivia question on March 16, 1941, when head coach Paul Thompson pulled him for an extra forward in the final minutes of the season finale; it was the first time in NHL history that a goalie was pulled for an extra attacker.
Few will forget Glenn Hall’s 500th straight NHL start on January 17, 1962, least of all Hall himself. Before the game, the Blackhawks' owners surprised Hall with a new car. The goalie was so shaken by the gesture that the first shot he faced that night – a bouncing shot from center ice – got past him as Montreal defeated Chicago 7-3.
The greatest waiver pickup in league history occurred on June 11, 1969, when GM Tommy Ivan claimed goalie Tony Esposito from Montreal. “Tony O” won Calder Trophy honors and set a modern-day record for shutouts (15) that season. With Esposito in net, the Blackhawks went from last place in 1968-69 to a first-place finish in ’69-70, the first time in league history a team accomplished the feat.
Darren Pang holds two Blackhawks goaltending records: the goalie picked up six assists in 1987-88, the most by any Hawks goalie in one season. Listed at 5"6”, Pang also ranks as the shortest netminder in team history.
Though he is now considered one of the best all-time, Ed Belfour was not a top prospect when Chicago signed him as a free agent from North Dakota in 1987. A rookie in 1990-91, "Eddie the Eagle" set a team record with 43 wins and won the Calder Trophy at the age of 26.
These goaltenders each hold a place in Blackhawks lore, but there will always be room for the next extraordinary performance.