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The Verdict: Savard remembers Ruck, his first and best friend in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

Paul Ruck, Jr., who had hundreds of friends and hundreds of stories, has died at age 80. While his father was head of minor officials for Blackhawks games at Chicago Stadium, Ruck went to work for the team in 1952, overseeing the press box.

Eventually, Ruck assumed the role as chief of minor officials. That’s where he met Denis Savard.

“My rookie year, 1980,” recalled the Blackhawks Hall of Fame ambassador. “We’re playing an exhibition game at the Stadium. I take a penalty. Paul is next to me, running the penalty box. I don’t know him, I don’t know anybody, I’m a little homesick, and I hardly know how to speak any English. But I look over, and he’s got The Daily Racing Form with him in the penalty box. I liked the horses. He liked the horses.

“I point to The Daily Racing Form. He looks at me, and somehow I make out what he’s saying. ‘Tomorrow.’ After the game, I ask around about that guy in the penalty box. Who is he? Where is he? We connect. Turns out, the next day he picks me up at the Bismarck hotel. We go to the track. We have a ball. I’m a scared kid from Montreal. I knew from that day – this would be my friend.”

Ruck was a familiar face and popular person around the National Hockey League. He was friendly with management, labor, referees, linesmen and players, and always had a new story. He never ran out of stories and never had to repeat a story. As Hall of Fame broadcaster Pat Foley noted during Tuesday night’s telecast of the Blackhawks game in Minnesota, Paul Ruck could spin a yarn better than just about anybody.

Ruck obtained the calling card of “Dr. Ruck” many years ago when he accompanied Stan Mikita to a superstars competition in Florida, just for kicks. When the event’s organizers asked for some information about his sidekick, Mikita replied that Ruck was his personal nutritionist and physician. Ruck at the time was somewhat portly, but who would dare argue with Mikita, as honest a soul as the day is long? Besides, everybody else bought in. Reggie Jackson interviewed “Dr. Ruck” about Mikita’s training regimen. Oscar Robertson referred to him as “Dr. Ruck” immediately. Best of all, Bobby Hull, who was also there, gleefully fueled the masquerade party. From then on, Ruck routinely was addressed as one would address a man or woman who had earned a medical degree.

When Savard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, he brought Ruck to Toronto as a guest and put him in the front row. Ruck was a prominent part of Savard’s acceptance speech.

“Besides the fact that Paul was so much fun, he brought me comfort,” Savard went on. “When Mona, my wife, gave birth to our daughter, Tanya, I was stuck in Winnipeg. I couldn’t get there in time. Tanya was born at 2, and I got there at 4. So Paul took them home from the hospital. Whenever I was on the road, I knew that Paul would look after my family if anything happened. This really hits hard, losing Paul. This really hurts. What a beauty he was.”

Three generations of Rucks have been associated with the Blackhawks. Paul’s father, Paul Sr., joined the Blackhawks in 1941. Stephen, son of Paul Jr., started as a stickboy in 1969 and is currently a minor official at the United Center.

Paul Ruck, Jr., was husband to Marsha and the late Marilyn Ruck; father to two daughters, Leslie and Paula; stepfather to Tom and Scott Kryger; and grandfather of three.

“Paul was my first friend in Chicago,” said Savard. “Paul was my best friend in Chicago.”

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