The drums in hockey’s jungle were beating rapidly on the morning of Friday, April 15 telegraphing the news that Charlie Hodge had passed at the age of 82. The little man who tended goal in the NHL for 14 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Oakland Seals and 1970 Vancouver Canucks had been battling health issues in recent years.
At 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, Hodge defied all odds by not only surviving in the NHL but having his named inscribed on the Stanley Cup six times and winning two Vezina trophies. He was the designated back-up man to the legendary Jacques Plante for six seasons before earning the starting role when Plante was traded to the New York Rangers in a seven-player deal in June, 1963.
Hodge won the Vezina on his own with the Habs in 1964 and shared the honours with Gump Worsley in 1966.
The Oakland Seals claimed Hodge from Montreal in the 1967 NHL expansion draft. He was later selected by Canucks’ original general manager Bud Poile when Vancouver entered the league in 1970. The city wasn’t new to Hodge, who had played in 13 games with the WHL Canucks during the 1968-69 season.
Hodge shared Vancouver’s NHL goaltending chores with Dunc Wilson and George Gardner in 1970-71, finishing with a record of 15-13-5 with 13 of those 15 wins coming at the Pacific Coliseum.
Hodge was in goal for the Canucks’ first ever NHL victory: 5-3 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, 1970 before a sellout Pacific Coliseum crowd of 15,542. The Canucks had built up a 5-0 lead on two goals by Wayne Maki and singles from Orland Kurtenbach, Danny Johnson and Andre Boudrias.
Hodge was unable to come to terms on a new contract with Poile at the end of the 1970-71 season and announced his retirement. He coached the major junior Vancouver Nats for parts of two seasons, sold real estate on the Lower Mainland and eventually moved into scouting for the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
For several years he was a regular at the Coliseum scouting the Giants and their WHL opposition. His presence was noted by the Giants’ front office staff with the inscription of a personalized label on his favourite seat.
Hodge was a character in the first degree. He was known for his crusty and cantankerous demeanour but those who knew him well realized it was all a façade and loved him dearly. Count the Canucks Alumni among that group, unanimously.