Skip to main content

Bower, Ilitch among deaths in hockey world in 2017

Maple Leafs goalie, Red Wings owner two of game's greats to die in past year

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

For all the tremendous accomplishments that took place during 2017, the NHL Centennial was also defined by those we lost, including three Hockey Hall of Fame players and one of the League's longest-tenured owners.

Here's a look at some of those in the hockey world who died during the past year:

Johnny Bower
Dec. 26, 2017 (Age 93)

Bower, nicknamed "The China Wall," got a late start to his NHL career but helped the Toronto Maple Leafs to Stanley Cup championships in 1962, '63 and '64 and '67. Bower made his NHL debut at age 29, playing all 70 games for the New York Rangers in 1953-54. But he lost the starting job to Gump Worsley the following season and didn't return to the League full-time until 1958-59, when coach/general manager Punch Imlach brought him to Toronto at age 34. Three years later, he helped the Maple Leafs win the first of three straight Stanley Cup titles, then teamed with Terry Sawchuk in 1967 to help them to their fourth title in six seasons. He played his final NHL game on Dec. 10, 1969, a month after his 45th birthday, finished his NHL career 250-195 with 90 ties, a 2.51 goals-against average and 37 shutouts, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. Bower's No. 1 is retired by the Maple Leafs and a statue of him can be found on Legends Row outside Air Canada Centre.

Pierre Pilote
Sept. 9, 2017 (Age 85)

Pilote was an eight-time NHL All-Star, won the Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman in three consecutive years (1963-65), and tied for the Stanley Cup Playoff scoring lead in 1961 when he helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Cup for the first time since 1938. Pilote spent 13 of his 14 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks and was captain from 1961-62 until he was traded after the 1967-68 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. 

Mike Ilitch
Feb. 10, 2017 (Age 87)

Ilitch, the founder of the Little Caesars Pizza, bought the Detroit Red Wings in 1982 after they had struggled for more than a decade, and realized his reward in 1997 when they ended a 42-year championship drought by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1955. They won again in 1998, 2002 and 2008, and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons before failing to qualify in 2016-17. Ilitch, who also owned the Detroit Tigers, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. 

Milt Schmidt
Jan. 4, 2017 (Age 98)

Schmidt spent more than 80 years at all levels of hockey, most of them with the Boston Bruins. He played 16 seasons in Boston, many of them centering the "Kraut Line" with Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart before all three enlisted in World War II after the 1941-42 season. He had 575 (229 goals, 346 assists) points, a Bruins record at the time, in 776 games before retiring midway through the 1954-55 season. Schmidt is the only one to work with the Bruins as a player, captain, coach and general manager (he helped sign Bobby Orr to a contract with the organization in 1962). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. 

Zarley Zalapski
Dec. 12, 2017 (Age 49)

Zalapski, a smooth-skating defenseman with a good shot, played 637 games for the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Hartford Whalers, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers from 1987-2000 and finished with 384 NHL points (99 goals, 285 assists). He was a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1989 and played in the 1993 NHL All-Star Game. He also played for Canada at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Darryl Edestrand
Oct. 8, 2017 (Age 71)

Edestrand, a defenseman, played 455 NHL games with five teams from 1967-68 through 1978-79. His best offensive season was in 1972-73, when he had 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) for the Penguins. He finished with 124 points (34 goals, 90 assists) and 404 penalty minutes.

Dave Strader
Oct. 1, 2017 (Age 62)

Strader, known as "The Voice," received the Foster Hewitt Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame shortly before he died from cancer and was honored during the Hall of Fame induction luncheon Nov. 13. He spent more than 30 years calling games for the Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes, as well as for ESPN, FOX, NHL International and NBC. 

Noel Picard
Sept. 6, 2017 (Age 78) 

Picard, a defenseman born in Montreal, was an original member of the St. Louis Blues who was best known for sending Bobby Orr flying into the air an instant after Orr took the shot that beat Glenn Hall in overtime of Game 4 in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, giving the Bruins their first championship since 1939. He had 75 points (12 goals, 63 assists) and 616 penalty minutes in 335 NHL games during seven seasons, six of them with the Blues.

Dave Creighton
Aug. 18, 2017 (Age 87)

Creighton, a center, spent 12 seasons in the NHL with four teams from 1948-49 through 1959-60. He scored 20 goals twice for the Bruins (1951-52 and 1953-54), then had his best offensive season with the Rangers in 1955-56 (20 goals, 31 assists). Creighton had 314 points (140 goals, 174 assists) in 616 NHL games, then spent nine seasons in the American Hockey League before retiring in 1969. His son, Adam Creighton, played in the NHL from 1983-84 through 1996-97.

Parker MacDonald
Aug. 17, 2017 (Age 84)

MacDonald, a forward who played 13 of his 15 NHL seasons in the pre-expansion era, finished his NHL career with 323 points (144 goals, 179 assists) in 676 games. His best season was 1962-63, when he scored 33 goals and finished with 61 points for the Red Wings playing mostly on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. He was also 33-54 with 16 ties in brief stints as coach of the Minnesota North Stars and Los Angeles Kings.

Bryan Murray
Aug. 12, 2017 (Age 74)

Murray was a coach and executive with five NHL teams. He was Ottawa Senators general manager from 2007-16 before stepping down to be a special adviser to GM Pierre Dorion. Murray was GM of the Red Wings (1990-94), Panthers (1994-98) and Anaheim Ducks (2001-04), and he coached the Washington Capitals (1981-90), Red Wings (1990-93), Panthers (1997-98), Ducks (2001-02) and Senators (2005-08). Murray was 620-465-23 with 131 ties in 17 seasons as a coach and was inducted into the Senators Ring of Honour on Jan. 24, 2017.

Tod Sloan
July 12, 2017 (Age 89

Sloan was a Stanley Cup winner with two teams during his 13-season NHL career. He had 56 points (31 goals, 25 asssits) for the Maple Leafs in 1950-51, when he had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 11 playoff games to help them win the Cup. A decade later, he was a member of Chicago's 1961 championship team. The Blackhawks' Cup-winning Game 6 victory against the Red Wings was his last NHL game; he retired with 482 points (220 goals, 262 assists) in 745 games.

Dave Semenko
June 29, 2017 (Age 59)

Semenko was a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers. He joined the Oilers for the 1977-78 World Hockey Association season and scored the last goal in WHA history, in Game 6 of the 1979 Avco Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets. Semenko came to the NHL with the Oilers in 1979-80 and played with them until being traded to the Whalers on Dec. 12, 1986. He had 153 points (65 goals, 88 assists) and 1,175 penalty minutes in 575 NHL games, providing a physical presence to go along with the skills of players including Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey.

Sergei Mylnikov
June 20, 2017 (Age 58)

Mylnikov was the goaltender for the last team from the Soviet Union to win an Olympic gold medal, playing every minute at the 1988 Calgary Olympics four years after Vladislav Tretiak retired. He was selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the seventh round (No. 127) of the 1989 NHL Draft and played 10 games for the Nordiques in 1989-90, becoming the first Soviet goaltender to play in the League. He was 1-7-2 with a 4.96 GAA before returning to Europe, where he played until 1995.

Bill White
May 21, 2017 (Age 77)

White played seven seasons in the AHL before becoming an original member of the Kings in 1967 and represented them at the NHL All-Star Game in 1969 and 1970, but his career took off after he was traded to the Blackhawks on Feb. 20, 1970. White and Pat Stapleton formed one of the best defense pairs in the NHL in the early 1970s, when he was a three-time Second-Team All-Star and helped the Blackhawks advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and 1973. He also played for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. White retired in 1976 with 265 points (50 goals, 215 assists) in 604 NHL games.

Bill Sutherland
April 9, 2017 (Age 82)

After five seasons in the Canadiens system, Sutherland was taken by the Flyers in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft and scored the first goal in their history on Oct. 11, 1967, a 5-1 loss at the Oakland Seals. He also scored Philadelphia's first goal at home eight nights later in a 1-0 win against the Penguins. Sutherland had an NHL career-high 20 goals in the Flyers' first season. He finished with 128 points (70 goals, 58 assists) in 250 NHL games. 

Ilkka Sinisalo
April 5, 2017 (Age 58)

Sinisalo spent the first nine of his 11 NHL seasons with the Flyers, scoring 36 goals in 1984-85 and 39 in 1985-86, and breaking the 20-goal mark in four other seasons. Sinisalo was a good two-way player, finishing his NHL career with a plus-129 rating. He had 426 points (204 goals, 222 assists) in 582 NHL games, and 32 points (21 goals, 11 assists) in 68 playoff games. Eleven of his postseason goals came during Philadelphia's runs to the Cup Final in 1985 and 1987.

Gary Doak
March 25, 2017 (Age 71)

Doak, a stay-at-home defenseman, spent most of his 16 NHL seasons with the Bruins and was a member of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 1970. He finished his NHL career in 1980-81, retiring with 130 points (23 goals, 107 assists) in 789 games, 609 of them with Boston. He also spent five seasons as an assistant to coach Gerry Cheevers, a longtime teammate.

John McCormack
Feb. 22, 2017 (Age 91) 

McCormack was a reliable penalty-killer and shutdown center, usually assigned to play against the opposition's top lines. He played 311 games during eight NHL seasons, finishing with 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists). McCormack was part of the Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup-winning team in 1951 and won another championship with the Canadiens in 1953.

Bob Stewart
Feb. 3, 2017 (Age 66) 

Stewart, a rugged defenseman, was chosen by the Bruins with the No. 13 pick in the 1970 NHL Draft, but was sent to the California Golden Seals on Feb. 23, 1972, in a trade that brought defenseman Carol Vadnais to Boston. He played with the Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons franchise until 1978, then played for the Blues and Penguins before retiring in 1980 with 128 points (27 goals, 101 assists) in 575 NHL games.

Ken Wharram
Jan. 10, 2017 (Age 83)

Wharram spent all 14 of his NHL seasons with the Blackhawks and was a member of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 1961. He scored 20 or more goals in seven consecutive seasons, from 1962-63 through 1963-69, many of them playing right wing on the "Scooter Line" with center Stan Mikita. Wharram's best season came in 1963-64, when he scored 39 goals, finished with 71 points, and won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and skillful play. His career ended after the 1968-69 season when he retired after developing myocarditis, a disease that attacks the heart muscle. He finished with 533 points (252 goals, 281 assists) in 766 NHL games.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.