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Etched in History

Hall's memories rooted on Alberta farm

Black Hawks legend revels in keepsakes that tell story of his career

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

STONY PLAIN, Alberta -- Glenn Hall's one and only miniature Stanley Cup replica is in good hands, even if he doesn't know exactly in whose hands it is. The sterling reminder of his greatest victory in hockey is in the home of one of his four children, cared for by one of his nine grandchildren or seven great-grandchildren.

 

Hall doesn't need the 13-inch trophy to hold his memories of the 1960-61 Chicago Black Hawks. They are among the yarns he spins about his expansive career with a folksy sense of humor on the farm 25 miles west of Edmonton that he's called home since 1965, when he and his wife, Pauline, bought and built on these 155 acres.

If the whereabouts of Hall's miniature Stanley Cup isn't a concern, neither is the Hall of Fame goaltender troubled by the fact that the 1960-61 Black Hawks are one of 12 Cup-winning teams coming off the real trophy. The top of five bands on the Cup, containing 12 championship teams from 1953-54 to 1964-65, is being removed to make room for a fresh bottom band that begins with the 2017-18 Washington Capitals.

"Oh, I don't give a [darn] that I'm coming off the Cup," said Hall, who is coming off the trophy as a player but will remain on it with the 1988-89 Calgary Flames as a goaltending consultant.

"I knew that I played well and I knew that we won a Stanley Cup in Chicago. That's the only important thing. … I'm proud to have been on the Cup for as long as I have. It doesn't bother me what they take off the Cup or put on it."

Chicago won the Cup in 1961 by stunning the first-place Montreal Canadiens in the NHL Semifinals, denying them a chance to win a sixth consecutive title with a six-game victory. The Black Hawks, who finished third in the regular season, followed that by defeating the fourth-place Detroit Red Wings in six games in the Final to win their first Stanley Cup championship since 1938. It was their last until 2010.

Video: Glenn Hall on his journey to winning the Stanley Cup

A native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Hall played 906 regular-season and 115 Stanley Cup Playoff games from 1952-71. He won the Calder Trophy in 1955-56 as the NHL's best rookie, won the Vezina Trophy three times (1962-63, 1966-67, 1968-69) when it was awarded to the goaltender(s) on the team allowing the fewest regular-season goals, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1968 as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

Hall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. His 502 consecutive complete games played (from Oct. 6, 1955 to Nov. 4, 1962, all without a mask), a record for an NHL goaltender, is a mark that seems out of reach forever. That total is 551 games including the playoffs, 1,026 by his own arithmetic when factoring in junior and minor-pro hockey.

A cross section of Hall's career is casually scattered around his sprawling home. There are photos in his basement, around the shuffleboard and billiards tables; books, pucks, sticks, jerseys, battered equipment and weathered documents, a collection dating from seven decades ago with the junior Humboldt Indians and including items from his NHL career with the Red Wings (1952-57), the Black Hawks (1957-67) and the expansion St. Louis Blues (1967-71).

Glenn Hall at home in his den with memories of his career all around him.

 

Hall, who will turn 87 on Wednesday, has few pieces of memorabilia left from his 1961 championship, having kept little and given most of what he had to his children and grandchildren. He has perhaps a stick or two, some photos that fans have sent him for his autograph and a catching glove from that era, a claw-pocket, cuff-added mitt styled from the one worn by St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial.

Hall was grinning when he produced a pay stub for two weeks' work with the Black Hawks in 1957-58; his weekly take-home pay was $421.05. He recalled going into management's offices 13 times one season to negotiate his contract "and they offered nickels and dimes each time."

Chicago general manager Tommy Ivan, in a letter dated July 25, 1960, and addressed to "Glen Howell," refused a raise of $1,000, saying, "Your request is too high." By then a four-time All-Star, the goalie countered Ivan's claims one by one in a reply he signed "Glen Howell." He and the team haggled before a reaching an agreement, and Hall then helped the Black Hawks win the Cup.

A pay stub covering two weeks' pay in 1958. The $25.90 deduction is a fine charged for a misconduct.

 

"I always wanted to be underpaid, not overpaid," he said, grinning again. "And Tommy helped me to achieve my goal."

During my two-day visit to Hall's farm in mid-September, this goaltending icon and father of the butterfly style of play painted his many tales in both primary colors and pastels.

When I pulled a computer from my knapsack, he reminded me that there's no internet in his home.

"I just learned to work the doorbell," he said, brightening.

I asked him about the shabby torso pad hanging on a basement wall, one that he wore to win the Stanley Cup and in the years before and after, and how much it hurt to be drilled by shots with his arms covered by what were little more than thick sleeves.

Hall watches captain Pierre Pilote carry the puck out from behind Chicago's net.

 

Hall pushed himself out of his chair and settled into a crouch.

"A monkey stands like this," he said, arms hanging down loosely, knuckles forward.

"And a goalie stands like this," he said, turning his left arm palm forward.

"I'd stuff cotton batten inside the sleeves of those arm pads. But then came Bubble Wrap (in the early 1960s). I'd tape that stuff over the inside of my left forearm (from elbow to wrist on his catching hand)."

A favorite target was in Hall's crosshairs.

"Bubble Wrap gave the defensemen something to do between periods," he said with a chuckle, pinching his forefinger to his thumb, popping imaginary bubbles.

Hall poke-checks the puck out of danger beside defenseman Al MacNeil and Montreal Canadiens forward Ralph Backstrom.

 

Of defenseman Al MacNeil, a Black Hawks teammate from 1962-66, he joked, "Al has three milestone pucks on his mantel, and they're all for icing."

The next day we visited Glenn Hall Centennial Arena, a magnificently maintained, small-town building that opened in 1967, the year Canada celebrated its 100th birthday. The facility, renamed for him in 2008, showcases plenty of memorabilia and has a huge mural on an outside wall featuring Hall, his family and his career.

Visitors today first see a bench outside the front doors that pays tribute to goaltender Parker Tobin, a Stony Plain native who was among the Humboldt Broncos players killed in a bus crash last April. Tobin's funeral was held here, where his presence remains strong.

A banner more than 12 feet high and 8 feet wide hangs, and memorabilia is showcased throughout the arena named for Glenn Hall.

 

Back home later in the day, Hall spent nearly a half-hour swallowed up by his sofa talking on the phone with his dear friend Scotty Bowman, his last NHL coach, wishing him a happy 85th birthday while reminiscing about their games and the men who played them.

Nine members of the family, including son Pat and his wife, Debbie, would soon gather for barbecued steaks, so Hall waved me to his golf cart for a pre-dinner tour of part of his farm.

Video: At Peace On His Land: Hall At Home In Stony Plain

Our drive took us by his 60-by-40-foot red barn¸ which he was said to be painting in the late 1960s when he was too busy to come to the phone to explain to a reporter why he wasn't yet at Black Hawks training camp, and he paused by a tree, under which the ashes of Pauline, his wife of 55 years, were buried in 2010, a year after her death.

Some hours later, dinner was done and three generations of Halls pulled out of the patriarch's meandering driveway into the Stony Plain darkness, an early frost in the air. I flew home to Montreal the next morning, having left my host a gift of three photos in a single frame, the span of Hall's NHL career represented with portraits of him with the Red Wings, Black Hawks and Blues.

"I'm looking at those photos now and something occurs to me," he told me shortly before I left. "Those are the three best-looking fellows in my house."

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