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100 Greatest Players

Glenn Hall: 100 Greatest NHL Players

Goalie helped Chicago end Stanley Cup drought in 1961, had NHL-record streak of 502 straight starts

by Bob Verdi / Special to

Talk about facing the music. Goaltender Glenn Hall started and completed 502 consecutive regular-season games. While establishing a record that probably will last forever, he did not take a night off or put on a mask. Only late in his Hall of Fame career would Hall relent and wear protective headgear.

"You have to be lucky to have a run like I had, and I was," Hall said. "Of course, you have to be a little bit crazy to play where I played, and I plead guilty on that count too."


Video: Ironman Glenn Hall started 502 straight games in goal


Hall was also spectacular. Arguably the best ever between the pipes, "Mr. Goalie" has his name on the Stanley Cup with two Original Six franchises: the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Black Hawks (as they were then known). After the NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967, Hall excelled with the St. Louis Blues.

"He put us on the map there," said Scotty Bowman, a fellow Hall of Famer and Hall's coach in St. Louis. "Glenn was a breed apart. Not only for what he did on the ice, but for how he was in the locker room and with fans. In a class by himself."


Games: 906 | Wins: 407 | Losses: 326  | Ties: 163 | GAA: 2.49


To wit:

Hall did not miss a start, or a finish, from the beginning of the 1955-56 season with Detroit through 12 games of the 1962-63 season in Chicago. Moreover, in addition to his ironman stretch of 502 consecutive complete games, he played 50 straight playoff games.

Hall was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team seven times, more than any goalie, and did so with an unprecedented three teams (Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis). He was also selected to the NHL Second All-Star Team four times.

He won the Vezina Trophy in 1963, and shared it 1967 and 1969.

He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the 1968 playoffs, despite the fact that his Blues were swept in the Stanley Cup Final.

A native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Hall broke into the NHL -- sort of -- with Detroit in 1952, when he was called up from the minors during the playoffs. He did not play, but after the Red Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the 1952 Final, his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup, albeit incorrectly, as "Glin Hall."

When he succeeded Terry Sawchuk at the outset of the 1955-56 season, Hall and his unconventional but effective butterfly (inverted "Y") style took over. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year with a 2.10 goals-against average and followed that with 38 victories and a 2.21 GAA in 1956-57. When Hall was traded to the Black Hawks on July 23, 1957, he noted that Chicago had been regarded as "hockey Siberia." But Hall saw promise at his new address. Bobby Hull was there, and so was captain Ed Litzenberger, who called Hall "Mr. Ghoulie" for his pasty white complexion before games.

"Must have seen me after I threw up," Hall said. "I did get nervous. I loved to win, but goaltending was hell. Tell me, do you know a retired goalie who says he misses it? I don't."

The highlight of Hall's storied stint with the Black Hawks undoubtedly was their surprising Stanley Cup championship in 1961. They were making their third straight playoff appearance after a dark period in franchise history, but finished in third place, 17 points behind the Canadiens. The Black Hawks had no scorers in the league's top 10 and had gone 9-18-8 on the road.

Alas, in the opening round, the Black Hawks drew the mighty Canadiens, who were seeking a sixth straight championship. The Black Hawks were routed 6-2 at the Forum in Game 1 but rallied to tie the series 2-2. Then Hall dominated as Chicago got back-to-back 3-0 victories. Montreal general manager Frank Selke sought out Hall after a contentious couple of weeks.

"Let me shake hands with a thief," Selke said. "You killed us."

Hall would remain thankful that the series ended right there at Chicago Stadium.

"Good God, we didn't want to go back to the Forum for Game 7," Hall said decades later. "I still shiver thinking about it now, and it's been a lifetime ago."

Brimming with confidence, the Black Hawks then met Hall's former team, the Red Wings, and won in six games, capturing the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1938. Hall was brilliant again (he had a 2.02 GAA for the playoffs). The Black Hawks, stranded in Detroit by a snowstorm after the clincher, celebrated there, then again in Chicago.

"After that, I went back home to my offseason job," Hall said. "You needed one in those days. My salary, if I remember correctly, was $11,500. So I worked in a fast food restaurant. Fixing up hamburgers, ice cream cones, whatever. But it was a big deal in Chicago. 

"When I got [to the Black Hawks], if you had 5,000 in the building, it was a good crowd. Hockey wasn't all that popular. I always said if you walked around The Loop carrying a hockey stick, you would bring traffic to a halt because people wouldn't know what it was. The Stanley Cup in 1961 put us back in the headlines. With the team we had there, I thought we could have won more than one. At least they spelled my name right."

Those Black Hawks did not win the Cup again, despite annually contending. In 1966-67, they finished atop the League for the first time in franchise history. Hall's stellar goalkeeping remained a constant. A member of the NHL First All-Star Team with the Black Hawks in 1958 and 1960, Hall also received the honor in 1963, 1964 and 1966.

Early in the 1962-63 season, Hall's remarkable endurance streak came to a strange end. After all the facial bruises and body welts incurred on the job, Hall was sidelined by a freak injury. Reaching down to fasten his leg pads, he felt a twinge in his lower back. In discomfort and unable to bend properly, Hall started the next game, Nov. 7, 1962, against the Boston Bruins. But he missed a puck he normally would have stopped, and reluctantly yielded to Denis DeJordy, who relieved him in that game and started three days later at Montreal. Hall's historic streak was over.

"I didn't want to give up the net," he said. "In those days, there was always that fear of losing your job. And, yes, I was aware of the streak."

With each Original Six franchise allowed to protect only one goalie, the Black Hawks left Hall, 35, available for the expansion draft in 1967. He spoke frequently about retiring; this time, they thought he was serious. It was a tough call for management to make and teammates to accept. "Without Glenn and (wife) Pauline taking me under their wing when I was a rookie, I would have never made it," Hall of Fame forward Stan Mikita said.

St. Louis claimed Hall in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. It was a master stroke: The Blues gave him a salary of $47,500, nearly double what he was making with Chicago. With Bowman making his NHL debut behind the bench, the tight-checking Blues reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1968, losing to the Montreal Canadiens. After two years, Hall "quit" again to paint his barn back on the farm near Edmonton, only to return for more until he really did retire after the 1970-71 season, his 18th in the NHL. He finished with 407 wins and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.

"I did not like to practice," Hall said. "In the days of teams carrying only one goalie, you practiced. You also had long training camps, longer than these days. That was the great thing about riding trains. No matter how mad a coach was, he couldn't make you skate in the aisles. Anyway, training camps were long, and I missed my share by painting the barn. Not a big barn. Just big enough to miss training camps and practices."

Early in 1968, after incurring maybe 250 stitches and being "carved like a pumpkin" by stray pucks at least three times, Hall somewhat uncomfortably added a mask to his arsenal. When Bobby Orr scored his famous flying goal to clinch the Stanley Cup for the Bruins in 1970, Hall was the victim; the Blues lost their third straight Final. He took off his headgear, then took off in a hurry.

"I told Bobby later," Hall said, "by the time he landed, I had taken a shower and had a cold one."


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