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Glenn Hall savors All-Star Game memories

Hall of Famer's goaltending records almost untouchable

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

Glenn Hall will watch the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles on Sunday from the comfort of his warm living room in Stony Plain, Alberta. No matter the final score, his records again will survive the day untouched.

In two categories, "Mr. Goalie," as the 85-year-old Hall of Famer is affectionately known, leads all 113 goaltenders who have played in what since 1947 has been a mostly annual game. 

With 2017 first-time All-Stars Tuukka Rask, Sergei Bobrovsky, Martin Jones and Mike Smith suiting up in Los Angeles, make that 117 goalies Hall will lead this weekend with his 13 career games played, between 1955-69, and his 540 minutes and 16 seconds of service in an All-Star Game net.

Hall also shares the All-Star Game record of four victories with Tim Thomas, the retired Boston Bruins goaltender.

"Do I have the record for most goals against?" Hall asked this week when reached at home.

Not even close, he was told, the 22 he yielded are well shy of the 31 scored on Patrick Roy in the latter's 11 games.

"Great, because I'm not looking to be any part of that one," Hall replied brightly.

Video: Ironman Glenn Hall started 502 straight games in goal

The nearest any active goaltender is to Hall's 13 All-Star Games is Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, who on Sunday will appear in his fifth. Price is nearly 500 minutes behind Hall in time played.

But then, Hall is also the goaltender who since 1962 has held, and until the end of time will hold, the NHL record of playing 502 consecutive regular-season games, 552 counting playoffs. By his count, that number rises to 1,024 if you include his junior and minor pro days.

"The glory of it was just playing a bunch of games, win or lose," he says of those untouchable totals.

"Ghoulie," his other famous nickname, will be sitting Sunday before a crackling fire in the high-beamed home on his sprawling ranch outside Edmonton. I guessed aloud to him that family will be in his midst, and he'll be dressed as usual in a nice sweater, cargo pants and slippers, with a frosty beer in his mitt.

"Well, I've never had what anybody would call a nice sweater," he joked.

Hall was welcome to fly to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend to join a galaxy of legends for the next stage in the NHL's celebration of its top 100 players. He was in Toronto on New Year's Day, announced as one of the 33 on the list of those who had played primarily in the League's first 50 years.

But Hall isn't big on travel these days, so he politely declined the invitation to Los Angeles, opting to put his feet up and watch the All-Star Game at home.

"I'm happiest when I'm not in a large group," he said. "As I always say, when I'm alone, I'm not only the best-looking guy in the room, I'm also the smartest.

"I felt that the pinnacle of my career was being named to the Hockey Hall of Fame [in 1975]. But for somebody who simply liked to play the game to be on the list of the NHL's top 100 of all time is just unbelievable."

Hall expects the intensity of the All-Star Game on Sunday to be, well, a little less than it was in his time.

"Nobody liked anybody, eh? I played mine as intensely as I did any League or playoff game because it was important to play well. It wasn't a fun deal, it was a working day," he said of the All-Star Game in his day, which matched the defending Stanley Cup champion against a team of All-Stars at the start of the season, the challengers having had all summer to figure how to exact some unfriendly revenge.

Hall played his first All-Star Game on Oct. 2, 1955. He was in the net of the defending-champion Detroit Red Wings "simply because I was there," after Terry Sawchuk was been traded to the Boston Bruins two months after having anchored the Red Wings Stanley Cup victory. He made the most of his debut, yielding one goal, by Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey, on 30 shots from players who had combined to score more than 300 times the previous season.

He laughed about how Montreal's Maurice Richard wouldn't even look at bitter Detroit rival Ted Lindsay in those days, even if they were on the All-Star team together.

"Teddy's wife came up behind Rocket outside the Detroit Olympia one night, yapping at him, giving him heck," Hall said. "And the Rocket [Richard] just turned around and said, 'You must be Mrs. Lindsay.' I think that was a very good assessment of the situation, and I don't even know if it's a true story."

Ted Lindsay of the NHL All-Stars against Toronto goalie Turk Broda in the 1949 game at Maple Leaf Gardens

Hall's Stony Plain basement is a walk through time, a personal museum that features a photos, jerseys, trophies and other items that celebrate his career.

Among the sticks in the corner is a weathered Northland Pro he used more than a half-century ago in Toronto, "1962-63 All-Stars" stylishly lettered on the blade where the black tape has been cut away.

If you look very closely, you'll see traces of the signatures of almost every man who played in that 3-3 tie, two dozen Hall of Famers among them.

"Ballpoint pen that's faded severely," he said with a sigh.

Hall played seven of his 13 All-Star Games at the Montreal Forum, four at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and one each at the Detroit Olympia and Chicago Stadium.

Of the 22 goals he surrendered compiling a 2.44 goals-against average against a lot of high-powered Cup-champion teams, he gave up three each to the Canadiens' Richard and Toronto/Detroit forward Frank Mahovlich. Hall is delighted - no, thrilled - when told Jean Beliveau beat him once in six games.

"Just don't tell me Jean's record against me in League play," he said.

Hall poses with his 1966-67 Vezina Trophy, won as goalie of the Chicago Black Hawks

Hall wasn't enjoying hockey much by the time of his second-last All-Star Game appearance, at Toronto in 1968, by then calling every game "an hour or so of hell." Thirteen saves in his 20 minutes led fellow goalie Ed Giacomin of the New York Rangers to say, "That guy is unbelievable. It's his hands, his reactions … he's the best."

Added Scotty Bowman, Hall's coach with the St. Louis Blues: "I've yet to see anybody better."

The format of the game has changed dramatically since Hall played his last one in 1969. But if you were to float his enduring impression through dressing rooms in Los Angeles this weekend, many heads would nod in agreement.

"These were men you competed hard against in the regular season and the playoffs, but at the All-Star Game you saw them in a different light," Hall says today. "I always appreciated the caliber of the talent, so to sit in the same dressing room with them was very special, something to remember forever."

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