Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins

November 1972: 'Little Giant' in the Nets

by Al Abrams / Post-Gazette

In honor of '70s Theme Night, the Penguins new media staff searched the team's archives and wanted to re-post this article about Jim Rutherford from November 15, 1972. Spoiler: it turns out Jim did have a 'great future' ahead of him!

If you are not a hockey aficionado, one look at Jim Rutherford would bring up the question, "What's his line?"
Not even the members of the TV panel with the same handle could guess correctly.
Rutherford is 5 feet 8 inches and weighs 155 pounds... built along the same lines as ElRoy Face. In his goalie gear, the Penguins' young star grows to a hefty 185 pounds. The height remains the same until after a triumph. Then, Jim feels as tall as Wilt Chamberlain.

Two gentlemen sitting next to our table at the Quo Vadis where we had lunch yesterday, talked hockey for almost an hour, yet never recognized Jim Rutherford. 
We heard one say, "In another two years the Penguins will be like the Steelers this year... nobody will be able to buy a ticket."
Both Rutherford and Terry Schiffhauer, the Pens' publicity man, smiled.

"That's what I like to hear," Rutherford beamed. "I like those team banners all over the wall, too."
The "little giant" in the nets has been there in the Penguins' last 10 victories at the Civic Arena... a fact pointed out by Schiffhauer.
"That's why I'm sure we'll knock over Minnesota tonight," the praise agent added.
"I hope you're right," Rutherford said. "We'll be out there giving it our best."

Has Great Future
Rutherford is only 23 years old. He is one of several young lions Red Kelly has surrounded himself with in building for the future. The future is not far away for the Penguins, according to the experts. Perhaps, not this season... the next.
"We have a few players who were with us last year," said Rutherford a serious-minded youngster. "They are playing much better as a team which is what is needed."
Are the Pens better than in 1971-'72?

"Yes," Rutherford replied. "We are better. We are confident we'll make it to the playoffs."
The Canadian-born youth (Beeton, Ont.) gave local fans a sample of his goal-tending ability in the first round playoff games with the Chicago Black Hawks. The Hawks swept the four games, but the Pens, with Rutherford in the nets, hung tough. Every contest was close, with Jim spectacular in knocking down and stopping shots.

In this, his second year with the Pens, those who know hockey best say Jim Rutherford has a great future ahead of him.

The Long, Long Season
If you are wondering, as I had been, why the Penguins look like champs for a stretch then sag, Rutherford provided the following answer to a question: 
"We play a lot of games. It's a long season. There's no letup for us just as there is none for basketball and baseball players. We play a tough, physical emotional game. We are bound to have our ups and downs."
This sounded logical. Solid hockey teams, those of long standing and not expansion born, play in consistent winning fashion.
"We're not far away," both Rutherford and Schiffhauer promised.
Jim is confident the Pens will make it to the playoffs again. "I feel we can take the Black Hawks this time," he said.

His Hair Is Long
Rutherford's handsom face is unmarked if one doesn't look closely.
"Oh, I have a few scars," he said pointing to slight cuts near his eyes. "I wear a mask. Goalies have to. Without it, they could be cut in half."
The youngster sports the moder long hair style. His brown curly locks come down to his collar in the back; over his forehead in front. "I like long hair," he said. "It is for youth. Besides it is no different from the style 100 years ago, hey?"

Long before the "hey" I got on to the way most Canadians talk.
The Pens' goalie is happy over the way American youngsters are taking to the ice sport. "Within 10 years," he predicted "we'll see a large number of your boys playing in the big leagues."


View More