Like many youngsters growing up in Canada, Eddie Joyal learned how to play hockey the old-fashioned way: by playing on a frozen river.
From neighborhood river to the big leagues, Joyal was one of the lucky few who experienced his childhood dream beyond his hometown.
The Alberta native began his post-river hockey career with the WCHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings in 1958. He scored 84 points in two seasons with the Oil Kings before signing with the Red Wings.
Joyal started his professional career with Detroit’s farm team, the Edmonton Flyers of the WHL, in 1960. He contributed 47 points during his first season with Edmonton and improved substantially the following year with a 47-goal campaign. After two seasons in Edmonton, Joyal was elevated to the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets and spent the next three years splitting his time between the Hornets and Wings.
The center made his NHL debut in 1962-63, contributing two goals and eight assists in the 14 games he appeared in wearing red and white. Joyal spent the rest of the season with the Hornets, scoring 29 goals and adding 27 assists in 54 games. He was always in Detroit for the postseason though, scoring one goal in 11 games during the 1963 Stanley Cup playoffs. Detroit reached the finals that season, but lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games.
It was such a disappointing loss that Joyal didn’t stick around for the traditional post-series ceremonies. He bypassed the celebration and went straight to the locker room.
“Guess I was,” Joyal told the Edmonton Journal of evading the celebration after the 1963 Game 5 loss. “I just didn’t feel like it this time anyway.”
He would get a chance at redemption the following year. Joyal spent the majority of the 1963-64 season in Detroit, appearing in 47 games with the Red Wings and only five with the Hornets.
After scoring ten goals and adding seven assists during the regular season, Joyal entered the postseason with a chip on his shoulder. He appeared in 14 playoff games and helped lead the Red Wings to a rematch against the Maple Leafs in the 1964 Stanley Cup finals. He scored the game-winning goal against Johnny Bower to give Detroit a 3-2 series lead, but the Red Wings failed to win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season.
Joyal wore red and white for one more season before he was traded to the team that robbed him of two Stanley Cups. He appeared in 14 games for the Maple Leafs in 1965-66, contributing 2 assists. The center had a breakout season the following year with Toronto’s farm team, the Rochester Americans. His 83-point campaign with the Americans impressed Los Angeles, and the Kings claimed him quickly when the league expanded in 1967.
In each of his first two seasons on the west coast, Joyal contributed over 50 points. He was the Kings’ top scorer and the second leading scorer in the West Division with his 57-point season in 1967-68. In four and a half successful years with the Kings, Joyal hit the 20-goal mark three times, including a career-high 33 goals in 1968-69.
Midway through Joyal’s fifth season in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. The center finished his NHL career with the Flyers, scoring seven points in 26 games. He retired from the NHL in 1972, but wasn’t ready to give up the sport just yet.
Plenty of teams were still interested, especially the Alberta Oilers. The Oilers chose Joyal in the WHA 1972 general player draft, just a few months after his NHL retirement. The team was renamed the Edmonton Oilers after his first season and he played in Edmonton for three more years. Joyal had two 22-goal seasons in the WHA, helping the Oilers reach the playoffs in the 1973-74 season.
Fourteen years after his NHL debut, Joyal retired having played in over 700 professional games. He had come a long way from the frozen river downhill from his home. His four-year-old self would’ve been proud.