Get to Know a Legend: Terry Sawchuk

big alCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2009

In the new hockey season, it is inevitable that the New Jersey Red Devil's goaltender, Martin Brodeur, will surpass Terry Sawchuk in career shut-outs.  It is a record that most felt would not be broken. This article is a look back at the late, great Terry Sawchuk and his impact upon the game of hockey.

Greatness as an athlete was apparent in Sawchuk at a fairly young age.  He began playing professional hockey at the age of seventeen.  Serving in goal with five NHL teams, most notably with the Detroit Red Wings.  He went on to establish a record of 447-330, a respectable GGA 2.52 and of course the shut out record.  He accumulated shut-outs at an astounding pace of 57 in 4 years.  He owned the Vezina trophies from 1952-1955 and shared another with Johny Bower in 1965.  Numerous other accolades, All-Star appearances and post-season heroics accompanied his stellar 21 year career. 

Despite being constantly injured,  Sawchuk rarely missed games.  He suffered innumerable lacerations, broken bones, concussions, severed tendons and also lost an entire season because of infectious mononucleosis.  To miss a games would send him plummeting into a state of despair.  It was this depression that would plague him for the rest of his life. His mental illness became public knowledge which resulted in Sawchuk being traded and placed on waivers numerous times during his career.

As talented as Sawchuk was, he didn't enjoy his own success.  He was often referred to as a "head case".  He was dark tempered, erratic and often displayed unpredictable behavior.  It was reported that he hurled skates at a reporter, confronted hecklers and was involved in several alcohol induced fights off the ice.  He hated practice so much that he routinely put up lack luster performances, which place him at odds with the coaching staff.  At one time, Coach Adams had ordered Sawchuk to have a psychiatric evaluation due to his disruptions.  However, teammates praised his skill, tenacity and competitiveness but were puzzled by his lack of enjoyment in life.  Gordie Howe once described Sawchuk as "a sad man".  

Sawchuk's life regrettably ended in an alcohol induced fight with a teammate during the off season.  His contributions to the game of hockey have not soon been forgotten.  It was Terry Sawchuk who set the standard for excellence in the position of goaltender that has spanned for nearly fifty years.