Sawchuk was hailed as the greatest hockey goalie of his era.
Terry Sawchuk played more games, recorded more wins and posted more shutouts than any goalie in NHL history. Fame, money and stardom were his, as was a life of loneliness and a tragic death.
Born in 1929, Sawchuk grew up listening to Foster Hewitt's Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts and idolizing Toronto Maple Leaf's goalie George Hainsworth. His other idol, closer to home, was his older goaltender brother Mike, who died of a heart attack at 17. Sawchuk was only 10 at the time of his brother's death, and so when the regular goalie on his bantam team moved away, Sawchuk laced up his brother's pads.
Sawchuk quickly caught the eye of NHL scouts, and at 17, he celebrated his signing bonus with the Detroit Red Wings by rolling in $2000 worth of small bills after returning from the bank to his Windsor, Ontario, hotel room.
Mike's goalie pads were not the only hurt Sawchuk carried with him. Over the course of his 20 seasons with Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and finally the New York Rangers, he took more than 400 stitches in his face, suffered a herniated disk and severed wrist tendons, bone chips in his elbow and arthritis, a right arm two inches shorter than his left after elbow surgery, and a loss of two inches in height after back surgery.
In the 1950s in Detroit, Sawchuk hoisted the Stanley Cup and won the Vezina trophy three times. Traded from the Red Wings to Boston on 3 June 1955, Sawchuk battled physical illness and his self-esteem took a severe beating until mid-January of his second season with the Bruins, when he was overcome with stress-related depression.
He returned to Detroit in 1957, and in 1964, while Gordie Howe was breaking Maurice Richard's goal-scoring record, Sawchuk noiselessly surpassed George Haissworth's record when he recorded his ninety-fifth career shut out.
Traded to Toronto that same year, Sawchuk and fellow Maple Leaf goaltender Johnny Bower ushered in the two-goalie era. The duo split the Vezina in 1965 and anchored a Stanley Cup in 1967.
With expansion in 1967, Sawchuck spent one season with the Los Angeles Kings before finishing his career with the New York Rangers in 1969. Tragically, less than two weeks after the Rangers were brusquely tossed from the playoffs, Sawchuk got into a violent argument with former Leafs teammate Ron Stewart. Sawchuk was fatally injured in the altercation and on 31 May 1970, the hockey player considered by many to be the best to ever strap on goalie pads, died.
Terry Sawchuk of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A Footprint at the crease of Canadian sport.