Thursday

Bob Pulford

Bob was one of the most reliable players in the NHL during his16-year NHL career that spanned over three decades. He played 1079 regular season games and 89 playoff games in the NHL, scoring a respectable 643 pts (51 in playoffs) and winning four Cup titles.

Bob was born in Newton Robinson, Ont. on March 31,1936. He graduated in economics and history from McMaster University in Hamilton. Before he came to the NHL he had played for the famous Toronto Marlboros in the OHA. He immediately became a regular left wing in the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.

His value to his teams couldn't be measured in stats. He reached the 20 goal plateau only four times and the 50 point plateau three times. Bob was considered one of the best fore-checkers in the NHL with a knack of scoring important goals. He thrived under pressure and was especially valuable during the playoffs when the checking got tougher.

Legendary Montreal coach Toe Blake was once asked who he would pick from the Toronto team if he could. Toe didn't pick Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon or Tim Horton, but he chose Bob, and when asked why, his simple explanation was, "He's the heart of that hockey club." Bob sure was, and he was a stubborn man when principles were involved. Bob once refused to play an exhibition game with Toronto in Los Angeles because he hadn't reached an agreement on his contract with the club. Other players, in the same circumstances, played. But Bob sat out because he felt he was right, knowing he would be suspended. He got suspended by Punch Imlach but signed soon, on his terms. (Worth noting is that few dared to challenge the club management back then. Unlike today when players accept holding out as part of the bargaining process.)

Although Ted Lindsay, Doug Harvey and Tod Sloan were all trying to organize a players union in the 1950's it wasn't until ten years later that the NHLPA (National Hockey League Player's Association) was formed. NHLPA's first president was Bob Pulford. His boss Stafford Smythe wasn't too thrilled about the NHLPA which he saw as a plot to bring in unionism to hockey. Smythe felt that the players loyalty should be to the club that employed them, and so did every other owner.

When the formation of the NHLPA was officially announced during a meeting in Montreal. Bob was asked why he had become the first president of the NHLPA and he said: " I happen to believe such an association will be of benefit to the game and not just in the best interests of the players."

After 14 seasons in Toronto Bob was traded to the Los Angeles Kings where he played two seasons before becoming LA's coach until 1977. During that span he became the second recipient of the Jack Adams Trophy in 1975, given to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success.

He then coached Chicago 1977-79, 81-82 and 84-87. Bob coached a total of 851 games.

Bob was no superstar but a player who could be counted on to show up night after night and play exactly after the coach's instruction.

3 comments:

Greg G 7:42 AM  

Bob Pulford was not one of my favorite players but he was a tenacious two way hockey player. Do I think he is a Hall of Famer, no. I remember Pulford getting nasty with Stan Mikita, really trying to work him over because he was no match for "Stosh"! As far as I'm concerned he had a lot to do with the bad situation here in Chicago until Mr. Wirtz passed away and Rockwell Wirtz took over! It has been a complete turn around, with Pulford out of the picture!

r.pulford 2:35 PM  

Hey Greg G...Gordie Howe said that Bob Pulford was the best checking centre of his era and he may not have been as talented as Mikita but he was able to hold him in check. How many Cups did Mikita and Hull win? Toronto and Pulford won 4. Defense wins championships and Pulford was the best at it. As for Rocky Wirtz fixing things...give him credit for all the off-ice issues that he fixed but he had nothing to do with the on-ice product. The team that won the Cup was built under the watch of Bill Wirtz, Pulford and Tallon and not by Rocky and his crew. Steve K

Pkendall 7:08 PM  

Right on, Steve. Pully clearly deserves HOF as a player for Toronto (and LA) but he could have gone in as a coach and manager, too. Name your favorite blackhawk of the last twenty years and you'll find Pulford's fingerprints all over every deal. Don't forget his leadership with the players' association either. He is one of hockey's (unsung) greats. I saw the cup in Chicago this summer and the first thing I did was look for his name - 4 times!

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