Bucko McDonald

Bucko McDonald was a fantastic defensive blueliner for parts of 11 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. He was especially well known for his exuberant body checking.

This story - perhaps more of an urban legend than fact - pretty much sums up Bashing Bucko McDonald:

McDonald played in the longest NHL game ever. In the 1936 playoffs the Red Wings and Montreal Maroons played 9 periods before Mud Bruneteau finally ended the game at 16:30 of the sixth overtime period!

One person who would have liked to have known beforehand that the game would last that long would have been a Detroit fan who met McDonald prior to the game. The fan offered Bucko 5 dollars for every bone crunching body check which left a Montreal player having to pick himself up off the ice. By the end of the 9 period marathon, McDonald was credited with 37 knock downs!

The fan, by the way, reportedly did pay up the princely sum of 185 bucks!

Wilfred Kennedy McDonald never grew up playing hockey at any serious level. Instead he loved lacrosse and would become one of the greatest lacrosse players in Canadian history. A Mann Cup champion and Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer, McDonald didn't turn his attention to hockey until the collapse of the professional lacrosse league in 1931

McDonald had little trouble adjusting to the game on ice, quickly establishing himself as a defensive defenseman extraordinaire. He started out in the lowly IAHL with the Buffalo Bisons but by early 1935 he had caught on with the Detroit Red Wings. He would bring his clean, hard hitting play to the Motor City and emerged as one of the upper echelon defenders in the entire league. He was an unheralded member of the 1936 and 1937 Red Wing Stanley Cup championships .

A trade for Bill Thoms and cash saw McDonald become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He continued his strong play throughout his tenure in Toronto. He even became an NHL all star in 1942 - a season which marked both the high and low points of McDonald's career as a Leaf.

That season saw the Leafs make their much celebrated come from behind victory over McDonald's old team, the Detroit Red Wings, to capture the Stanley Cup. The Leafs were playing terribly early in the series, falling behind 3 game to none. Coach Hap Day opted to shake up the team by benching two regulars - high scoring winger Gordie Drillon and McDonald - for the remainder of the series. Unthinkably the Leafs woke up from their slumber and somehow managed to win 4 consecutive games to capture the championship!

Despite the benching McDonald played his heart out for the Leafs for parts of the next two seasons. Early in the 1943-44 season the Leafs traded McDonald to the New York Rangers in exchange for cash. The veteran wound down his career with the Rangers, retiring in 1945.

Bucko continued to be involved in hockey after departing from the National Hockey League. He played one season of senior hockey before returning to the grass roots of the game and coaching children's hockey.

One of his most prized students was Bobby Orr. In fact McDonald was instrumental in Orr's rise to the top, coaching him in Pee Wee and Bantam. McDonald was the coach who, despite protests from his parents, moved Orr from forward to defense. Orr would combine his out-of-this-world talent and the early teachings of Bucko McDonald to revolutionize the way defensemen played the game of hockey, and become arguably the greatest player of all time.

McDonald played in 446 NHL games, scoring 35 goals and 123 points. Although he was known for his violent body checks, he was an exceptionally clean player. He only picked up 206 penalty minutes in his career, and never was given a major penalty. One season he even went unpenalized.


Anonymous,  3:23 PM  

What a great hockey player. And Lacrosse as well.As a teenager growing up in Owen Sound I saw many Senior OHA games including the Mercurys, I notice that many of the team switched from skates to Lacrosse raquets during the summer at which they excelledas well.It was the O.L,A, and was it rough.
An experience I will always remember.
Bucko Mcdonald would be a distant cousin.
Anyoe with any information on he or faily plese let me know. I am starting a collectio of articles on him.
My fathers name was Wilfred Mac Donald a popular name of the time;His coussin was John Ashley and Dad Ashley was his Uncle. Robert G. Mac Donald.B.A.M.D. from Bruce county now retired in Quebec. e mail

Robert G. MAc Donald.M.D.,  3:22 AM  

More from a bucko fan.
My father from wiarton,ont. Originally arranged hockey games from wingham with wiarton redmen. Anyone remember DAd grannmother was aashley andmarriedmygranfather Dr. John h macdonald of wiarton.hecamethere from chesley where my ancestors came to from pei. Andcolonsay scotland.
My grandsonof new jersey took great interest in nockey at 16 andmastered the game in 1 year. Heplays with a broup innew jersey. He is also anaccomplishedpiper and drummer and electric guitar player. Robert g. Mac Donald. B.A M.Dst.sauveur,qc

Don,  7:01 AM  

tnalsixI met Bucko when he was coaching the Orillia Terriers Senior 'A' Hockey Club. As sport editor we often traveled together. He fast became a close friend and trips to Sundridge often took place. Many stories I could tell. He was just a great guy and with a manger such as Bill McGill or Gill Dunlop the three are hockey legends in Orillia.
Don Wilcox

Anonymous,  11:15 AM  

My dad was born in Sundridge, ON and apparently was related to Bucko through the marriage to one of his cousins. He tells a fishing story with Bucko, who carried a boat into a local lake while Dad laboured along behind lugging the motor. Even after retirement, Bucko was in good shape!

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