By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
The story of the National Hockey League cannot be told without the impacts made by goaltenders from Manitoba.
Our net minding history stretches back as far as the 1920s with Charlie Gardiner and Hal Winkler, and into the present day with Chris Driedger, Calvin Pickard, and James Reimer.
Sandwiched between those players is 100 years of hockey goaltending excellence, headlined by Hockey Hall of Famers, Vezina, Calder, and Conn Smythe Trophy winners, and Stanley Cup champions.
Setting NHL Records
This prestigious group of athletes set NHL records, found the highest level of success in their sport, and stopped thousands of pucks along the way.
While there is no clear answer for who the greatest Manitoban goalie of all time is, many players have a legitimate case.
After moving to Winnipeg from Scotland at the age of seven, Charlie Gardiner became the best goalie of the 1930s. He won the Vezina Trophy twice in 1932 and 1934 as the NHL’s best goalie, and carried the Chicago Black Hawks to a Stanley Cup Championship in 1934.
His life was tragically cut short at the age of 30 when he died of a chronic tonsil infection. There are many who believe his Hall of Fame career would have been the best by a Manitoban had it lasted longer.
The Stanley Cup is hockey’s ultimate prize. The only goalies who have won it more than Brandon native Turk Broda are Jacques Plante, Charlie Hodge, and Ken Dryden.
Broda’s name is engraved five times on the Stanley Cup, and he won them all as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. What’s most impressive about his five championships, is that they all came in a 10-year window from 1941-1951, a true stretch of dominance.
Terry Sawchuk was the first goalie in NHL history to record 100 career shutouts. He also held the league record for most shutouts at 103 for over 50 years.
He has played the most games of any Manitoban goaltender, and has an impressive list of accolades, which includes a Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie in 1951, four Vezina Trophies in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1965, and four Stanley Cups in 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1967.
Ed Belfour’s 484 career wins are the most by any Manitoban and rank fifth on the all-time leader boards. During his 18-year career, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1991, two Vezina Trophies in 1991 and 1993, and the Stanley Cup as a member of the Dallas Stars in 1999.
Billy Smith was the first goalie to be credited with an NHL goal after the Colorado Rockies passed the puck into their own net, but Manitoban Ron Hextall was the first goalie in NHL history to shoot and score a goal in a regular season game.
Hextall shot the puck the length of the ice into an empty net on December 8, 1987. He was also the first goalie to shoot and score a goal in the playoffs and won the Vezina Trophy in 1987. Hextall is one of five players in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe award as the playoff’s MVP for a team who didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
Bill Ranford was a champion on and off the ice. As part of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty in the late 80s and early 90s, Ranford won two Stanley Cups and the Conn Smythe Trophy. He then went on to win two more Stanley Cups as a goaltending coach for the Los Angeles Kings.
Chris Driedger, James Reimer, and Calvin Pickard
Currently making their marks on the NHL, Chris Driedger, James Reimer, and Calvin Pickard all rank in the top five all-time for save percentage by a Manitoban goalie. All three have played under 400 career games and are just scratching the surface of their potential.
A tireless argument could be made for all these players to see who is greatest, but appreciation should be had for all their accomplishments and contributions to the sport while representing our province.
Other notable goaltenders who were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame include Trevor Kidd, Murray Bannerman, Curt Ridley, Karl Friesen, Wayne Stephenson, Ron Low, Jim Henry, Glen Hanlon, Paul Goodman, Bill Fraser, Jimmy Foster, Wilf Cude, Bill Cockburn, Wally Byron, Gordon Bell, and Charlie Rayner.