“Terry Sawchuk- The Troubles and Triumphs of the World’s Greatest Goalie” In-Depth Book Review. Plus: Is Terry Sawchuk Still The Greatest Goalie of All Time?

Terry Sawchuk was the greatest goalie of all time when he tragically passed away in 1970.

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. This is different than my normal Rangers related blog, as this is another book review. The book review blogs have been positively received, so if you like reading them, feel free to send in your comments. If you check the archives on the right hand of the site or Google “DOINOW Book Review” you can find all my book reviews in one spot. One of these days, I’ll make a stand alone link with all the book reviews in one spot. However, I’m someone who likes to share my opinion and I am not a webmaster. But I promise – I’ll figure out how to get all the reviews in one place some day!

When Terrance Sawchuk met his ultimate demise, after a drunken episode that led to his death, he died as the greatest goaltender in NHL history. Sure, Georges Vezina has the award named after him, but Sawchuk’s accomplishments surpassed Vezina. Ironically, both these goalies died very young. Even sadder, both goalies could’ve led longer lives if doctors had today’s medicine/science. However, where the two men were Canadian, were all-time great goalies and died young, the similarities stop there. Vezina would die after a bout with tuberculosis. Sawchuk’s death, while not a suicide, was self-inflicted.

As I’ve said a million times on this site, I enjoy the history of the NHL. The abundance of reading material and knowledge on the history of the sport and the legends of the game keeps me busy. That’s why I do these book reviews. I know many people don’t have a long attention span in this ADD world, but if you can get through my 8000+ word manifestos on a daily basis, then you probably have the attention span to sit down and read a book. I hope by sharing these book reviews with you, you have the same interest as me.

I will say – after my “Thin Ice” review, I heard the book sold out on Amazon.com. Granted, there weren’t many copies left, but it made me happy to see that people immediately wanted to see what the hype was all about. I know some of you have emailed me personally to talk about the book, and if you liked the wild stories in “Thin Ice”, you will enjoy the story of Terry Sawchuck.

Patrick Roy & Marty Brodeur would eventually post stats surpassing some of Sawchuk’s milestones, but it’s always hard to compare different eras. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

Like the Phil Esposito autobiography that I reviewed on this site, when I finished this book, I appreciated the player, but not the individual himself. It basically comes down to the same reasons – both men were pieces of shit to their family. To be fair to Esposito, he does hold himself accountable and doesn’t make excuses. It also doesn’t make it ok either, and I feel bad for the kids he deserted.

If I thought Esposito was bad, Sawchuk was 1000 times worse. From knocking up random women to not speaking to his wife because she wouldn’t get an abortion, Sawchuk was a vile human being. Personally, as someone who enjoys drinking, but never gets out of control, I thought Sawchuk made drinkers look bad. (It’s funny for all the drinking I do, I’ve rarely been drunk. I’ve been comfortably buzzed and laugh a lot, but I’ve never had that “black out” drunk episode that many have.) From beating his wife and kids, I just felt uneasy during points in this book.

This book, which was published in 1998 and written by the very astute David Dupuis, tells stories from the point of view of Terry Sawchuk’s family, with his ex-wife Patricia being the main source. Where Esposito put the blame on himself for his transgressions, Terry Sawchuk obviously could not in this book.

Like with anything, whether it be a book or a movie, I always research after I consume content. I found out that Sawchuk’s ex-wife is still alive in 2017 and many of his kids are proud to be the kin of Terry Sawchuk. Time heals all wounds, but if you’re like me, reading this book, nearly 20 years after it’s published, what you just read is fresh in your mind. I’m sure Sawchuk’s kids, who must all be 50+ years of age now, try to remember the positive stuff and filter out the negativity. I understand, but by the end of this book, your sympathy doesn’t lie with Terry Sawchuck for dying young, it goes with his ex-wife, Patricia Sawchuck.

The son of Terry Sawchuk, Jerry Sawchuk, who is now 60+ years old in 2017, recently got this tattoo to honor his father.

If you’re a regular reader of this website, you know I’m a fan of the goalies. Being a native Long Islander & living here my whole life, the fact that Terry Sawchuk had his fatal accident 10 minutes from where I live and died in a hospital 20 minutes from where I live, also morbidly piqued my interest. Sawchuk’s story also was something I wanted to know more about, because after all, he was a New York Ranger, albeit for a season where he played 8 games.

There is no question that when Sawchuk died, he was the greatest goalie of all time. When this book was published in 1998, 28 years after his death, you could make a case for Ken Dryden or maybe even Jacques Plante or Glen Hall, but it would’ve been a stretch. Now, in 2017, 19 years after the publication of this book, names like Marty Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Domenik Hasek are considered better.

To me, it’s always impossible to compare guys of different generations. The variables are just too extreme. How can you compare a guy who’s prime was in the 1950’s to players whose primes were 40 years later?

Seriously, how do you make a real comparison when you consider this:

  • Length of schedule. Sawchuk had a shorter schedule, but was counted on to play every game.
  • The back-up goalie is stressed in the modern era, but not in the pre-expansion era (Before 1967).
  • Scouting and trainers – today’s players are coddled compared to the players of old.
  • No mask – Sawchuk would only wear a mask as his career was winding down. How can you play with confidence when you have to worry about getting a concussion or having your teeth knocked out at any given moment?
  • Faster and bigger players today. Today’s goalies have much more offensive firepower to worry about.
  • Equipment. Goalies from the old era look like Somalians compared to the stuff these goalies wear today. Shit, it’s so bad that if you look at pictures of Richter and Lundqvist, it’s like a David vs Goliath scenario.
  • Travel – players have luxury planes as they go from town-to-town. Sawchuk was cramped in smelly trains where he had to sleep upright.
  • Better competition in the days before expansion. With only 6 teams, there were a lot less jobs than the 31 starting goalie jobs that there are today. Teams are watered down a bit today. The level of competition and the rivalries were, without a doubt, more intense and fierce than today.

If you look at the cold hard stats, have Brodeur and Roy surpassed Sawchuk? Of course. However, no one alive has seen every goalie play from every era, so it’s all a matter of opinion and makes for a good bar room debate. That said, what everyone can agree on is that Terry Sawchuk was one of the best goalies of all time.

Sawchuk was known for his unique “crouch” stance.

What makes it is easier to read all these old books is that you can get them on Amazon, used, for less than $3. For $2.97 used, this book was a complete bargain. I thought author David Dupuis did a tremendous job illustrating Sawchuk’s career and life off of the ice with his writing style.

As usual, here are a few pages from the book itself, with my comments:

As an American, I always like to learn more about Canada’s history. David Dupuis, who I believe has written about Canada’s history, threw in some Canadian history throughout the book.

Sawchuk was also a great baseball player. I also find that most successful athletes don’t care about money, just like Sawchuck ditching his new shoes.

Alcohol and philandering would produce constant chaos on Terry Sawchuck and his family. Any time a story about Terry drinking was mentioned, it was a dark time. Unfortunately, these stories are from his ex-wife’s point of view. While I’m not questioning her or her integrity, it’s a shame we will never hear Terry’s side or if he would be apologetic for his behavior.

I have always contended that the Rangers would have more than 4 Cups if they didn’t give up home games for the circus. It’s funny how even then, money always came before hockey. James Dolan fits right in!

Like a quarterback rewarding his linemen, Sawchuk rewarded his defensemen. Today, Lundqvist blames them for everything. Funny how every top NHL goalie of all time always took accountability. Not Swedish goalies!

You guys know that I’m the biggest Frank Boucher fan alive today. I still want his jersey retired in MSG. That said, I love Frank Boucher stories, but I gotta wonder how Chuck Rayner felt about this. Imagine if Jeff Gorton called Cam Talbot the greatest goalie in the NHL today? Lundswiss would cry right to Larry Brooks!

You have to wonder how many more Cups would have the Redwings won, if Trader Jack Adams would’ve stayed put.

Old Time Hockey! Can you imagine a team playing inmates today? Maybe the Islanders can use Riker’s Island as a new venue! Shit, lock up Rick Dipietro while you’re at it for robbing the Islanders every time he cashes his paycheck!

I never knew alcohol hepatitis was a thing. I better get checked!

Whether it was Sawchuk’s predecessor or Sawchuk himself, Trader Jack Adams had no problem trading Cup winning & Vezina winning goalies. In 2017, the Rangers continue to build around an aging, declining and cupless goalie.

Tragedy was no stranger to Terry Sawchuk. From losing his older brother at a young age, to losing other siblings, perhaps Terry turned to drinking to cope.

Sawchuk hated his time in Boston. He eventually cracked and would “retire”.

That Johnny Bucyk kid kinda worked out for the Bruins!

While the seasoned drinker in me would call Terry a “professional”, as he was able to drink and play, the fact was his drinking ruined his family.

I’ll never understand the religious types. Pat Sawchuk would be beaten, cheated on, left for broke and would have to raise a big family all by herself, but yet stayed with Sawchuk until a year before his death.

I can never fathom how goalies played with no masks.

Talk about a loaded page with great stories!

The Rangers made a bad trade? SHOCKER!

Another thing I like about older books or books about older players is comparing them today. Sawchuk’s situation here is akin to Fleury going to Vegas. It’s not exactly the same, but you get the comparison.

Just one of the many stories about Terry cheating on his wife. Just think, these are the stories Pat knows and were published. Who knows what else Terry did behind her back?

The importance of the Vezina trophy, an award Sawchuk won four times and was top 3 many other years, was stressed a lot in this book. I thought Dupuis did a tremendous job of selling how important the Vezina is.

Unlike Sawchuk, Lundqvist doesn’t have the ability to close big games or play hurt.

This story made me sick. I wonder what his kids thought about this story being published.

The Leafs win the Cup! No one has said that in 50 years!

I live 5 minutes from this mall. To say the area has changed would be an understatement.

An old time hockey trick!

The Cat Emile Francis, then Rangers GM, was with Terry during his last days.

Shirley Walton, aka Shirley Fischler, the wife of Stan Fischler, would trick and lie to Sawchuk while he laid on his death bed.

Terry was buried with his parents. All three family members would die within 5 years of each other.

When I closed this book, my jaw dropped. For all the Cups & Vezina’s Sawchuk won (4 each), Sawchuk, the player off the ice, came off as a real piece of shit. We’ve all heard stories about people meeting their heroes in real life and those “heroes” being real assholes. When I read this book, where Sawchuk was a hero to many people during a period of time in Detroit & Toronto, I had that same feeling, that I met a hero, and he was a scumbag.

For all of Sawchuk’s accomplishments, I can’t get over the beating the wife and abandoning his family when his wife wouldn’t get an abortion.  When I finished this book, I wanted the autograph of Patricia (his ex-wife) and not Terry’s. She was the real hero.

As time moves on and people just worry about play on the ice, Sawchuk’s legacy will always be as one of the greatest goalies of all time. I just wish the former Patricia Sawchuk got the same accolades and praise for her work & accomplishments in life. Again – this book is all through the eyes of the family, but do you think they would make this crap up? Who would these horrific stories benefit, you know? Just think – these are the only stories the Sawchuk’s know. Who knows how many abortions Sawchuk had with other women, who else he hit, etc.

As far as the book itself, Dupuis masterfully recapped Sawchuk’s career and personal life. I didn’t feel like I missed a detail at all. There were no “down spots” in this book, where I was looking to see how many pages I had left. I read this book in one sitting, that’s how engrossed I was.

When it comes to covering Sawchuk’s death, this book meticulously recaps Sawchuk’s last days, how his death occurred and all the fall out. It’s something you really need to read for yourself to get the full picture.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking for a book with funny stories and entertainment, this isn’t for you. While Dupuis does a great job of recapping Sawchuk’s life, year-by-year, once Sawchuk gets married, the book becomes a major depressant. It’s tough to read about a person, that many people admired, and then see all his faults in black and white. However, that doesn’t mean this book, even 19 years after being released should be ignored either.

Right now, you can get this book for $3.26 on Amazon.com. The link to buy the book is here: Terry Sawchuk Biography. For chump change, you know you’ve spent money on worse!

The next 5 books on my agenda

Once the free agency period quiets down, I plan on reading these next 5 books. There are also some great hockey books coming out this fall, such as Sean Avery’s autobiography, so I want to get these done before then.  The next hockey book review on this site will be the Tie Domi autobiography! Stay tuned!

As always, thanks for reading. If you’ve read any of the books I’ve reviewed on this site, feel free to email me if you want to discuss them. I’m always interested in other people’s takes.

Oh, and don’t forget….

“LET’S GO RANGERS”

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the tweeter

 

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