Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29, 1964

One of the great things about all sports, is the story of an unknown athlete who suddenly emerges from nowhere. A quarterback who has to sub for an injured All-American. The Triple-A pitcher who fills in for the 20 game winner. The small forward who sinks 40 points in his first NBA game.

On March 29,1964, the hockey world witnessed such an occurrence in Chicago Stadium. And this was no meaningless regular season affair. The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Black Hawks were in the midst of playing game two of their Stanley Cup semi-final series.

Starting in net for Detroit was veteran Terry Sawchuk. The Wings would require solid netminding as they already dropped game one to Chicago. For the first five minutes of the opening period, Sawchuk held the Hawks off the scoreboard. At the same time, his work for the night came to a sudden halt. The eighth shot against Sawchuk was taken by Chicago centre Stan Mikita. The drive struck Sawchuk's left shoulder and caused a pinched nerve. After receiving medical attention, it was determined the Wings starting goalie couldn't continue.

This is where the hero of our story makes his grand appearance. He is ready to steal the spotlight and defend his position against all attacks. With his suite of armour in place, all that was left for him to do was fight the battle. His name - Bob Champoux.

Bob, who? That is exactly what the Chicago players and fans were asking when our hero skated out to defend the Wings cage. Could this unknown and untested shot blocker rise to the occasion and lead his team to victory in a must-win game? Certainly, the Hawks now had the advantage with a rookie patrolling the crease at the other end. Bob, who?

Bob Champoux

Well, let's answer that question. Bob Champoux had very little experience prior to skating onto the large stage of the Stanley Cup playoffs. His time in Major Junior hockey (OHA) was limited to eight games with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens in 1961-62. The following season, he returned to the Montreal Metro League, donning the pads for St-Jerome Alouettes. His only taste of professional hockey came in 1963-64 when Wings management assigned him to the Cincinnati Wings(CPHL). In the spring of 1964, he was branded as Detroit's spare goalie for the playoffs.

Detroit's number two goalie in their system was Roger Crozier. During the 1963-64 campaign, he played in 15 regular season games with the parent club. The bulk of his playing time was in Pittsburgh with the AHL Hornets. Being the number one goalie on the farm team, Crozier remained on the Pittsburgh roster at the start of the NHL semi-final series between Detroit and Chicago.

So, was our hero up to the task at hand? Detroit opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period. Chicago got back into the game on two goals scored by Red Hay. Then, the fun began. Detroit restored their three goal lead on goals by Gordie Howe and Norm Ullman. Detroit-5 Chicago-2. From this point on, our hero was under siege. Two goals, 33 seconds apart, by Eric Nesterenko, pulled Chicago to within one of Detroit.

As the above headline indicates, Bob Champoux was able to keep the snipers on Chicago at bay for the remainder of the final frame. The Wings defence, knowing that their young goalie was under fire, pulled together to support Champoux.

Final Score : Detroit-5 Chicago-4.

That game was Bob Campoux's one and only appearance in a Detroit uniform. He would go on to play in 17 games with the California Golden Seals in 1973-74. He posted a 2-11-3 record and a 5.20 average.

On March 29, 1964, he was the hero who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that night 50 years ago very well. As an 11-year-old Hawks fan from Montreal I was thrilled to get the chance to see a playoff game from Chicago Stadium that Sunday night, and even more excited for the Hawks' prospects when Sawchuk went down and they had to put in this no-name goalie. But the Wings instead took command and built up a three goal lead much to my dismay, and while the Hawks came back to make it five-four I was completely disappointed by Glenn Hall's play that night. He was the one who looked soft in the net! At any rate it was my most frustrating night as a young Hawks fan until the night of game seven of the 1971 Final when Chicago blew a 2-0 lead against the Habs at the Stadium and lost the Stanley Cup. Thank God the current version of the team can actually win some big games!


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