Thursday, April 14, 2011

Marcel Pelletier to the Rescue

As is the case with most things in life, timing is often a key component. We have all read stories of how timing has changed fate and the course of events. Stories like the person who gave up the last seat on a plane. Then, the plane crashes when a sudden storm causes it to nose-dive into a densely wooded landscape.

In the hockey world, fate and timing usually thrust an unknown individual into the spotlight. In February 1951, the light was shining brightly on Marcel Pelletier.

Marcel Pelletier was born on December 6, 1927, in Drummondville, Quebec. He played junior hockey with the Verdun Jr. Maple Leafs in the QJHL. His next step up the ladder was playing senior hockey in Kitchener ('48-49 OHA-Sr.) and Quebec ('49-50 QSHL). In the 1950-51 season, Pelletier was the starting goalie for the Milwaukee Sea Gulls of the USHL, who were a Chicago Black Hawks farm team.

Marcel Pelletier's big moment would come in a game played on February 1, 1951. Unfortunately, only 5,204 fans were in Chicago Stadium to witness his accomplishment. Why the sparse crowd? Well, Chicago was in the midst of a gigantic winless streak which stood at 21 games. Between December 17, 1950 and January 28, 1951, Chicago lost 18 games and tied 3. Their last victory coming on December 16, 1950, a 3-2 win over Toronto in Maple Leaf Gardens. They shared the longest winless streak record with the 1943-44 New York Rangers (17 wins - 4 ties). In game number 21 of the winless stretch, Chicago fell 4-3 to Toronto on January 28, 1951.

The starting netminder for Chicago on February 1, 1951, was Harry Lumley. In the first period, Lumley fell ill with a stomach ailment and left the game having played less than five minutes.

Pelletier, up from Milwaukee, was sitting in the stands. Thus, by the time he skated out to Chicago's goal crease, Pelletier had plenty of time to think about the task at hand. Another loss would give Chicago the dubious distinction of setting a new NHL record.

Right from the outset, Chicago looked like a club determined not to set the new mark. Roy Conacher gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead, 29 seconds into the contest. The Boston Bruins, quickly got the equalizer, 20 seconds later on a goal by Milt Schmidt. Chicago regained the lead thanks to Bill Mosienko. At this point, young (23) Marcel Pelletier was summoned to duty. Harry Lumley passed him a 2-1 edge in goals and it was Pelletier's opportunity to maintain the advantage. All eyes, not to mention the spotlight, were on Pelletier.

In period two, Jim Conacher increased the margin to 3-1. The first goal in the final frame was Milt Schmidt's second of the night. Chicago's two goal lead was restored by Gus Bodnar. The fifth Hawk tally was Roy Coacher's second goal.

Marcel Pelletier and his teammates defeated Boston 5-2. Allowing only one puck to get by him, Pelletier made 28 saves. His next crack at NHL action wouldn't come until the 1962-63 season.  Pelletier played in two games for New York that year, spending the majority of time in Baltimore with the AHL Clippers. His last professional game was in 1968-69 with the New Jersey Devils of the EHL. The bulk of his career was in the WHL with a number of teams.

After hanging up his goal pads, Marcel Pelletier became a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

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