Sometimes you just can't keep a good man down, or in the case of Pat Stapleton
, on the sidelines.
The prognosis, both short and long term, wasn't for very good for Stapleton
, as the Chicago Blackhawks
prepared for the 1970-71 campaign with the collective mindset their capable defenceman wouldn't be able to play.
In mid-August of 1970, Stapleton
, who began his
NHL career with Boston after being claimed from Chicago in the 1961 Intra-League Draft, required crutches to function, hardly the image 'Hawks fans and players wanted to see.
"Doug Mohn broke his
arm and the coach really had no choice but to have me play," recalled Stapleton
, who went to record seven goals, 44 assists and was also named to the NHL's
Second All-Star Team in 1970-71.
After a strong campaign in the Eastern Professional Hockey League
in 1960-61, Stapleton
was given the opportunity to play with the Boston Bruins
, a team that was struggling to keep pace with the competition on most nights.
The defenceman managed to stay with the Boston for a year-and-a-half before being sent to the minors, where he
would spend nearly three years.As a member of the Portland Buckaroos
, Stapleton distinguished himself as a solid and versatile competitor, often playing the position of centre.
One day after being dealt to Toronto by the Bruins, Chicago claimed Stapleton
on June 9, 1965.This time, though, there was ample opportunity for the eager rearguard to have long-term success at the NHL level.
proved to be a capable goal-scoring threat, setting up teammates with first-rate passes was Stapleton's true forte, often threading the puck through a maze of skates and sticks to create a high-percentage shot.
A three-time Second Team All-Star, Stapleton
was equally adept at poking the puck away from rivals with a swift flick of his stick, teaming with the aforementioned Bill White to rate one of the best defensive duos in the league at the time.
Seconds after the final horn sounded, Stapleton
grabbed the famous puck, the one he
still has at his
house to this very day.
Just before the start of the 1973-74 season, Stapleton
signed a contract with the Chicago Cougars of the World Hockey Association
, both as a player and coach.After 58 points in 78 games during his
"rookie" campaign, the blueliner was honoured with the Dennis A. Murphy Award as the WHA's top defenceman. Stapleton
had a profound effect on an Indianapolis Racers squad that had a horrendous start to their second year in the WHA
, but battled on bravely to come within one game of reaching the league championship series.
In 1977-78, as a member of the Cincinnati Stingers
, in his
final year of hockey, once again brought his
trademark professionalism to the dressing room and rink, finishing the year with 49 points in 65 games.
A fitting end to a long and prosperous career, one that very easily could have been much shorter and far less memorable.