May 11, 2006

Chico Resch

Born in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Glenn "Chico" Resch was one of the last players to be part of the old sponsorship system. Instead of drafting players, NHL would literally invite 12 or 14 year old kids to junior programs sponsored and funded by the NHL. In turn, players playing in that organization's system basically became property of that team.

Resch was invited to the Regina Pats junior system which was coached by former Montreal defenceman Bob Turner. Resch was told by Turner that he would guarantee that Resch would make the NHL if he stayed in Regina, but Resch hadn't played very well in his short time there, and decided if he got a college scholarship offer he had better not pass up on the opportunity.

The University of Minnesota at Duluth offered him that scholarship, and Resch jumped at it. In three seasons in the WCHA Resch had an okay career. His GAA was high and his win/loss record was below .500. Probably his biggest highlight while in college was when Resch backstopped the team into the NCAA championships. The team was knocked out after losing a tough fought 1-0 game in double overtime against Cornell. The goalie in the Cornell net was Ken Dryden.

Ken Dryden inadvertently played a big role in getting Resch to the NHL. Following the NCAA championships, Resch was invited to the Montreal Canadiens training camp. Resch was a raw rookie who had never even seen a live NHL game before. And the Habs had several veteran goalies in camp such as Rogie Vachon, Phil Myre, Wayne Thomas, Michel Plasse and Ken Dryden - who the season before backstopped the Habs to the Stanley Cup as a rookie.

Needless to say Resch was buried in the Montreal system, and likely would have just toiled in obscurity had he stayed in the Montreal system. The Habs sent Resch to the lowly Muskegon Mohawks of the IHL where Glenn had a good season, leading the league in GAA and shutouts. But an old friend helped fulfill a promise. Remember how his old coach Bob Turner in Regina guaranteed Resch would make the NHL? Well Turner was a friend of New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey and told Torrey that Resch was a long shot but a worthy gamble. Torrey acquired Resch in a trade.

After a couple of years playing in the minors, Resch made the Islanders and the NHL on a full time basis in 1974-75 when he played in 25 games, with a record of 12-7-5 with a 2.47 GAA and 3 shutouts. By the playoffs he had become the number one goalie and like Dryden a few years earlier, Resch pulled a playoff miracle of his own.

"Until then Turk Broda had been the only goalie to bring a team from three games down in the playoffs and win the series," recalled Resch as he setup his story. "It was the Islanders first year in the playoffs. First we played the Rangers in a best of three and beat them, and that was a massive upset. That's what really started the rivalry between those two teams. Then we played Pittsburgh and lost the first three games. Billy Smith was the other goalie and we both played early in the series. But I played the last five games and I was there all the time for the comeback."

After rallying from the 3-0 deficit to beat the Pens, the Isles played the defending champion Philly Flyers. The Isles of course were huge underdogs and lost the first three games. But then wouldn't you know it, the Islanders battled back and tried doing what they had just done in the previous series. The Isles won 3 games to force a game 7 before bowing out in game 7.

For the Isles, it was the first of several memorable playoffs to come. But until the reached their dynasty years of the early 1980s, the Isles were faced with several disappointing playoff upsets, and more often than not the goalies got the blame. In 1978 it was Toronto as Lanny McDonald scored the game winner in overtime in game 7 against Resch. In 1979 it was the Rangers who upset the Isles. Resch was again in net in the final game of the year.

1980 was the first year the Islanders won the Cup. And you certainly can't blame the Isles for using Billy Smith in the playoffs - he was one of the all time best money goalies. But late in the season Resch was the hottest goalie in the league, going undefeated in his last 10 games. Despite his spectacular play, Isles coach Al Arbour remembered Resch's past playoff failures and went with Smitty. Resch played in only 120 minutes of the Isles championship run.

It was a very tough situation for Glenn. Normally winning the Cup is the highest high a hockey player could ever experience. But for Glenn, it marked a terrible time in his life.

"A lot of things changed in my life because of that. I actually became a Christian, a committed Christian, through that experience because when all of that happened I realized my life was out of control. I remember being on the bench just about in tears because I couldn't play. I couldn't say anything to the press but I was really wondering if it was the end. I would go home and be in tears. I just could not understand why it was that I had waited my whole life for this moment, to help my team win the Stanley Cup, and I couldn't do anything about it."

Resch came back in 1980-81 and played well as Smith's backup before he was traded in a late season trade to the Colorado Rockies. He played a lot in Colorado, appearing in 61 games in 1981-82, but the Rockies were at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Islanders, and Resch's stats reflected that. He went 16-31-11 with a 4.03 GAA. I've always felt a goalies stats are more indicative of the team he played for, and you can tell just how bad the Rockies were.

That was actually the Rockies last season in Denver, and Resch accompanied the franchise in moving to New Jersey to become the Devils. For the next 4 years Resch played well for the Devils, who remained a weak sister in the NHL. Resch played in the majority of games before he was traded to Philadelphia late in 1986.

Resch finished the 1985-86 season with the Flyers and returned the following season for what proved to be his last year in the NHL. He backed up a hot young rookie named Ron Hextall who took the Flyers to the Finals. This time Resch knew he'd be on the bench during the Finals and I think he enjoyed that Cup run better than he did with the Islanders. Wiser and older, he savored every moment as the Flyers fell just short, losing to the mighty Edmonton Oilers in game 7.

Resch had an interesting viewpoint on life in the NHL.

"When I became an NHLer I realized the perception I had of the glitz and the glamour was wrong. It wasn't what I had imagined and at times I almost wished I hadn't made it. But when you retire and look back on the people you got to know and the tough times you overcame, and the highs you experienced, and you can look back with great satisfaction."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chico Resch was surely the definition of HEART, a great help to Hextall, and there was areason he kept getting those "Class Guy" awards. It may not be how many times your name is on the Cup, or staggering stats; I think it is how you live on in the hearts of the other players and fans. Chico was a GREAT!!