May 30, 2009

Hank Bassen Passes Away

Former NHL goalie Hank Bassen passed away on Saturday. He was 76 years old.

This red-haired goalie was never a regular in the NHL. He was a utility goalie who did his backup job very well. Being a back-up is one of the most difficult roles in hockey but Hank filled that role admirably. He even got the tag "Mr. Emergency" because of the way he was called in for duty. Unfortunately for Hank he played on NHL teams with great goaltenders. In Chicago he was stuck behind Al Rollins and in Detroit it was Terry Sawchuk (and later Roger Crozier).

"My career started as a back-up goalie and it seemed, more-or-less, to stay that way, Bassen recalled. "I did have some pretty illustrious partners and that had something to do with it. "

Hank was never the No.1 goalie in the NHL but he had a long and successful minor league career that saw him play in the AHL (Buffalo, Springfield, Pittsburgh), WHL (Calgary, Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton), EPHL (Sudbury) and CHL (Cincinnati). Hank played his junior hockey back home in Calgary for the Calgary Buffaloes and later on for Medicine Hat Tigers

Hank's playing style was unorthodox which didn't always sit well with his trainers. When Hank played for the legendary Eddie Shore in Springfield in 1958-59, he was wandering too much out of his position and flopping to the ice. So ol' Eddie Shore tied a rope around Hank's neck and the crossbar so that Hank wouldn't flop to the ice and wander out of his crease without getting strangled. Eddie however might have had some impact on Hank who was the WHL MVP, best goalie and a first team All-Star in 1960 when he led the league in several categories.

Hank made his NHL debut in 1954 with Chicago.

"Al Rollins got injured and Chicago called me up from Buffalo of the AHL" Hank said, " I'll never forget that flight to
Chicago. To this day, I've never been more excited about anything."

He won that first start against the Bruins but was soon sent back to the minors again. In 1957 Hank was traded to Detroit in a five player deal which included Hall of famers Glenn Hall and Ted Lindsay.

Hank never won the Stanley Cup but remembered when his Detroit lost to Chicago in the 1961 Cup finals. Hank was in goal for Detroit in game six of the finals that Chicago won 5-1.

"I allowed a couple of soft goals that night but Chicago really wanted to win the Cup badly. We (Detroit) had been
champions on a number of occasions in the previous decade but Chicago hadn't won the Cup for more than 20 years. As a result, they were really flying in that series and deserved to come out on top. " Hank said.

In 1965-66 Hank backed up Roger Crozier in Detroit. In the 1966 Stanley Cup finals against Montreal he played in game four when Crozier wrenched his knee. Bassen allowed goals from Ralph Backstrom and Jean Beliveau as the Canadiens won 2-1 at the Olympia. He might not have won the Stanley Cup but he won the Calder Cup (AHL) with Pittsburgh Hornets in 1967. Hank played one more season in the NHL when he got picked up by the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins in 1967.

After the 1967-68 season Hank retired to operate an excavating business in Calgary. He also managed the junior Calgary Wranglers between 1984-86 before going on to become a sales representative for a printing firm.

The Bassen family showed up in the NHL again in 1985 when Hank's son Bob emerged in the league. Bob went on to play 14 seasons in the NHL between 1985-99.


Anonymous said...

What a great man! Hank gave back to the community in so many ways, but he is especially remembered for the hockey camps he organized every year.

Anonymous said...

Hank really was one of the best. A total gentleman in every way. A great laugh and a warm heart. He did so much for others and always with a smile on his face. He is someone who really was a good role model. JM

nervygirl said...

Hank and his late wife Shirley were a big part of our family. My mom and dad, along with Hank and Shirley, founded the Calgary Hockey Ministries camp. He was such a sweet man. Lorelei Adlam