January 22, 2012

Bill Quackenbush: What A Quack!

Bill Quackenbush played with the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins in his 14 year career in the NHL. The 5'11" 180lb blueliner was not only one of the best defensive blueliners, but also, much like Niklas Lidstrom in the modern NHL, was as gentlemanly as he was efficient.

While playing with the Red Wings he was teamed with such pugilists as Terrible Ted Lindsay, Black Jack Stewart and of course Gordie Howe. Later Bill would play for the Big Bad Boston Bruins. Quackenbush's play was completely contradictory to that of his teams. Instead of using violence and brute strength, he would use a clean, pure version of defense. He seemingly knew what the opposing team would do before it would happen and he'd break-up the play without having to resort to physically manhandling the player. His positioning was perfect, his defense as elegant as it was disciplined

Quackenbush was an extraordinary thinker. To play NHL defense and to do it without taking many penalties requires an incredibly intelligent level of hockey sense. That being the case, Quackenbush certainly would have to qualify as one of the games most intelligent players ever.

Bill, who had a brother named Max who also played in the NHL, won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1949, an incredibly rare accomplishment for defensemen. It was hard to not give it to Bill that year though as the NHL First All Star Team defenseman did not commit a single foul in the entire season. In fact, Bill once went a span of 137 consecutive games (spanning 3 different seasons) without taking a single penalty! He probably should have won the trophy more than once.

Hubert George "Bill" Quackenbush was born in Toronto on March 2 1922. The 5 time all star never won a Norris trophy as the league's best blueliner but always a candidate. "Quack" would play in 774 games, rarely missing any to injury. He would score 62 goals and assist on 222 others while accumulating a miniscule 95 minutes in penalties.

Bill Quackenbush was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. Long time teammate Gordie Howe said it best about Bill when he said "He's one of the best all-around players I've ever played with."

There has often been talk about creating an award for the best defensive defenseman in the National Hockey League. There is an award for best defensive forward, so why not for the best defensive blueliner? There would be few better candidates to name such a trophy after than Bill Quackenbush.

Quackenbush lived an interesting life after retiring from hockey in 1956. In 1962 he received his degree in civil engineering from Northeastern University, but ultimately it was sports that would continue to preoccupy him. In 1967 he became head coach of Princeton University until 1975. In 1971 he added the varsity golf team to his duties, a position he held until 1985. And in 1978 he became head coach of Princeton's women's hockey team, also until 1985.

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