Boston Bruins legend Jerry "Topper" Toppazzini passed away on April 21st after a short illness. He was 81.
Toppazzini is best remembered as the last skater to play as a goaltender. On October 16th, 1960 he replaced injured goalie Don Simmons late in the third period. These were the days before back up goaltenders were mandatory on every roster. Topper never surrendered a goal in his less than a minute in the net.
After helping the Barrie Flyers win the Memorial Cup in 1951, Topper turned pro and became a star with the Boston Bruins in the 1950s. A participant in three NHL all star games, he also played with Detroit and Chicago in his 12 season career. He was a strong penalty killer (famous referee Red Storey called him the best penalty killer he ever saw), setting a then-record of scoring seven short-handed goals in the 1957-58 season.
That was Topper's best season, scoring a total of 25 goals. In the post-season he erupted for 9 goals in 12 Stanley Cup games, but he would never get the chance to sip champagne from Lord Stanley's famous chalice.
Topper was a popular, grinding third liner known for his enthusiastic forechecking, the type of lunch pail player Boston fans love. He was a consistent 15 goal, 45/50 point threat back in the day. He was a leader in the dressing room, too, known for his incessant chattering.
He retired as a player in 1968 and went into coaching. By 1975 he went home to Sudbury to coach the OHL Wolves and the likes of future NHL stars Mike Foligno, Randy Carlyle, Rod Schutt and Ron Duguay.
By 1977 Toppazzini bought the Belvedere Hotel on Lorne Street and converted it into the iconic Boston Bruins-themed sports bar and family restaurant known as the Beef 'n Bird.