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December 15, 2012

Backchecking Bill Cowley? Not A Chance!

Bill Cowley was just a fantastic offensive player. Some have dubbed him retrospectively as the Wayne Gretzky of the 1940s. By the time the oft injured two time Hart Trophy winner retired in 1952, he was the National Hockey League's all time leading scorer.

But, by his own admission, he never paid much attention to the defensive side of the game. Here's Bill Cowley's own words in a rare book called "The Picture History of the Boston Bruins" by Harry Sinden with Dick Grace.

"What I remember most is my backchecking against Neil Colville in the 1939 Rangers playoffs. Colville broke away and I was the only one back - nobody believes me because I wasn't used to being a backchecker - but I was the only one there, and I chased Colville, yelling at him all the time. I didn't know what to do, not being a good checker.

"When Art Ross and Cooney, sitting next to eachother, saw Colville going in alone on Brimsek and me alone there with him, they ducked under the boards, expecting the worst, and in the excitement banged their heads together. He pulled Brimsek out of the goal but shot wide and missed.

"This was only the second time I had ever backchecked, and we won that game on a Mel Hill goal.

"The other time I backchecked was in a game with the Montreal Maroons. Two Montreal players, Baldy Northcott and Lionel Conacher, raced in on Tiny Thompson in goal. I was the closest to them. Tiny shouted for me to take Northcott and he would handle Conacher, who had the puck. Conacher shot and didn't score.

"I had a 100% record: two backchecks in my career, and no goals scored."

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