June 16, 2013

Lionel Hitchman: Forgotten Man

When I recently highlighted the greatest players in the history of the Boston Bruins, one name I really wanted to include was Lionel Hitchman - the first athlete in North American sports to have his jersey number retired. But hey, when your franchise's top six defenseman of all time are Bobby Orr, Raymond Bourque, Eddie Shore, Brad Park, Dit Clapper, and Zdeno Chara, it is tough to include a guy most fans do not even know about.

Which is a real shame - and the exact reason this website exists. So without further ado, let's take a look at two time Stanley Cup champion Lionel Hitchman.

Lionel Hitchman was steady, aggressive and defensive-minded defenseman who was often paired with Eddie Shore to form one of the greatest defense tandems in hockey history. Hitchman's flawless defensive play allowed Shore more freedom to play an offensive game, a rarity among rearguards in the early days of hockey. The duo formed a feared one-two defensive punch, with their favorite target being Montreal's Howie Morenz.

Today fans attending Boston Bruins games will notice Hitchman's number three hanging high in the rafters along side much more familiar hockey legends like Shore, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr and Cam Neely. Hitchman may be all but forgotten by history, but know this: Hitchman was so good in his day that he became only the second player in NHL history to have his jersey retired.

The late Frank Frederickson would agree Hitchman was one of the all time greats. Frederickson, the Canadian Olympic hero turned Hockey Hall of Famer, once compared Hitchman and his partner Eddie Shore:

"To me, Shore was a country boy who had made good; he was a good skater and puck carrier but was not an exceptional defenseman like his teammate Lionel Hitchman who was better because he could get them coming and going."

Here is the full Lionel Hitchman biography

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