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July 14, 2013

Flash Hollett

William Hollett was a high scoring defenseman overshadowed by other great blue liners of his time.

Names like Eddie Shore (who was often Hollett's defensive partner), Dit Clapper and Art Coulter dominated the era. However it was Hollett who was often topped the offensive leader board from the point. In fact, in 1944-45 while with the Detroit Red Wings, Hollett became the first defenseman to score 20 goals in one season.

Hollett, dubbed Flash because of his great speed on skates, started his NHL career when he was loaned to the Ottawa Senators in 1933-34 by the Maple Leafs before being teamed with Hap Day in Toronto in 1934-35. In 1936 he was sold to the Boston Bruins for a significant sum of cash - rumored to be $16,000. Despite his ability and promise, Hollett wore out his welcome with Conn Smythe. His abrasiveness would come into play throughout his career.

It was in Boston where Hollett established himself as a solid NHLer. Teamed with Shore, Hollett would enjoy 7 seasons with the Bruins, tying NHL records for defensemen when he scored 19 goals in both the 1941-42 and 1942-43 season. Harry Cameron originally set the record in 1921. In 1943 Hollett did break Tom "Cowboy" Anderson's record for most points by a defenseman with 44.

But Hollett's greatest moment as a Bruin came in 1939, and at the expense of his old team. It was Hollett who scored a crushing goal in the finals against Toronto to give the Bruins the Stanley Cup! Hollett and the Bruins would win another title in 1941.

Yet all was not well in Boston. Hollett clashed with boss Art Ross. It was once said that Art Ross toyed with the notion of burying him in the minor leagues. Despite the feud, Ross knew he needed Hollett. He was an extraodinary offensive presence from the rear and he had great versatility. Ross would move Hollett up on a forward line whenever a forward got hurt. Hollett would also take turns as a forward while on the penalty kill.

Hollett was on pace for another near-20 goal season in January 1944 when the Bruins traded away the now 32 year old veteran to Detroit for Pat Egan, a young defensive prospect who would go on to enjoy a lengthy NHL career.

In Hollett's first full season with Detroit he would break Cameron's goal record by defensemen. He scored 20 goals and 21 assists in the 1944-45 season. What makes this even more unthinkable is that he did this in 50 game schedule. Even during the high scoring 1980's when Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque and Doug Wilson were challenging 30+ goals routinely, 20 goals by a defenseman was still considered to be quite the feat. The record of 20 goals would stand for 24 years until a young man named Bobby Orr came along.

Pairded with Earl Seibert, Hollett's performance in the 1945 playoffs were quite legendary in Detroit. Down three games to one against Toronto in the finals, Hollett spurred an unlikely Detroit comeback, winning three straight games before falling just short in game seven.

Hollett's production faltered significantly in 1945-46 as he battled groin and knee injuries and had a falling out with Wings boss Jack Adams. The argument was over Flash's contract. Hollett wanted a $500 a year raise and even retired in the summer of 1946 over the dispute. When he did retire Adams threatened Hollett that he would make sure that Flash would never be placed in Hockey's Hall of Fame. Suspiciously, even years after Jack Adam's passing, Hollett, one of the games top blue liners of that era is still not in the Hall.

To end the dispute Hollett was traded to the New York Rangers, but the aging veteran opted to retire and attend to his young family rather than move to Manhattan. He returned to the Toronto area, where he continued to play senior hockey. In 1950 he led the Toronto Marlboros to the Allan Cup championship.

When Hollett retired he was the highest scoring defenseman in the history of the National Hockey League. He scored 132 goals and 181 assists for 313 points in 565 NHL games

Flash Hollett died in 1999.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HHOF? I believe so!
At the time Hollett retired he was the leading nhl defenceman.
Time to be let into the hall!

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