As a youngster I instantly took a liking to goaltender Peter Peeters. Initially it had to be the name that attracted me took him, but his play quickly made him a long time favorite.
Peeters is the the son of Dutch immigrants, and grew up as a competitive swimmer while tending to the nets on the side. In fact, it was not until he was 18 years old that he committed to major junior hockey, joining a weak Medicine Hat Tigers squad for two years starting in 1975.
With a porous defense in front of him, Pete Peeters was peppered with pucks. But this pickle that Peeters picked turned out to be a perfect training ground. The huge workload and respectable showing earned him high praise from scouts. In 1977 he was selected 135th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Amateur draft.
After two years apprenticing in the American Hockey League, winning the Hap Holmes trophy as top goalie along the way, Peeters was promoted to the Flyers for the 1979-80 season, sharing the nets with Phil Myre.
The Flyers must have thought they had the second coming of Bernie Parent based on the way Peeters started that year. He went 22-0-5 before losing his first game of the season on February 19th! Of course that was the year the Flyers went 35 straight games without a loss, and partner Myre picked up some wins during that streak as well. Peeters finished the year with a record of 29-5-5 with a 2.73 GAA, earning him an All Star game nod. He was the Flyers go to guy in the playoffs as well, leading the Flyers all the way to Stanley Cup finals, only to lose on an over time goal courtesy of the New York Islanders' Bob Nystrom.
The following season Peeters had the impossible task of duplicating his incredible rookie season. Of course he could not, and over the next two years in Philadelphia his GAA rose and his playoff success dwindled.
Peeters was a tough guy to warm up to as well. Known as a grouchy guy, he was nicknamed Grumpy. He did not like the Philadelphia system of rotating goalies and at times carrying three netminders. A bit of a sore loser, he was not easy to talk to after games, especially in games that he loses. One Philadelphia reporter found that out in the 1981-82 season when he accused Peeters of physically assaulting him. The incident helped lead to Peeters departure from the City of Brotherly Love.
In June 1982 the Flyers traded Peeters to Boston in exchange for stud defenseman Brad McCrimmon. Both teams fared well in the trade, especially Boston in that first season. Peeters had perhaps his best year, playing in a career high 62 games, posting an amazing record of 40-11-9 with 8 shutouts and a NHL best-of-the-decade 2.36 GAA. At one stretch he went 31 games without a loss. Not surprisingly Peeters was awarded the Vezina Trophy as top goalie and named to the NHL's First All Star Team. Almost as impressive was the fact that Peeters finished 2nd in the entire league in Hart Trophy voting as league MVP in a time when the award was basically owned by the great Wayne Gretzky.
Again Peeters was faced with the unenviable task of living up to his previous years performance. And again he would not be able to live up to the gaudy expectations. He played two more years in Beantown while his GAA inflated the numbers in the L column increased. Though his critics skepticism grew, he remained a top goalie in most minds in the NHL. He was invited to Team Canada for the 1984 Canada Cup, one of his greatest honours, but sprained his ankle. Still he was able to play in the final game against Sweden and clinch the championship. He was also the goalie in the dramatic 3-2 OT win against the Soviets. The game, considered by many to be one of the greatest of all time, wasthe highlight of his career.
Interestingly, Peeters found the Canada Cup experience to be such a high that he had trouble once he returned to Boston for the season. Bruins GM Harry Sinden directly linked the Canada Cup to Peeters poor season by his standards, claiming "he was tired, both physically and emotionally." Peter Peeters was Petered!
After a slow start to the 1985-86 season, Peeters was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for goaltender Pat Riggin. Obviously the Caps were counting on Peeters' track record of great performances when placed in a new environment, though that never really panned out in Washington. Instead Peeters supplied the Caps with solid but not spectacular goaltending for the next 5 seasons. But he was never able to find any playoff success with the Capitals either.
Peeters returned to Philadelphia for the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons, the final two of his career. Peeters did so by his choice, signing as a free agent. It seemed like an odd move, as Peeters left Philadelphia because he dislike the three goalie rotation so much. Now he found himself as part of another three goalie rotation in Philly, sharing the nets with Ron Hextall and Ken Wregget. Hextall was hurt much of the 1989-90 season though.
Peeters retired with 246 wins, 155 losses and 51 ties in 489 career games. He posted 21 career shutouts and had a career GAA of 3.08, a very respectable number for the high scoring 1980s. Upon retirement he returned to the family farm near Edmonton, where he grew up and always returned to in the off seasons. He eventually got into coaching, serving as a goaltending specialist with the Minnesota North Stars, Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes before returning to Edmonton to do the same role with the Oilers.
If you take the highlights of Pete Peeters career, you could mistake him as one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. He had some great highs, such as 1979-80 in Philadelphia, 1982-83 in Boston and the 1984 Canada Cup. But because of his team's frequent failures in the playoffs and the fact he rarely played 2/3rds of the schedule like most top goalies, Peeters isn't really remembered as one of the top goalies of the 1980s that he actually was. If Peeters is remembered at all, it is in a highlight reel seen surrendering Mario Lemieux's first NHL goal.