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August 08, 2013

Harry "Rat" Westwick

Here's a story you certainly do not hear about nowadays.

In 1894-95 Ottawa born Harry Westwick tried making the Ottawa Hockey Club as a goaltender. After two games - a win and a loss with 6 goals against total - he was dropped in favour of another goaltender named Fred Chittick.

But Westwick was undeterred. He simply took off the rudimentary goalie pads of the day, grabbed a regular players stick embarked on a 12 year career as a rover/forward that would land him four Stanley Cup championships and enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame!

Westwick landed the job as rover on the powerful Ottawa hockey team because of his skating ability and all around play. He was small but a speedy and shifty skater, able to scurry around the ice all night. He was not Ottawa's top offensive threat (Frank McGee, Tommy Smith) or even the team's top defensive presence (Harvey Pulford). But he was a good glue guy who could do everything well.

He was also a bit of a nasty piece of work, earning the nickname "Rat" in very similar fashion to the modern day comparable Ken Linseman who was also dubbed "Rat." A Quebec journalist colourfully tagged Westwick as "miserable, insignificant rat" and nickname stuck.

Westwick was also a noted lacrosse star, winning three national lacrosse championships. He worked as a book binder while playing, and later took a job with the printing bureau of the Canadian government. He had a leg amputated above the knee in 1949, with one source attributing that to old hockey injuries.

Harry Westwick died at the age of 80 in 1957. In 1963 he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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