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April 28, 2015

Mike Buchanan

At a quick glance it seems Mike Buchanan was but a footnote in hockey history, playing one lone NHL game with the Chicago Black Hawks back in 1952.

It turns out that one game turned out to be quite controversial, but not until a few years later.

Mike Buchanan was a physical defenseman from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, though he played midget and high school hockey in Ottawa. He played junior hockey in the Hawks system, playing in Galt and Guelph.

Buchanan's final season of junior was played with the Galt Black Hawks in 1951-52. He had an especially strong season on the blue line, scoring 15 and 40 points in just 46 games.

At the end of the season Chicago gave Buchanan a look-see at the pro level. At that time junior prospects could play up to three professional games in a season without being signed to a proper contract. It was not an uncommon occurrence.

Mike Buchanan suited up on the Chicago blue line, wearing sweater number 6. By all accounts it was a pretty uneventful game as far as Buchanan was concerned. He never registered on the score sheet that night.

Chicago also had Buchanan play 2 games with their AHL farm team in St. Louis. Again, Buchanan was quiet in both games.

The following two seasons Buchanan played some semi-pro hockey with the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League, playing briefly with twin brother Neil.

But by 1954 the Buchanan boys decided to make a major change in their life, and give up on any dreams or delusions of playing in the National Hockey League. The twins enrolled for classes at the University of Michigan while also playing for the Wolverines hockey team.

Having a former pro hockey players playing for a NCAA team seemed to be no controversy at all until 1956, during their second collegiate season.

The Wolverines were a top collegiate team and a serious threat in the Final Four tournament for NCAA hockey supremacy. Prior to that tournament both Buchanan boys and teammate Wally Maxwell  - who similarly played 2 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1953 - (possibly Tommy Rendall as well) were declared ineligible because of their professional background.

Why this controversy was conveniently not brought up until just prior to the tournament remains a mystery, though it seems somebody waited specifically for this time to raise the issue. It is believed someone from rival Colorado College was behind the complaint. It ultimately didn't work out as Michigan still won the NCAA championship.

While Neil continued to play in following seasons, Mike Buchanan did not play anywhere the following season, though he did complete his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

By 1957-58 he re-appeared on the hockey scene in Great Britain of all places. He played a season for the Wembley Lions, though it was a painful experience. He fractured his jaw in two places and returned to Canada several weeks later.

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