July 26, 2015

Ralph Nattrass

Ralph Nattrass was a robust defenseman from the farming town of Gainsboro, Saskatchewan. After a fine junior career with the Moose Jaw Canucks, he played for Kansas-City in the USHL before he made his NHL debut late in 1946 for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was called up to Chicago from Kansas in the middle of the 1946-47 season

Based solely on his NHL debut you would have though Ralph Nattrass was the next great defenseman in hockey. The 6-foot, 185-pound blueliner first appeared in the NHL on Dec. 8, 1946, as Nattrass' Black Hawks faced off against Rocket Richard and the Montreal Canadiens. Nattrass somehow fired two shots from just inside the blue line that found their way past Montreal goalie Bill Durnan and into the net.

Nattrass also assisted on Doug Bentley's goal, the only other goal for Chicago on that night. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the would lose the game 5-3.

Now that is a first NHL game to never forget! But Nattrass' scoring ways would not continue. He would play in 35 games in his rookie season, and score only two more goals and six more points.

Often playing alongside future Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby, Nattrass would play in a total of four seasons, all with Chicago. In 223 NHL games he scored 18 goals with 38 assists.

The Hawks tried demoting Nattrass to the minor leagues after training camp in 1950. Ebbie Goodfellow had become the coach and, for whatever reason, he really did not like Nattrass. But Nattrass refused to report to the minor leagues. The situation was not settled until he was traded to Montreal shortly thereafter.

Montreal somehow convinced him to play with their farm team in Cincinatti of the AHL. In 55 contests the man with the big shot somehow failed to score any goals at all. But he did tally 30 assists in what proved to be his last season of hockey.

Nattrass would return to the NHL in 1954-55, this time as a linesman! Away from the rink Nattrass ettled in Edmonton and pursued several business ventures, including selling cars. But his two loves were the Blackhawks and dogs. He was known to take in many dogs in need of rescue.

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