August 30, 2015

Lin Bend

John Linthwaite Bend was known to everyone simply as Lin, making him a member of the unofficial great hockey names list.

He seemed destined to be a great hockey player. Born in Poplar Point, Manitoba, he became one of the top juniors in the country with the Portage Terriers - a team coached by Bend's father Jack. He was a scoring dynamo who led the Terriers to the Memorial Cup in 1942. He scored an amazing 23 goals and 39 points in just 15 playoff games, almost single-handedly knocking off the Oshawa Generals in the championship finale.

The clever center immediately stepped into the National Hockey League - a rare thing for any rookie in any era. He was that good, but there was also openings on the Rangers roster due to World War II obligations. 

Perhaps Bryan Hextall - the star Rangers forward - tipped the team off about the prized prospect. Hextall and Bend were cousins. But in actuality Rangers boss Lester Patrick already had planned a hockey camp where several of western Canada's top juniors were recruited. Bend and Portage teammate Joe Bell were both brought in, as were Hub Macey, Spence Tatchel, Bill Gooden and Gus Schwartz. 

Unfortunately for Bend and the Rangers, Bend, too, was called up to help Canada's war efforts. His call came after just eight games played in the season. He scored three goals and four points in those games, showing more promise.

Bend would be stationed back in Manitoba, helping on army bases near Winnipeg. It allowed him to continue playing quality hockey in the military leagues during his three years of service.

Yet when Bend was released from his military duties, he never found his way back to the National Hockey League. He reported to the minor leagues and never put up significant point totals. He became a valuable contributor to the St. Paul Saints for several seasons in the USHL, including in 1949 when they won the league championship, but he continued to put up only average scoring totals.

Bend retired from professional play in 1951 and eventually settled down in Winnipeg. His son, Tom, was a goaltender who backstopped the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup in 1963, though he never played at any significant level in the pros.

Lin Bend passed away in 1978.

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