August 03, 2015

Nels Podolski

There are not a lot of hockey players through out history who have played more Stanley Cup playoff games than they played NHL regular season games.

Nels Podolski is a member of this rare club. The Detroit Red Wings called him up late in the 1948-49 season only played one game in the National Hockey League. He then stuck around for the Stanley Cup playoffs, participating in seven more contests. He never registered a goal or an assist, but he did make it all the way to the Stanley Cup final. The Wings would lose to the dynastic Toronto Maple Leafs, however.

The record books say Nels Podolski (sometimes mistakenly reported as Podolsky) was born in Winnipeg but he was raised in Manitoba's far north. He grew up in the Great Depression in a dirt-poor town called Ethelbert, where is father farmed and ran the local hotel. He later would land a job in the mines further north in The Pas, Manitoba.

Around the outbreak of 1941 the Podolski family moved across the border to Northern Ontario. Kirkland Lake, specifically. The town was known for two things - mining and hockey. Nels' father would get a job in the mines.

Nels, meanwhile, fit right in with his new hockey teammates. Despite not having a lot of organized hockey training, Nels helped his new teammates like Ted Lindsay and Gus Mortson to capture the all-Ontario Juvenile championship in 1940-41.

Kirkland Lake would always be home for "Nellie" but he left soon thereafter. The Montreal Royals called by 1942, and then the Galt Canadians, who were sponsored by a soda bottling outfit. Podolski had tasted too much poverty as a kid, and treated hockey like a job. He would go where the money would take him.

That meant enlisting in the Navy towards the end of World War II. He was stationed in Halifax where he was able to play in the competitive Halifax Senior Hockey League.

He then chased minor league dollars all the way from Indianapolis to Edmonton to Ohio, with is short stint in the National Hockey League smack dab in the middle of all that.

Podolski would return to Northern Ontario after hockey, working as a welder. He also volunteered many hours in the construction of a rink in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

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