September 09, 2015

Don Head

Don Head's nickname should have been "Hot." As in "Hot" Head. He was the brawling goalie.

Don was a veteran of seven seasons of senior hockey before turning pro. In senior stops with Stratford, Chatham and Windsor he got a reputation as the shutout king and annual goals against average leader.

The highlight of his senior amateur career would have to have been in the 1959-60 season when he backstopped Canada at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. He posted a 5-1 record, but unfortunately the 1 loss cost Canada the gold medal. They finished with the silver medal, second place behind the host Americans.

The next season Head turned pro with Portland of the Western Hockey League for the 1960-61 season. In addition to being the dominant goalie in the league and winning the league championship, he set the pro record for penalty minutes by a goaltender with 101 minutes in his first pro season.

The burly Boston Bruin noticed, and gave Head his only NHL chance in the 1961-62 season. The Bruins were a weak team at the time, which certainly did not help. But Head had his worst season with just nine wins, 26 losses and three ties. Perhaps he didn't brawl enough in Boston. He was only assessed 14 minutes in penalties, including a scrap with Vic Stasiuk of Detroit and Marcel Bonin of Montreal.

One of the more bizarre moments in his short Bruins career was the night he played the point on the power play. And yes, he was wearing goalie pads and all. It happened on a delayed penalty call in a 4-3 win over Toronto. Instead of racing to the bench for an extra attacker, he simply moved up to the offensive zone. Glenn Hall was said to have done something similar that season. The referees found it confusing and the NHL passed a rule stating the goalies could not touch the puck on the other side of center, effective in the 1962-63 season.

Head returned to the minors out west, starring with the Portland Buckaroos and Seattle Totems until 1971. In 11 seasons out west he compiled a record of 219-148-42 with a 2.83 goals against average and 25 shutouts. He was a five time all star and won three Patrick Cup championships.

And don't forget his 363 penalty minutes! All told he had 505 PIMs in his senior and pro careers combined.

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