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Hockey Heroes: Bones Raleigh

Here's the skinny on Don Raleigh: He was skinny.
Hence the nickname that he became best known by, "Bones" Raleigh.

At 5'11" and 145-150lbs, the slender center was never a physical player. But he was a skilled puck technician. Best known as an elusive playmaker, he was an underrated goal scorer with a knack for scoring big goals.

Born in Kenora, Ontario, Raleigh was raised and became a junior hockey star in the Winnipeg area. His knack for winning championships at the bantam, midget and junior hockey levels assured him entry into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.

Raleigh joined the Rangers for the 1943-44 season, a call up due to a roster depleted by World War II. At 17 he became the youngest full time player in team history. His season lasted only 15 games though, as he suffered a broken jaw in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The following season Raleigh returned to Canada and joined the Canadian Army. Based in Winnipeg, he also played hockey with several teams during his years of service, including with the University of Winnipeg where he also found time to study and with the senior Winnipeg Flyers who competed for the Allan Cup in 1947.

Upon the end of the War, Raleigh returned to Manhattan for the the 1947-48 season. The Rangers were a decent team back then, but goaltender Chuck Rayner made them a threat. In the 1950 playoffs Rayner and Raleigh led the Rangers within a whisker of the Stanley Cup championship! Playing against the Detroit Red Wings, it was Raleigh who scored back-to-back overtime game winning goals in games 4 and 5 to keep the Rangers alive. Raleigh had his chances to score another OT goal in game 6, but ultimately the Red Wings emerged from that game as the Stanley Cup champions.

The Rangers teams sunk back to mediocrity for much of the next couple of decades, but Raleigh emerged as the team's offensive heart until his departure in 1955. In fact, in 1951-52 Raleigh set a team record (since surpassed) with 42 assists, and led the team with 61 points, the 4th best total in the entire league.

Despite Raleigh's best efforts, the Rangers were spinning their wheels and ownership decided a change was needed. Fiery Phil Watson was brought in as coach in 1955-56, which all but ended Raleigh's days in New York. Watson wanted a team of big, physical grinders, and Raleigh simply did not fit in his game plan.

Raleigh returned to Western Canada, playing in Saskatoon and Brandon before leaving the game at the age of 32 in 1958. He returned to Winnipeg and got into the insurance business, owning his own insurance and consulting firm. He would later do some television analyst work with the WHA Winnipeg Jets upon their arrival in 1972.


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