On this day in 1970, goaltender Terry Sawchuk earns his 103rd shutout, setting the NHL record for most regular-season shutouts that stood for nearly four decades.
Terrance Gordon Sawchuk was born December 28, 1929, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nicknamed “Ukey” for his Ukrainian heritage, he received rookie of the year honors in the United States Hockey League (1947-48), the American Hockey League (1948-49) and the NHL (1950-1951), where he first played for the Detroit Red Wings. Sawchuk helped the Red Wings capture the Stanley Cup in 1952, 1954 and 1955, and won the NHL’s Vezina Trophy for most valuable goalie in 1952, 1953 and 1955. Despite his success in Detroit, in 1955 he was traded to the Boston Bruins so the Red Wings could make room for a new player. In Boston, Sawchuk experienced a career slump brought on by health problems and depression and he retired briefly from hockey. However, in 1957, he rejoined the Red Wings, and was a standout once again. In 1964, Sawchuk was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and on January 18 of that year, he posted his 95th regular-season shutout, shattering the record held by George Hainsworth. That season, Sawchuk also won his fourth Vezina Trophy. In 1967, he led the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup championship.
The final seasons of Sawchuk’s 21-year NHL career were spent with the Los Angles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. On February 1, 1970, while playing for the Rangers, he recorded his 103rd regular-season shutout, an NHL record he still holds. Later that year, on May 31, Sawchuk died at age 40 from injuries sustained during an incident with his roommate and teammate Ron Stewart. No criminal charges were ever filed against Stewart, but the exact circumstances of what happened between the two men–whether it was horseplay or an actual altercation–remains unknown.
Sawchuk’s career record includes 446 wins in 972 regular-season games, a record he held until the 1999-2000 season, when it was bested by Patrick Roy. Sawchuk also posted a total of 115 shutouts–103 in the regular season and 12 in playoff games. Considered one of the greatest goalies in the history of his sport, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971. In March 1994, the Detroit Red Wings retired his jersey.
In 2009, New Jersey Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur broke Sawchuk's record. Brodeur would finish his career with 125 shutouts in a Hall-of-Fame career that spanned 21 seasons.