Before the start of the 1969-70 season, Emile Francis needed to make a trade
for a goaltender. Eddie Giacomin had been overworked the past two seasons and
needed a break. So, on June 17, 1969, Francis made a trade with the Detroit Red
Wings for legendary goalie Terry Sawchuk.
Despite the trade, Giacomin still played most of the season while Sawchuk
only played eight games. In those eight games, he went 3-1-2 with a 2.91 GAA and
one shutout. However, that one shutout would be the last shining moment in his
On February 1, 1970 he recorded his 103rd and final shutout in the NHL. It
would also be his last victory (#447). It came in a 6-0 win for the New York
Rangers over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. After the game,
his teammates teased him on how it would be the old man's last shutout. They
were right. Several months later, Sawchuk was dead.
One of the theories behind Sawchuk's death was that he was involved in a
fight with current teammate and roommate Ron Stewart in the backyard of their
rented house. However, the complete details of the incident were never truly
uncovered. Nobody knows if the fight was the cause of alcohol, over a woman or a
large sum of money. Sawchuk had been seriously injured during the fight and had
an operation on May 1st. During his recovery, Sawchuk blamed Stewart for the
On May 27th Sawchuk got worse and more surgery was needed. The doctors did
what they could, but on May 31st a blood clot to the lungs took the life of
Sawchuk. He was 40 years of age.
Stewart faced criminal charges and the Rangers hired an attorney to represent
him. The jury eventually found no reason to bring charges and everything was
When the trial was over Rangers coach Emile Francis said "The whole
Sawchuk affair was one of the toughest things I had ever faced in my life."
"Terry was one of the greatest, maybe even the greatest. It was a
tragedy that far transcended hockey."
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