Bucko McDonald

Bucko McDonald was a fantastic defensive blueliner for parts of 11 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. He was especially well known for his exuberant body checking.

This story - perhaps more of an urban legend than fact - pretty much sums up Bashing Bucko McDonald:

McDonald played in the longest NHL game ever. In the 1936 playoffs the Red Wings and Montreal Maroons played 9 periods before Mud Bruneteau finally ended the game at 16:30 of the sixth overtime period!

One person who would have liked to have known beforehand that the game would last that long would have been a Detroit fan who met McDonald prior to the game. The fan offered Bucko 5 dollars for every bone crunching body check which left a Montreal player having to pick himself up off the ice. By the end of the 9 period marathon, McDonald was credited with 37 knock downs!

The fan, by the way, reportedly did pay up the princely sum of 185 bucks!

Wilfred Kennedy McDonald never grew up playing hockey at any serious level. Instead he loved lacrosse and would become one of the greatest lacrosse players in Canadian history. A Mann Cup champion and Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer, McDonald didn't turn his attention to hockey until the collapse of the professional lacrosse league in 1931

McDonald had little trouble adjusting to the game on ice, quickly establishing himself as a defensive defenseman extraordinaire. He started out in the lowly IAHL with the Buffalo Bisons but by early 1935 he had caught on with the Detroit Red Wings. He would bring his clean, hard hitting play to the Motor City and emerged as one of the upper echelon defenders in the entire league. He was an unheralded member of the 1936 and 1937 Red Wing Stanley Cup championships .

A trade for Bill Thoms and cash saw McDonald become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He continued his strong play throughout his tenure in Toronto. He even became an NHL all star in 1942 - a season which marked both the high and low points of McDonald's career as a Leaf.

That season saw the Leafs make their much celebrated come from behind victory over McDonald's old team, the Detroit Red Wings, to capture the Stanley Cup. The Leafs were playing terribly early in the series, falling behind 3 game to none. Coach Hap Day opted to shake up the team by benching two regulars - high scoring winger Gordie Drillon and McDonald - for the remainder of the series. Unthinkably the Leafs woke up from their slumber and somehow managed to win 4 consecutive games to capture the championship!

Despite the benching McDonald played his heart out for the Leafs for parts of the next two seasons. Early in the 1943-44 season the Leafs traded McDonald to the New York Rangers in exchange for cash. The veteran wound down his career with the Rangers, retiring in 1945.

Bucko continued to be involved in hockey after departing from the National Hockey League. He played one season of senior hockey before returning to the grass roots of the game and coaching children's hockey.

One of his most prized students was Bobby Orr. In fact McDonald was instrumental in Orr's rise to the top, coaching him in Pee Wee and Bantam. McDonald was the coach who, despite protests from his parents, moved Orr from forward to defense. Orr would combine his out-of-this-world talent and the early teachings of Bucko McDonald to revolutionize the way defensemen played the game of hockey, and become arguably the greatest player of all time.

McDonald played in 446 NHL games, scoring 35 goals and 123 points. Although he was known for his violent body checks, he was an exceptionally clean player. He only picked up 206 penalty minutes in his career, and never was given a major penalty. One season he even went unpenalized.


Dr. Robert G. Mac Donald,  3:27 AM  

direnI quite agree.A great player and coach and a model for my grandson in N.J Alexander Mac Donald who watched the Canada -USA olympic.He is now playing hockey on a N.J prep school hockry team He 2 years ago decided to learn to skate and play hockey.Wow.

Hr will enter Quinnipiiac.N.Y . University and hopes to play there.Another Bucko?

His proud grandfather Robert G. Mac Donald.B.A.M.D. Quebec.

newmanottawa 10:27 AM  

I, along with everyone else in Sundridge, knew Bucko as a character and a true gentleman. I never really understood how important Bucko was as a hockey icon until one summer, while working as a waiter in the Caswell Hotel, I was serving a middle-age couple who asked if that was Bucko who just came in. I brought Bucko over to their table and these two 50-somethings turned into overawed teenagers before my eyes. He was class all the way.

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