Bob Goldham

It is an immeasurable skill that only a few have been able to master. It is an undertaking that perhaps takes more guts as ability. It is an attribute that far too often goes without much praise or thanks - except from the goalies.

We are talking about shot blocking.

Shot blocking is now an integral part of a hockey team's defensive game plan. In fact the Dallas Stars 1999 championship was filled with countless blocked shots. Some games it seemed that the players were stopping more pucks than goalie Ed Belfour!

But who was hockey's first shot blocking expert? Defenseman Bob Goldham, a tough defensive defenseman from 1941 through 1956 with Toronto, Chicago and Detroit.

In the early 1940s the Maple Leafs coach Hap Day tried to convince all of his players the art of shot blocking. None of them were willing to sacrifice their bodies by dropping in front of a frozen rubber bullet. None except for Goldham.

Goldham would drop to one knee and keep his hands besides his body, taking up as much room as possible. If the puck didn't just hit him, he'd swat at the puck with his gloves.

"He used to get down on his knees and look the puck in the eye," explained former Red Wing teammate Max McNab in amazement. "He's the first totally fearless guy that I ever saw."

You had to be fearless back then as the equipment was paper thin and primitive by today's standards. While shot blocking became a lost art during the days of Bobby Hull's booming slapshot, it has returned with vengeance in today's game, largely due to impenatratable armor that players wear today.

Goldham first appeared in the NHL with the Leafs in 1941-42. He was part of the memorable Stanley Cup championship team that rallied from a thee games to none deficit in the finals.

Goldham missed the next three years due to service in the World War II with Canada's Navy. However, Goldham was back in a Maple Leafs uniform by 1945-46.

Goldham was part of a 5 player package traded to Chicago in exchange for superstar Max Bentley on November 4, 1947. While the Blackhawks were a weak team, Goldham's skills as a big league defenseman improved greatly under the tutelage of Bill Gadsby.

On July 13, 1950, Goldham was traded to the Detroit Red Wings. Bob enjoyed his finest years as a member of the Wings. He spent six seasons with what many consider to be the strongest team of all time. Goldham was a big part of 5 first place regular season finishes and 3 Stanley Cup championships - 1952, 1954, and 1955. In 1954-55 Bob received a rare piece of personal recognition when he was named to the NHL Second All Star Team.

Bob retired after the 1955-56 season and later became a long time television analyst for the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada. Bob was also instrumental in campaigning for increased pension benefits for retired NHLers.


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