Every sport has at least one forgotten figure from its past that was incredibly talent but never translated that greatness to its highest level for one reason or another. Decades ago, Guyle Fielder appeared on his way to becoming a major star. Long-term greatness never materialized but make no mistake–avid fans of old-time hockey know his name. And at least there is a little bit of cardboard that collectors can track down to remember the career of perhaps the greatest minor league hockey player who ever lived.
So, who exactly was Guyle Fielder? In a nutshell, he happens to be one of the pro game’s greatest scorers. In fact, only Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Jaromir Jagr put up more than Fielder – although their points came at the highest pro levels. Fielder was born in Potlatch, Idaho and came to the sport after his family relocated to the flat prairie paradise of Saskatchewan – the town of Nipawin to be exact – during his childhood.
At the age of 17, Fielder joined the Prince Albert Mintos for the 1947-48 season and spent two years there before moving out to Alberta to skate for the Lethbridge Native Sons. In 1949-50, he put was the WCJHL’s Most Valuable Player and up his first of two straight 100-point efforts for the club before inking a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks (then dubbed the Black Hawks) on March 9, 1951.
Just two days later, he took to NHL ice for the first time as Chicago hosted the Detroit Red Wings. He appeared in two more home games over the next week against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit once again, but failed to reach the scoresheet.
Needing a little more time to develop, Fielder began his minor pro odyssey with the PCHL’s New Westminster Royals in 1951-52 and scored a respectable 75 points over 57 games before being named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year. The Black Hawks traded him away to the Red Wings on September 23, 1952 and was lent back to Chicago by their farm team in Edmonton after skating in just three games less than a month later. He finished the 1952-53 regular schedule with the AHL’s St. Louis Flyers and was a scoring machine (an impressive 83 points) until Detroit called him up for their playoff battle with the Boston Bruins.
Two-Time Rookie of the Year
While he went scoreless during four games with Detroit, he did win the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s Rookie of the Year and the Bruins liked what they saw. He got to Boston’s system in a strange fashion as the New York Rangers plucked him off the waiver wire on September 29, 1953 only to sell him to the old WHL’s Seattle Bombers – who then moved him to the Bruins almost immediately after. He was kept in Seattle, though, and had another great year that warranted another call-up to the NHL as Boston battled Montreal in the first round of the playoffs for two games.
Another year back in New Westminster was followed by a return to the Emerald City in 1955-56. He remained in Seattle until the end of the 1968-69 season – delivering a massive amount of points as the Seattle Americans morphed into the Seattle Totems in 1957-58.
It was around that time when the Bruins reclaimed him during the 1957 NHL Intra-League Draft and sold him to the Red Wings just 10 days later. This was in response to his first George Leader Cup victory as the WHL’s MVP that came after racking up an incredible 122 points to set a pro record at the time.
With the intention of bringing a little firepower to the Detroit lineup after the trade of Ted Lindsay to Chicago following the NHL owners squashing a player’s union, Fielder was expected to do great things in the Motor City on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. Fielder has gone on the record in interviews noting that it was not a great combination as they were both puck carriers and typically at the time, a team kept them one to a line. As a result, he was not getting much ice time and requested to go back to the WHL.
His time as an active member of the Red Wings lasted a mere two weeks, but it was enough to get him onto the only hockey card from his playing days. Found in packs of 1957-58 Topps, he was already back in the WHL by the time it was on store shelves and kids were left scratching their heads at they wondered why they never heard his name on Wings broadcasts. That card is commonly found on eBay for very reasonable prices.
Back in Seattle, he settled in and led the them to the Lester Patrick Cup on four occasions between 1958-59 and 1968-69. A regular on the WHL’s All-Star teams, he regularly led the league in points and paced his peers on an incredible nine occasions. After NHL expansion, he stayed in the WHL and skated for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and Portland Buckaroos before retiring at the end of the 1972-73 season. He had been selected by the WHA’s Houston Aeros, but choose not to jump to the rival league – never getting a chance to reunite with Howe on the ice.
Leaving behind a great on-ice legacy, he had outscored even Howe by the time he was done and his total of 1,491 assists and 1,929 points still stands as the game’s minor league mark.
Returning to the Hobby
After 55 years of only having one card to his name and collectors largely unaware of his accomplishments, In The Game inked Guyle Fielder to a deal for its 2012-13 Motown Madness release. He was featured on a card in the base set which has a Gold parallel limited to just 10 copies, but there is also a certified autograph (you can thank your humble author for tracking down and engineering the contract with Fielder, who was happy to participate). You can find those, too, on eBay for very little money.
At the age of 88, Guyle Fielder was recently brought in by the NHL’s upcoming expansion team in Seattle to be recognized for his contributions to the game locally and he is also a member of the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.