When hockey collectors discuss the game’s greatest goalies, there are names that naturally pop up like Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. Their place in hockey history is undeniable, but there is one amazing talent that seems to get lost in the shuffle despite being arguably the best in the game during the 1960s – Glenn Hall.
Why hasn’t the hobby given Hall the respect he rightfully deserves? The answer to that question is rather complex, but perhaps it is time for collectors to elevate his status and consider what the man known as “Mr. Goalie” contributed on the ice and beyond.
A native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Hall played for the local club before joining the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires as an 18-year-old in 1949-50. Part of the Detroit Red Wings organization after signing a C-form as a youth, he played in an era where an NHL team owned his rights from an early age. After two seasons in Windsor, he jumped from the junior ranks to the American Hockey League with the Indianapolis Capitols. His 1951-52 campaign was a rough one with 40 losses, but he was still rising within the Red Wings chain – with only Sawchuk standing in his way of a starting role.
Well, the problem at the time was that Sawchuk was firmly entrenched as Detroit’s top man in the crease as the club won three Stanley Cup titles in a four season span between 1951-52 and 1954-55. Hall was called up for his first NHL stint in 1952-53 while Sawchuk was injured, but was sent back down after seven solid games. Sadly, Parkhurst did not make a card of him around this time. It should also be noted that since he was called up to Detroit’s roster for the 1952 Stanley Cup Final, his name was etched onto the Stanley Cup despite not hitting the ice.
Big League Debut
By 1955-56, Hall’s readiness for the NHL could not be denied and the tempermental Sawchuk had been traded to the Boston Bruins. He immediately took over as the team’s starter and blew everyone away with a league-leading 12 shutouts on the way to a spot on the Second All-Star Team and the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year. Appearing in all 70 games, he also kicked off an impressive streak for consecutive appearances that would make hockey history.
The only problem for hockey card-loving kids at the time was the fact that Parkhurst had scaled back to only featuring the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs that year and Topps went on a two-year hiatus. With no hockey cards at all in 1956-57, young fans were despondent and thankfully, both companies were back soon.
Welcome to the Windy City
In those days, Topps hockey card sets were made up of the four American-based clubs and Hall was included – but now as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks (then called the Black Hawks). Why would the Red Wings trade away one of the best young players in the game? Well, that is a bit of a crazy story. Around this time, several players, including Hall’s Red Wings teammate Ted Lindsay, attempted to start a Players’ Association and it was ultimately squashed by team owners.
In the weeks and months that followed, a large portion of the league’s players switched jerseys and Hall was on the move to the Windy City along with Lindsay for four players. The move immediately gave Chicago plenty of leadership and strength in goal – coinciding nicely with the club adding more prospects like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Ken Wharram.
Since Hall’s rookie card features an airbrushed shot in his new jersey, which is typical for 1957-58 Topps. The original photo with him in a Red Wings uniform was used in the 1993-94 Parkhurst Missing Link series which was an imagining of what the company’s unreleased 1956-57 set might have looked like. Hall’s debut cardboard is one of the most underrated of the decade as it does not seem to get as much love when compared to the rookie card of Plante and is on par with those of Gump Worsley and Johnny Bower in the minds of many collectors. The 1957-58 Topps set is plagued with poor centering as well, making high-grade copies incredibly difficult to find.
Hall’s first season with Chicago was rough as he lost 39 times, but he was rewarded with a spot on the NHL’s First All-Star Team. The team returned to the playoffs in 1958-59 and he was at his best two years later as the club captured its first Stanley Cup crown since 1937-38. He played a crucial part in getting the team past the Montreal Canadiens in the first round – a remarkable feat as the Habs had won a record five straight titles. Facing Gordie Howe and many of his former Red Wings teammates in the Stanley Cup Final, he prevailed in a high-scoring six-game affair.
For the next six seasons, Hall was arguably the most consistent and influential goalie in the game. Young goalies everywhere were emulating his style thanks to national television broadcasts of NHL games and he was featured in more than just hockey cards. Naturally, his Shirriff hockey coins were coveted, but there were also Beehive photos and El Producto discs that were certainly playing a key role in schoolyard trades.
When it comes to Hall’s regular issue cards during the Black Hawks years, there is one that truly stands out. The 1964-65 Topps card shows him holding a mask – and this appears to be the first time that type of protection appeared on a hockey card. However, this mask looks to be something he wore in practice as he never wore one in action until a few years later. The 1961-62 Topps action card called Bathgate Bangs One In also shows Hall, but he is being scored on by fellow superstar Andy Bathgate.
During Hall’s tenure with Chicago, he set an impossible-to-break record as he appeared in his 502nd consecutive game early in 1962-63. The notoriously nervous netminder, who threw up before every game due to nerves, soldiered on through the 1960s and regularly protected the net during the NHL All-Star Game. He appeared in that event on 13 occasions – more than any other goalie ever. He regularly led his peers in shutouts and even though save percentage was not an official stat during this era, historical records show that he was tops in that department in 1956-57 and 1962-63 – the latter being the first year that he won the Vezina Trophy.
Before 1981-82, the Vezina was handed out to the goalie or tandem that had the lowest goals-against average in the league. He went to the Stanley Cup Final again in 1962 (vs. Toronto) and 1965 (vs. Montreal), but the game was starting to change by the middle of the decade as tandems began to be implemented by teams.
In Chicago, Hall’s partner in net was Denis DeJordy and the duo helped the Black Hawks to their first regular season crown in 1966-67. At the time, there was a claim that the club’s original coach, Pete Muldoon, had put a curse on the club after being fired following their inaugural campaign on 1926-27. A total fabrication, it at least made for a good story and the duo went home with the Vezina.
Singing the Blues
With the Original Six era ending and the NHL expanding to 12 teams, the new clubs were able to select unprotected players from the rosters of established clubs. Perhaps feeling that Hall was in his twilight, he was exposed in the expansion draft and was scooped up by the St. Louis Blues.
Even though he was not ready to call it quits, Hall had a history of holding out at the beginning of the season in order to secure a better contract from his team and have some time to paint his barn. He did get the Blues to agree to a deal soon after the 1967-68 season began and he shared the crease with former Team Canada star Seth Martin. It should be noted that Martin also made fiberglass masks for his fellow goalies and Hall was happy to be one of his customers once he decided to start wearing one regularly on the ice.
The 1967-68 Topps set, though, did not feature expansion teams – likely due to timing and a lack of available photos. This meant that Hall would not get a basic card, but he was paired up with DeJordy on a Vezina Trophy winners card and was in the All-Star Team subset.
Despite a losing record that year, he was counted upon to take the club far into the playoffs. St. Louis eliminated the first place Philadelphia Flyers and the Minnesota North Stars before battling the Canadiens for Lord Stanley’s Mug. Hall was brilliant in this series, keeping each contest within one goal despite being swept in four games. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.
Heading into 1968-69, the Blues lured Hall’s longtime rival, Plante, out of retirement and created one of the greatest tandems in hockey history. Despite having radically different personalities and the fact that Plante often alienated himself from teammates, the pair gave up just 157 goals on the way to finishing first in the West Division and winning the Vezina. Plante took the lead in the playoffs and they were swept once again by the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final and he chose to retire.
Eventually returning to action in 1969-70, the duo were runners-up in the Vezina race, but another first-place finish was in the books. For the second straight season, Hall’s cards in the O-Pee-Chee sets used older photos from his Black Hawks days, but there is a fantastic Vezina Trophy Winners subset card which placed him and Plante together. Due to injuries, Hall was limited to 18 games and Ernie Wakely came in to help the cause. By the playoffs, the trio was dividing up the appearances and Hall put together a 4-3 record. He was in goal for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and was immortalized as part of the game’s most famous photograph as Bobby Orr was tripped up while scoring the championship goal in overtime.
Hall returned for one last season in 1970-71 and that year’s O-Pee-Chee set finally used a shot of him in a Blues uniform. It would prove to be the last card of his playing days. He went 13-11-8 over 32 games with a decent 2.42 goals-against average. In the playoffs, he went winless in three appearances against Minnesota and his playing days came to an end.
All told, Hall retired with an impressive 407 wins and 84 shutouts. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975 and was one of the NHL’s earliest goalie coaches. No other netminder was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team on more occasions and his pioneering use of the butterfly style of goaltending helped revolutionize the game.
When it comes to collectibles, Hall’s vintage cards reign supreme and remain popular with team collectors and set builders. His rookie card is certainly unheralded when compared to some of his peers and has room for growth in the coming years. When it comes to modern issues, he was part of the Parkhurst Missing Link sets from 1933-94 to 1995-96 and Upper Deck’s Retro and Century Legends releases in 1999-00, but it started to get wild in 2001-02. Finally signing for trading card products, it is not tremendously difficult to get a certified autograph of Hall, who recently turned 88. In The Game unleashed plenty of game-used memorabilia cards featuring his equipment, including a St. Louis Blues jersey, Blackhawks jersey,sticks, and even a glove.