Friday, August 17, 2012

My First Blackhawks Hero: Bob Sauvé

This is an article I wrote for Second City Hockey, and figured I should post it here too.

In my nearly 40 years on this planet, more than 30 of them have been spent watching the Blackhawks and the NHL. That is a long time to be committed to anything, especially one that provides so much pain and heartache. Just ask anyone who has been married for that amount of time. Some would argue that I should be committed to an asylum, instead, but I digress. I found hockey, street hockey at the time, through neighborhood friends and fell in love instantly. For some unusual reason, at that period in my life, I was fascinated with any position that required the most equipment. I chose to volunteer to be a catcher, in baseball, even though I was far and away the fastest player on the team, and I had an obsession with goaltenders. My goaltender obsession clearly continues almost 3 decades later. That particular obsession is one that you might compare to a mental illness because it will never go away, and might very well require medication.

In addition to an unhealthy goalie obsession, I had that ever popular habit of pulling for the underdog; to a fault. It is hard to get your favorite player's jersey when he is playing for a different franchise every year. Some of my favorite players from my youth were Mike Vernon (then of the Calgary Flames), Don Baylor (of the Red Sox and a million other teams), Gerald Riggs (briefly of the Redskins), so on and so forth. It was cliché to follow the popular players, but I was never one to do something just simply because it was the popular trend. As a result, I was always tuned in to the little known Blackhawks backup goalies, no matter how insignificant they were. There were names like Warren Skorodenski with his great mask, Chris Clifford, Christian Soucy, Adam Munro, and even the Greatest American Hero, Ray Leblanc. I had an unhealthy knowledge of these players, most of which only played a handful of games.

Warren Skorodenski

These players, though, all came after my first Blackhawks hero, Robert F. Sauvé. I know, this revelation is really dating me. A majority of the Blackhawks, or even NHL, fanbase probably can't even recall the name, much less his very short Blackhawks career. First of all, he began his Blackhawks career as the backup behind Murray Bannerman, which caught my attention. Second, he wasn’t much to look at. Sauvé stood at a very generous listed height of 5’8", carried a robust playing weight of 175 lbs, and had a moustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. He was the Blackhawks pre-Dirk Graham and pre-Michel Goulet equivalent of a Mario Bros long lost brother. Little did I know, at the time, that he was a former 1st round draft pick (1975), William Jennings (1985) and Vezina Trophy winner (1980). Maybe I just felt sorry for him because he had the dubious distinction of being traded away from the Buffalo Sabres TWICE to the Norris Division (Redwings in 1981 and later to the Hawks in 1985).


Despite all the legendary names of the time period, those Blackhawks teams were absolutely terrible, playing in front of the ageless and clearly witless bizarro Jacques Lemaire of his time, Bob Pulford. While my brother and my friends were all following players like Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Al Secord and Doug Wilson, I was paying close attention to the dynamic duo of Sauvé and his boy wonder Bannerman. Sauvé was brought in to provide some solid relief for Bannerman, but neither really stood a chance. Honestly, I can’t recall any specific plays that Sauvé made during his Blackhawks tenure, but I know I was quite possibly his one and only fan.

One might venture to call Sauvé the Ray Emery of his time, or call Emery the Sauvé of his time. I would have entertained calling him the "Marty Turco", but I can compare that debacle to nothing else. In theory, it was the same scenario, but the results were quite different. Sauvé actually outplayed Bannerman both seasons he spent at the Old Barn, but was left to sign elsewhere, aka New Jersey, when Pulford decided to scrap the entire goaltending crew after the 86-87 season. The Blackhawks then elected to go with Darren Pang and the" original Cristobal Huet, Bob Mason. How about that for a resume highlight? "Lost job to a Keebler Elf and the goaltending equivalent of John Druce". Ouchie; very very ouchie!

In a bit of an ironic side note, Bobby Moustachio devised a very diabolical way of paying back the team that unceremoniously jettison him many years previous, by representing the painful goaltending experiment known as Jocelyn Thibault as his player agent. Touche, Monsieur.

When the only good pose Todd Macfarlane can get out of you is drinking out of a water bottle after fishing the puck out of your own's safe to say you've give Blackhawks fans nightmares.

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