The Top 10 Weirdest NHL Goaltenders in History

Archives, Hockey History, Ilya Bryzgalov, NHL Goaltending, Ron Hextall, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask


 

It’s a commonly-held belief in NHL circles, and hockey in general, that goalies tend to be a bit weird. It’s more strange to find a goalie that isn’t weird than it is to find one that is. After all, who would willingly sign up to have people fling frozen rubber discs at you at high speeds? There have been many quirky, memorable goalies over the years but there are a few that stand out as the craziest goalies in NHL history.

10. Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask doesn’t like shootouts. He tends to get very, very angry when he loses at shootouts. It goes back to his days for the Providence Bruins in the AHL, when he had possibly the most memorable freakout in recent hockey memory:

It’s continued to his days in the NHL, too:

In fact, a study done in 2013 concluded that Rask has about a 33% chance of absolutely freaking out when he loses in a shootout. The numbers haven’t been updated in recent years, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the percentage remained about the same.

9. Roman Cechmanek

Normally, goaltenders do not like to get hit in the head by shots. It hurts, and leaves your ears ringing for a while after it happens. But not Roman Cechmanek, who was also known to rock a unibrow, would intentionally use his head to make saves, in what became known as “skull saves” among Flyers fans. Cechmanek’s style was unorthodox at best, but in his short time in Philadelphia, he was extremely effective.

Roman Cechmanek (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Until the playoffs, that is. In the 2001-02 playoffs, Cechmanek spotted the Ottawa Senators a three-goal lead in Game Four, with Philadelphia already down 2-1 in the series. Cechmanek skated out to center ice and started berating his teammates, thinking that they were not holding up their end of the bargain and playing well in front of him. In response, some of the Flyers players reportedly fired pucks at his head during practice the next day in response. Unsurprisingly, Cechmanek only lasted one more year in Philadelphia before being dealt to LA.

8. Tim Thomas

If Tim Thomas was not happy with you, he made sure that you knew it, and that you felt it. If you went in his space, he made you regret it, like when he slashed Carl Soderberg in the head:

Or if you take liberties with one of his teammates, he won’t wait for one of his teammates to do something. He’ll take matters into his own hands.

Off the ice, Thomas had a few notable incidents. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, was conspicuously absent from the team’s trip to the White House with President Obama. Thomas issued the following statement on his absence:

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

After playing one more year in the NHL, Thomas decided to take a year off from hockey in 2012-13, citing that he needed to spend more time with “friends, family, and faith”, which is a perfectly legitimate reason. Shortly after, he began posting articles to his Facebook page that warned of a global economic meltdown, saying “See why hockey’s just not that important right now”?

7. Turk Broda

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Turk Broda enjoys a stack of pancakes in the crease.

Turk Broda was known as a legendary playoff goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1940s and early 1950s. When asked why he was always so successful in the playoffs, Broda offered the following:

“The bonus money for winning wasn’t much but I always needed it,” he said. “Or maybe I was just too dumb to know the situation was serious.”

Broda was also involved in a continuous battle with Leafs owner Conn Smythe over his playing weight, which was dubbed “The Battle of the Bulge” by the Toronto Media. Smythe threatened that Broda’s job as starting goaltender would be lost to two AHL goalies if he did not drop his playing weight to 190 pounds before the 1949-50 season. The disagreement culminated in a final weigh-in the day before opening night, with all of the Toronto media present, in which Broda came in at 189 pounds, and was allowed to keep his job.

6. Ed Belfour

Known as “Crazy Eddie” to many fans, it comes as no surprise that Belfour makes an appearance on this list. Belfour was so particular about his equipment and how it was handled that he offered the following piece of advice that tried to get between him and his equipment: “You touch my stuff, I’ll kill you.”

Belfour was a phenomenal goalie, but was absurdly competitive and had extremely high expectations of himself, and his teammates. He would often clash with equally competitive coach Mike Keenan as a result in Chicago. Twice, an intoxicated Belfour has been arrested for a series of different issues. The first time, in 2000, he offered the arresting officers $100k, and then $1 billion dollars for his release without any charges. They unsurprisingly declined.

5. Glenn Hall

Glenn Hall is universally regarded as one of the greatest goalies of all-time. He was named a First-Team All Star seven times, and Second-Team All Star four times. He played in 502 consecutive games, a record that will surely never be broken. And before every one of those games, Hall would throw up. His reasoning behind it, while more than a little kooky, does show just how dedicated he was to winning.

“I always felt I played better if I was physically sick before the game. If I wasn’t sick, I felt I hadn’t done everything I could to try to win.”

 

Goalie Glenn Hall

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 17: Goalie Glenn Hall #1 defends the net during an NHL game against the New York Rangers on November 17, 1965 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Rumor has it that after throwing up, Hall would then have a glass of orange juice, and go out for the game. As odd as it is, it clearly worked for the Hall of Famer.

 

4. Patrick Roy

While he is arguably the greatest goalie of all-time, Patrick was certainly not without his quirks. Most notable was that he unabashedly admitted that he used to talk to his goal posts. When asked why, Patrick responded “Because they are my friends”. The saying goes that the goalposts are the goalie’s best friend, but that’s usually more a turn of phrase rather than an actual reality.

Other than talking to his posts, Patrick was known as a fiery competitor. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that hated losing as much as he did. He showed it both while he was between his best friends on the ice, and also as a coach. Fittingly, in Roy’s first game as an NHL coach, he got into a screaming match with Bruce Boudreau and nearly knocked over the glass pane separating the two benches. Solidifying his place among crazy goalies.

Prior to becoming the coach of the Avalanche, Roy was the coach and owner of the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. In January 2007, Roy allegedly punched the co-owner of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens after Chicoutimi fans had refused to allow the Remparts back on their bus after the game. A year later, a brawl ensued between the two teams in which goaltender Jonathan Roy, Patrick’s son, got into a violent fight with the Chicoutimi goaltender.

The fight landed Jonathan a seven-game suspension and Patrick a five-game suspension. Patrick claims the assault wasn’t orchestrated, despite him being caught on video making a gesture to his son as he neared the Chicoutimi goalie. Patrick has since apologized for the incident and said he should have done a better job containing his players.

3. Ilya Bryzgalov

The Philadelphia Flyers are THW's 2013 Biggest Disappointment of the Season. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) craziest goalies in nhl history

Ilya Brzgalov’s tenure in Philadelphia was rocky at best. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

For the majority of Bryzgalov’s career, he was thought of as a pretty normal goalie. Sure, there was the “Why you heff to be mad?” sound byte, but other than that, we really didn’t know how odd Bryz really was. But once he was put in Philadelphia, the Goaltending Hell, and a camera was placed in front of him for NHL 24/7, we saw a different Bryz.

Bryz didn’t play very well on the ice in Philadelphia, but he was a quote machine. From his ramblings on the universe being “humangous big”, to receiving the death penalty for killing a tiger in China, or opining on the beauty of his Siberian Husky as “a hot girl, man”, you truly never knew what Bryz was going to say next. This all would have been fine and dandy if he was playing well.

But he wasn’t, and in the Philadelphia media, it quickly turned into a very sour relationship. It culminated in the Flyers buying out the remaining seven years of Bryzgalov’s contract just to get him to go away.

2. Ron Hextall

Up next on the list is a man that is very thankful that Bryzgalov is not in Philadelphia, current Flyers general manager Ron Hextall. While Hextall appears to have tamed his act down since retirement (other than his outburst directed towards the underperforming Flyers last season), his temper during his playing days was legendary. There are only three seasons in which a goalie has eclipsed 100 penalty minutes, and Hextall owns all three from 1986 to 1989. He also holds the record for most penalty minutes by a goalie in league history.

crazy goalie

Ron Hextall (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The most famous instance was when he jumped Chris Chelios in the 1989 playoffs, who had concussed Flyers forward Brian Propp earlier in the series. If you messed with Hextall, you were going to feel it later on. He made sure of that.

1. Gilles Gratton

weird goalie

Gratton and his mask.

Chances are, you’ve never heard of Gratton, the #1 goalie on the list. He only played 47 career NHL games in the 1970s, but was quite the character. In the goalies are weird department, Gilles is near the top. Gratton claimed that he remembered to live prior lives, and his current life as an NHL goalie was punishment for his previous misdeeds. The first thing you noticed about Gratton was his mask.

In today’s world the mask wouldn’t be that strange, but this was the 1970s and Gratton played for the Rangers and Blues, which have nothing to do with a cat. Among other things, here is an abbreviated list of Gratton’s quirks:

  • He once refused to play in a game because the moon was in the wrong place in the sky.
  • He claimed that in a prior life he was a soldier in the Spanish Inquisition who was run through with a lance. This was his explanation for abdominal pains he was feeling.
  • John Davidson, a former teammate, claimed he would walk into a room with a piano and start playing it beautifully, despite claiming to have never played piano in his life.
  • Rod Gilbert, Hall of Famer, claimed Gratton was the most talented goalie he had ever played with. But after being hypnotized one night, Gilles began to believe he was an executioner who used to stone people to death. Then when pucks were fired at him, he believed they were stones and would jump out of the way.

Who are some of the other weird goalies in hockey history? Who else belongs on the list?

This post was originally written in March, 2016.



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