Thursday

Al Secord

He took over from Bobby Hull as the Blackhawks 50 goal scorer. At the same time he took over from Keith Magnuson as the Hawks enforcer and heart and soul. It sounds like almost the perfect combination for a hockey player. For a couple of seasons in the 1980s, Al Secord was that player.

In Cam Neely-like fashion, Secord could hurt you two ways - with his goals, or with his fists. Playing on Chicago's "Party Line" with Denis Savard and Steve Larmer, Secord scored 40 goals three times, including 54 in 1982-83. At the same time he was a hard crashing forechecker and a feared fighter.

Secord started out in Boston after being drafted from the Memorial Cup champion Hamilton Fincups, where he played both left wing and defense. He was as strong as they come at that age, taking boxing lessons and working as forest fire fighter in the summers. The Big Bad Bruins seemed like the perfect fit for the belligerent Secord, but he never really got untracked in Beantown.

Secord quickly found out the Bruins didn't draft him for his playing skills, but rather for his zest for the physical game. He quickly established himself as a Don Cherry favorite, right along side the likes of Terry O'Reilly, John Wensink and Stan Johnathan, often playing on a line with O'Reilly and Peter McNab. He had memorable fights with Paul Stewart, Clark Gillies, Dave Hutchison and his career long nemesis Willi Plett. He also was one of the Bruins who got into it with fans at Madison Square Gardens.

"Terry O'Reilly was hit by a spectator and O'Reilly went to the stands with Stan Jonathan. They catched the guy who had hit O'Reilly, but there were three brothers with their father and they all attacked our guys. While they had their own fight going, one guy tried to escape and was running up the stairs but Peter McNab caught him and pulled him down, right between the benches. I went and pummeled the guy while Mike Milbury was beating the guy with his own shoe. Seven Bruins-players were sued and one million dollars was asked from every one of us as a compensation. Later on, the case folded somehow," explained Secord in an interview with After The Whistle.com

He didn't get a lot of playing time in Boston, but still managed to score 16 and 23 goals, respectively, in his two full seasons there. He always had to work hard for whatever ice time he did get. That focus became extremely trying during the 1980-81 season. He was a regular scratch or a 4th line player, picking up 0 goals and 3 assists in 18 games. He was even demoted to the minors for a short stint.

Fortunately for Secord, the Chicago Blackhawks were interested in the hulking winger. A week before Christmas, the Hawks traded defenseman Mike O'Connell to the Bruins for Big Al.

Secord's first full season in Chicago, 1981-82, was his break out year. Playing on left wing with superstar Denis Savard, Secord scored 44 goals and 75 points, while amassing an amazing 303 penalty minutes.

"I was playing with Denis Savard regularly. My presence gave him more time to operate on ice and I got more ice-time than ever before. I played really physical game that year and I fought quite a bit. Even though I had a lot of penalty minutes that year, I never thought I got penalties because of my reputation. The referees respected me and I respected them."

Secord took his game to the next level in the 1982-83 season, becoming only the 2nd Blackhawk player to score 50 goals. He finished with 54 goals, 20 of them on the power play, and 86 points. With his obvious scoring importance, he toned his fighting game down, and picked up only 180 PIMs.

Yet somehow Secord felt he could have been even better that season.

"Steve Larmer came to our line. Me and Denis Savard were very fortunate to have Steve Larmer. We were a solid line. I didn't have that much penalty minutes, because our coach asked me not to fight so often. Actually, even though I scored well, I felt like I didn't play the way I was supposed to play. I was also told not to hit guys so often. I needed to play physical, and I didn't. It's big part of my game, to be on the other guys skin. When I hit a guy and the crowd starts chanting, it brings energy to me and to my team-mates. And I was missing that element. It felt strange."

Secord still had some memorable fights. In Chicago the southpaw had a real war going with the Hawk's natural arch rivals from Minnesota. Big Willi Plett joined that team, and Basil McRae was another regular combatant. He also had numerous bouts with Larry Playfair, and knocked out tough guy wannabe Kim Clackson in one punch.

Former teammate Terry Ruskowski had was glad Secord was on his team.

"Secord was very strong in the corners. He intimidated a lot of people and because of his presence he got the puck. In front of the net he got a lot of deflections. Guys were scared to move him out because if they cross-checked him or hit him too hard, Al was coming back to get revenge on them.

"A lot of people thought Al was just a tough guy who couldn't play. He worked hard in the corner, he had a very good shot, and he was strong on his skates. With Savard, he

After a 50 goal season and 2nd consecutive all star game nod, all seemed to go well with Secord's career. But then disaster struck when he was forced to deal with a serious injury. He missed all but 19 games with torn abdominal muscles. The season after that he missed considerable time with pulled muscles in his thigh. Doctors determined the two serious injuries were related as Secord had one leg that was measurably shorter than the other.

Secord returned to a full 80 game season in 1985-86, and even hit the 40-goal mark for once more. In one game he equaled the NHL record for fastest 4 goals by one player, scoring on 4 shots in 8:24. But the injury continued to hamper him, affecting both his skating and his conditioning. He would spend only one more season in Chicago.

Secord was traded to Toronto in 1987-88, spending a season and a half with the hapless Leafs. It was a real tough time for Secord, who was in real pain from his injuries. Disappointed that he was the Secord of a few years ago, the Leafs made him a frequent scratch, and when he did play he was utilized strictly as a tough guy. That came to an end when the badly injured Secord was horribly mismatched against a young gunslinger for the Islanders named Mick Vukota. Vukota kayoed Secord, the only man to do so.

Secord would move on to Philadelphia before returning to Chicago to wind down his NHL career. He would play on for a couple more years with the IHL's Chicago Wolves, but he simply had to quit because of the pain of his injuries, and probably should have done so some time sooner.

He retired with, including playoffs, 294 career goals and 550 points. His PIM total was 2475 minutes, over 41 hours spent in the penalty box.

Now outside of hockey, Secord has been able to find a second career that he is equally as passionate about. Back in his youth he had spent summers fighting forest fires in Ontario, often while in an airplane. This sparked a life long obsession with flight. Secord had gained his pilot's license while still playing in the NHL, and now he acquired his license to fly commuter jumbo jets both in USA and Canada. Now based out of Dallas, Texas, he currently works for American Airlines.

11 comments:

JKidd 8:45 AM  

Being a Minnesota boy, we learned to really hate Big Al... but, the heart, passion, intensity, and skill he had - were absolutely amazing. To this day, its a combo that not many, if any guys in the current NHL possess. An absolute animal with the gloves off, and an absolute scoring threat with'em on. Not sure if you'd call it jealousy or what, but the bastard did a number on my boys, and for that... I hate and admire him.

Mikhail 4:02 PM  

I play against ol secord in a beer league out in Dallas. I had no clue who he was and we got into a little altercation. I dropped the gloves but Thank God the refs and my team mates got between us or I might have taken a beating.

Anonymous,  11:53 AM  

That '82-'83 season when Al scored over 50 goals was the closest anyone in a Blackhawks uniform ever came to playing like the Golden Jet Bobby Hull. Secord like Hull was strong as an Ox, and had a heck of a shot...although it wasn't over 100MPH, he could bring it, and he could sure throw his dukes! That abdominal muscle pull he had really curtailed his output for a long time. Good old #20...Al Secord!

Anonymous,  9:43 PM  

Watching Secord made me fall in love with hockey. Yes he fought but he was a master at scoring and put his heart and soul into the game. How I wish players today showed a passion for the game like Secord.

Slicky Sav 12:24 PM  

I had the pleasure of meeting and skating with Al on more than one occasion. He is from the same small town in Northern Ontario as my father, Espanola Ontario. I used to run to his parents store in the Espanola Mall every time I was in Espanola. It was caled 'Secord's Penalty Box' He was absolutely my favourite player growing up. I even wore # 20 in honour of him. He was super nice to me when I was a kid, always taking time to chat me up whenever we saw each other. They do not make'em like Al Secord anymore, legend for sure. Very fond memories of the guy, class act all the way.

Cory Savicky

Anonymous,  4:21 AM  

1982 I became a fan of the Black Hawks thanks to AL Secord. The style, the scoring, no helmet, fighting etc. Just look at the man and you could see a real hockey player in his DNA.

Ram 9:00 PM  

It's so nice to read different views from people about Al. I was very young when he was playing hockey and didn't really know just how big he was in his time. He is a great man, a great father and one hell of a pilot. I never really knew him as a hockey player. But he is a family memeber and it's nice to read things about him now. Hope he reads these things too. I will mention it and find out. Anyways just thought I make a comment. RM.

Forklift 9:45 AM  

Kick his ass, Al!

Joe Puck,  12:35 AM  

I met Al after a winning game at Z's Sports Tap just off rush street in Chicago.and got autographs on bar napkins. Jack Crossman and Callahan were also there. I fell in love with hockey and the blackhawks after that game and watching big Al score and fight, He later married my college girlfriends roommate(vicky) and I met Al a few more times

Michael,  4:07 AM  

Secord was a vicious racist who often targeted harmless European players: Marian Stastny Timo Blomqvist, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Lars Lindgren, etc. Yes, he did take on a lot of tough players, but he was a jerk.

Michael

Ron Peccia,  3:47 PM  

Ron Peccia
Al Secord was my favorite player of all time. He was an awesome player on the ice and an awesome guy off the ice as him an I became great friends! He would eat at Q's Pizzeria a lot back then, I would meet him after the games it was always a good time. He was an incredible hockey player and athlete and we won't see many hockey players like big Al anymore, or at least not anytime soon! He is a true legend with the Blackhawks and I enjoyed every minute watching him, and he will always be a dear friend!!!!! Class all the way!!!!!

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP