Tuesday

Bill White

Bill White's road to stardom was long, although it wasn't until after the famous Summit Series in 1972 against the Russians that he got the recognition among the fans that he deserved as arguably the league's best defensive defenseman.

White was selected by Canada's coach Harry Sinden to bolster the defense and Bill proved to be the calm and collected defenseman needed in such a series. Bill White was an outstanding defenseman with Team Canada 1972, contributing 1 goal and 1 assist in seven games played. Not exactly a flashy player, White's inclusion on the team may have surprised casual hockey fans, but certainly not his teammates.

White of course counts game eight as his favorite memory of the series - Henderson's goal and the celebrations. But don't forget the Canadians had to kill off the final 34 seconds of the game following Henderson's goal - 34 seconds which felt like an eternity.

Who was put out on the ice to help kill off the final seconds? Bill White. In fact it was White who relieved the pressure the Soviets were applying late in the game when he flipped the puck high down the ice. White's clearing attempt was perfect, as it was not far enough for icing. That effectively killed off the rest of the game.

The Russians constantly praised White for his steady and classy play.

Born and raised in Toronto, Bill captained the famed Toronto Marlboros as a junior. After four years with the Marlboros he played three seasons with the Rochester Americans in the NHL. On June 8, 1962, the Maple Leafs shipped away White with four other players for Kent Douglas who had just been proclaimed as AHL's best defenseman. Bill was traded to the Springfield Indians of the AHL, a team that was owned by the legendary Eddie Shore. Little did White know what impact Shore would have on his hockey career. The good news was that Bill developed into one of AHL's best defensemen under Shore's tutelage, a NHL caliber defender at that. The bad news was that he got stuck with Shore and Springfield for five years.

Shore was every hockey players nightmare and Bill's situation wasn't any different. Although Bill was clearly good enough for the NHL, Shore denied him the opportunity to play in the NHL. Several teams showed their interest in Bill but quickly changed their minds when Shore told them what he wanted in return.

During the 1966-67 seasons some of the Springfield players revolted and threatened to strike if the conditions wouldn't improve. This was a start of a new regime where the players paved the way for themselves to call a few shots of their own. The following summer the wealthy Jack Kent Cooke bought the entire Springfield team with the intent to move the team to Los Angeles where the best players would form the base for the expansion Los Angeles Kings. These events proved to be the break for Bill that he had waited for a long time.

White made his NHL debut for Los Angeles as a 28-year old. He played an steady, cautious game with few errors, relying on his lengthy reach and surprisingly mobile skating ability. He was the kind of defensemen most fans and media won't notice during a game, but his coach and teammates appreciate.

A contract dispute lead to strained relations with the Kings, and ultimately a trade to Chicago. At the time of his arrival, Chicago's anchor on defense Pat Stapleton was injured. Bill filled that spot more than adequately and the duo became a vital cog for the Chicago defense for years.

Coach Bill Reay was especially thankful to have White on his blue line.

"He's not spectacular, but he does a solid, workman-like job. He doesn't make too many mistakes. He's not going to dazzle anyone, but he's just the steady, dependable sort of defenseman we need."

Bill's steady but unspectacular play saw him appear in six straight All-Star games between 1969-74. He was also a 2nd team All-Star for three consecutive seasons between 1972-74. He helped the Hawks reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1971 and 1973, though they came up short both times.

Although White was robbed of many good years in the NHL he managed to play in 604 regular season games and 91 playoff games until he retired after the 1975-76 season.

Although Eddie Shore denied him the opportunity to play in the NHL it was thanks to Shore that he developed into such a fine defenseman.

"I am grateful to Shore for some things, though," he admitted to the Sporting News in 1979. "He was a very patient coach and really taught his players what the game is all about. He'd have you do a certain thing over and over until it became automatic. I owe a lot to Shore's practices."

12 comments:

Dave 9:42 PM  

I met Bill once in Skokie, IL. When I greated him by name and told him I appreaciated his work he seemed almost embarrassed. When I shook his hand I felt like I had kid's hands. His hands were huge and I wear an XL glove.

Janet 3:17 PM  

Bill White and his family lived around the block from us in Park Ridge. We always played softball (16")on his corner, the rain sewers were the bases. He was SLOW because of his knees but he always hit a homer so it really didn't matter. I was catcher one day and the gal at bat cracked me full swing across the head. Next thing I remember was waking up in Bill Whites house. A day I will always remember.

sticky_fingers_productions 10:47 PM  

Bill White just so happens to be my great uncle. I have many cards of him but no memories. To be honest I'm no sure if hes still alive however, reading all these stories and posts about him sure are warming. I'm happy he left such a great impact of everyone's lives and the game. If anyone knows more about him or has encountered him feel free to email me at charlay_murphay@hotmail.com

susie,  9:11 AM  

I too lived around the block from the White family, Kim was a good friend of mine. I remember Mr. White as a very nice man. I learned how to water ski at there summer home in Canada. Great memories.

kelo,  7:47 PM  

I was a Maple Leafs fan in the 60's and 70's but for some reason I loved to watch this man play defense. I mean DEFENSE...no mistakes and very clean, no penalties. Wow what a defenseman. I can see why they chose him for Team Canada in 72.....Mr. Reliable.

Anonymous,  4:10 PM  

Willy, You did your job on and off the ice very very well!!
The only thing I wish,was that I was old enough to watch one of the best STAY at Home defensive defencemen of all time Play his postion to a T.

Love always Kam White

Anonymous,  7:42 AM  

I grew up in park ridge and went to school with Kim. She was a super nice person. You'd never have known her Dad was a Black Hawk. Any kid who's dad was a local athlete you think might have an attitude but she was always really nice.

Todd,  7:36 PM  

I might know Susie because I lived down the street from them in Park Ridge and was friends with Kim at Washington grade school. Her dad was a total gentleman and a class act, treating us kids with great care and interest. Kim was a tall cute blonde and would say "aboot" instead of "about". All fond memories of Bill and the White family. We also had Dick Redmond, Jim Pappin, and JP Bodreleau of the Blackhawks living in Park Ridge. Why not? 25 minutes to Chicago Stadium, great schools, and a great town to raise a family in.if Kim is out there, a big hello from Todd M at Washington School.(is it Susie Pej--- above?Hi!)

Anonymous,  11:29 AM  

Hi Todd, Sorry not Susie Pej... however she is one of my best friends still. This is Susie Dav...

Bobby Wilson,  2:19 PM  

Played hockey with Bill back in the 50's, PeeWee and Bantam. Moved over to the Boston farm system and played against him in the higher levels right up to JrA. He was a very good defence man and a nice all around guy. Last time I saw him was in 1974 at Maple Leaf Gardens at the Shopsy's reunion. Long time ago but some good memories.

Pat Dennis,  5:12 PM  

Friends

We lived next to Bill and family on Sprucehill in Toronto (in the "Beach").
He was a paddler for Balmy Beach, and then went into hockey.
We were proud when he got into the hockey. We never missed a hockey game when
he was on! Thanks Bill, my boys loved you.
From the Dennis Family

DozerEllie 3:41 PM  

I am Bill White's niece and he was always my favourite Uncle growing up. He was the kindest, funniest, and most patient with all of us kids. I have not seen him for years, but always find him on my mind. He taught me how to waterski as well up on Camel Lake and always pulled pranks! I used to love going to the Original Six Old Timers games :)
I miss him dearly...

Lisa Hoolans

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