Wednesday

Keith Magnuson

Without doubt, Keith Magnuson is one of the most memorable Chicago defensemen of all time.

Keith Magnuson was born on April 27, 1947, in Wadena, Saskatchewan, the son of an insurance salesman. He grew up dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League, which made his chosen route all the more unlikely. Magnuson played college hockey at the University of Denver, where he helped the Pioneers to the NCAA championship in 1968 and 1969.

At that time it was extremely rare for a college player to make the NHL. The best bet was through the junior hockey systems. One of the reasons Keith chose Denver was because childhood best friend Cliff Koroll was also going there. Both would graduate to the become mainstays with the Chicago Blackhawks. Jim Wiste, briefly a Hawk, also played at the U of D.

"I brought Maggy to the University of Denver the year after I got there and I was responsible for keeping him there," Koroll said. "We knew each other for 45 years."

The fiery and emotional Magnuson was a mainstay on defense for the Blackhawks from 1969 to 1979, signing as a free agent. He was probably best known for his willingness to drop the gloves at any time, and with anybody. He still holds the Blackhawks team record for penalty minutes in a career, with 1,442.

He was hulking aggressor, almost too proud to be the Blackhawk's chief.

"That symbol, the Indian warrior, meant more to Maggy than to anyone else I've ever known," Troy Murray, a longtime Hawk from a more recent era.

The "Red Headed Barbarian" would take on all comers, no matter how many times he was beaten down. He had memorable battles with Bobby Orr and Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.

"Maggy told me about the time we were playing Philadelphia," said Murray. "The Flyers were a pretty bad bunch and we were winning big. 'Every Flyer who came over the boards wanted to fight Maggy. Back in those days, you could go from fight to fight. Anyway, Maggy would fight one guy, get through, and there would be another guy waiting for him. He would finish and it would be 'Next.' ''

But as tough as Keith was on the ice, off the ice he was always a gentleman. He would often stay late after games to sign autographs for anybody who wanted one.

"Maggie typified the spirit of Blackhawk hockey, which the Chicago fans appreciated. He was not a dirty player who took cheap shots, even though he piled up penalty minutes that would amount to a total of more than two dozen games in his career," wrote Harvey Wittenberg, author of "Tales From The Chicago Blackhawks."

In his first season, 1969-70, Magnuson and fellow collegiate stars Koroll, Jim Wiste, and Tony Esposito, helped turn the last place Hawks to 1st place. Magnuson set a Hawk record for penalty minutes in his rookie campaign. He never scored a goal that year, and would only score 14 in his career.

The Hawks fortunes continued to rise dramatically in the early 1970s. In both 1971 and 1973 the Hawks advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, finishing just short each time.

Keith played all of his 589 games for the Blackhawks before retiring due to knee injuries in 1979. But his career with the Blackhawks didn't end there. Magnuson went on to become an assistant coach under Eddie Johnston, before being hired as the Hawks' head coach in 1980. Keith had limited success as a head coach, compiling a 49-57-26 record in 132 games, but there was little doubt that he gave everything he had to the Blackhawks organization.

Upon retirement he continued to live in the Chicago area and worked as an executive for Coca-Cola. He helped establish the Blackhawks alumni association, and made frequent guest appearances at hockey events and various functions.

On December 15th, 2003, at the early age of 56, Keith Magnuson died in an automobile accident in Vaughan, Ontario. Magnuson was returning from the funeral of former NHL player Keith McCreary, when his car, driven by former NHLer Rob Ramage, was part of a three car collision just south of Toronto. Ramage faced three charges, including impaired driving causing death, which had a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Ramage still awaits trial.

"His death was the worst thing to happen -- not just to me, but everybody who knew this wonderful, funny, unselfish man, husband and parent," says Koroll. "I spent 15 hours at Cindy's house with her, son Kevin and daughter Molly after the accident. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of him."

10 comments:

Anonymous,  6:49 PM  

I just found this on the net. I happen to be a big Mag fan dating back to when he played right defence with the DU Pioneers (with Timmy Gould on left) and of course Cliff. I was given his stick in the locker room at the Broadmoor after the Pioneers beat Cornell (and Ken Dryden). I'd love to know if I could contact his good friend, Cliff. Not a personal friend of Maggy, I still admired/respected/ and emulated his style in sports...not an easy thing to do

Anonymous,  1:15 PM  

When I was growing up back then Keith was my total hero. I was a young girl between the age of 13-20 when he played. I actually went to every personal apperance. Some how my friend and I ended up being very close to him. We used to go visit him at the different locations that had lived, like the one on Talcott and one in Glenview. I have to say this, yes we were younger than him,but he never ever took advantage of these young teenage girls that were wild about him. We even went to visit him once when he was in the hospital. He called me at my graduation party. Keith use to say "BRing on th Christains" when he shook those ankles before a faceoff. My friend and I bought him a really nice chain with a medallion that saud that. Iw onder what ever happen to it. I think that his childeren deserve to know he was an absolute gentleman to everyone he met. I would love to find out about his friend and roommate Cliff or about his family.JFontana@Maywood89.org

Douglas MacDougall,  8:22 PM  

Kieth was a friend from school and church both. He attended Aden Bowman Collegiate Inst. in Saskatoon.He quarterbacked for the H.S. football team , and earned the title of most-gentlemanly player. He played water polo and I recall him recovering from a serious hand injury after a hand contact that separated his fingers and caused a gash.
But in sport he showed toughness along with the gentlemanly spirit, and I heard that after the high school years, he took up martial arts and his coaches made him into the combative role-player of later years.

Ed Boehm,  7:41 AM  

I just learned of Keith's death.
I just don't know why I never learned before.
I lived in Riverwoods from 1977 until 1989, several doors away
from the Magnusons. I always knew
them to be a wonderful family.
I respected their privacy, so
never got to know them personally, but respected them from afar.
I was saddened and shocked to learn of his death. My prayers
are with his family.
Ed Boehm, now in Joliet

Anonymous,  7:32 AM  

6/11/10 - I wish you were here to celebrate our Stanley Cup victory. It is part of you as well.. WE miss you Mags!
Teresa Orland Park, IL

Anonymous,  8:41 AM  

I met Keith during while on a business call to Coke in Chicago back in 1993. He was in the office next door to the person I was visiting.

Being from Quebec - of course then Montreal Canadiens territory - when I was a 10 year old kid and playing hockey on the local outside rink, (think 1965) everyone wore a canadien's jersey. But when this kid showed up in what seemed like a 300watts-bulb-illuminated, immaculate white Chicaco Blackhawks sweater, it was the most impressive thing I ever witnessed!

I became an instant Hawk fan, and this carries on to this day, almost 50 years later.

You can imagine how impressed I was to meet Mr. Magnuson. Unbelievable. Shook hands, he gave me a Hawk 1993 calendar, autograph photo, and sat with me 30 min to chat hockey and the good old times he played.

I have never, ever met such a classy gentleman. Just wanted to express my appreciation.

Michel

SCHNEIDER FAMILY,  10:02 PM  

I HAD SEASON TICKETS BACK IN THE LATE 70'S. KEITH WAS MY FAVORITE. MY BROTHER WAS 10 WHEN HE MET KEITH TODAY HE IS 44, HAS PICTURES OF HIM AND KEITH ALL IN HIS HOUSE KEITHS HOCKEY STICK THAT HE GAVE MY BROTHER HANGS ON THE WALL. WE MISS HIM HE WAS A GREAT GUY WITH A GREAT FAMILY. STILL CAN'T BELIEVE HE IS GONE. A TRUE BLACKHAWK.WE LOVE AND MISS HIM. SCHNEIDER FAMILY MOKENA ILL

Tim Ridley,  8:12 PM  

In high school I worked at the Knollwood Club where Keith Magnuson was a member. I always wanted to ask him for an autograph, but out of respect for his privacy never did. While many members at the club treated us like lowly workers, Mr. Magnuson always treated us with the upmost respect and would take a true interest in how we were doing. He was always patient and encouraging. I can honestly say he was one of the nicest people I had ever met. The only sweater I wear is a #3, to me he represented what athletes should be, giving everything he had on the ice, and then being a true role model to kids and adults they could always be proud of off the ice. Keith Magnuson is still an inspiration to me and will be truly missed.

Jay DeMarco 5:33 PM  

I was searching ice hockey sites - given today's Olympic USA women's outcome to the Canadian team and learned of Keith Magnuson's death with shock. I was present at Boston Garden for one of the famous punch ups with my idol Bobby Orr. Maggy was famous for dropping the gloves. And always great at that and staying on his feet. His death is a great loss to hockey. He'll be remembered and missed by many. Boston Jay DeMarco

Anonymous,  8:02 PM  

You are all so right... Maggie was class! The last time I saw him before his last car ride from my Father's funeral he and Rob were both spending time with my two boys who just lost their Grandfather. Maggie promised them a ride on the zamboni in Chicago trying to make them feel better and Rob assured them what a great man my Dad was. He called them his two Keiths and adored them more than anyone will know. We all lost a lot that day!

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