Wednesday

Phil Russell

Phil Russell was one of the most physical defensemen in the NHL through out the 1970s and mid 1980s. He played the game like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Some called him exuberant, while others called him just downright nasty.

But everyone called him valuable.

Phil wasn't valuable just because he was so feisty. Yes he intimidated more than a few opposition forwards to be sure, but 6'2" 200lb monster was also a very good skater - which is a bit unusual for defensemen of this sort, especially in that era. As a result, Phil was a standout on the blue line as his mobility proved to be a real asset. He could cover a lot of ice without the puck, and was able to do more than just fire the puck out of the zone once he gained possession.

Phil was never much of an offensive threat. He scored a career high 45 points in 1976-77 and a career high 13 goals in 1982-83. But this didn't prevent him from earning recognition as one of the game's best rearguards as witnessed by his 3 inclusions in the mid season all star game (1976, 1977 and 1985).

Phil, who was as nice a guy off the ice as he was mean on it, was drafted in the 1st round, 13th overall, by the Chicago Black Hawks after terrorizing the Western Junior Hockey League with his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings. He was able to step into the NHL immediately and contributed nicely in Chicago for almost 7 years.

The Hawks weren't going anywhere by the late 1970s and were looking to make a major shake-up. The accomplished this by trading Phil along with Ivan Boldirev and Darcy Rota to Atlanta in exchange for a host of players, most notably Tom Lysiak.

Phil was a steadying influence on the Flames blue line for 5 seasons before he was again on the move, this time to New Jersey. Those were some pretty lean years in Devil-ville, but Phil kept his teammates hustling and his opponents honest.

Phil wound down his NHL career in Buffalo as well as playing a short stint in international hockey and with the IHL Kalmazoo Wings.'

The most telling stat of Phil's career is 1016 games played in the NHL. In most of those games Phil was a key player who was counted on heavily by the coach and his teammates. In those games Phil scored 99 times, assisted on 325 others and had 424 points. He earned 2038 minutes in the penalty box in that time as well. He added 4 goals and 26 points in 73 post season affairs.

Since retiring as a player Phil has worked as a scout and also as a minor league coach.

3 comments:

larry 5:38 PM  

As a teeenager, Phil was my favorite player. He was big, mobile, and tough. He was relied on heavily early in his career, even in the play-offs against the powerhouse Canadiens. I don't think he had the proper guidance to exploit his talents, otherwise he would have played at least twenty years and scored a heck of a lot more points. As for Chicago shaking things up by trading him... look at Chicago's track record. Any team that let's Bobby Hull go and trades away their strongest blueliner isn't dealing with a full deck.

Thanks for the memories Phil.

Steve no 12:45 PM  

Hi Phil, I was a fav of yours growing up I had your jersey and met you in Weibolts in Ford City in Chicago on Feb. 19th 1976. I met you again with my kids at a Cliff Koroll charity outing I have pictures from both dates how can I get you to sign them?
Thanks Steve

Cory Knapp 9:01 AM  

Growing up I watched Phillip play , unfortunately more towards the end of his career. I collected as many of his hockey cards as I could get, and hoped to meet him someday. Phill was actually a cousin of my dad's, which was really cool, and made me proud that I had a relative who played in the NHL.

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