Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Bill Quackenbush

Hubert George “Bill” Quackenbush was born on 2 March, 1922 in Toronto, Ontario and died of pneumonia on 12 September, 1999 at Chandler Hall Hospice in Newtown, Pennsylvania at the age off 77 years old. Bill was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman who played for the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings in the National Hockey League. Bill’s career spanned 14 years (1942–56), the first 7 with Detroit and the remainder with the Bruins.

Bill was the pre-eminent offensive defenceman of his era. Bill won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1949. Bill was the first defenceman to win this award, and played the entire 1948–49 season (and a total of 138 consecutive games across 3 seasons) without recording a penalty. Bill Quackenbush was a 3 time 1st team and 2 time 2nd team All Star. Bill was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

After his NHL career, he coached college hockey at Princeton University, leading the Princeton Men’s team to one of the their best seasons in 1967–68, a 13–10–1 campaign that included winning the ECAC Christmas tournament championship. Bill later led the Princeton Women’s Ice Hockey team to three consecutive Ivy League championships in 1982–84.

Defenseman Hubert “Bill” Quackenbush excelled at both offensive and defensive aspects of the game. During 14 seasons, he was among the NHL’s elite rushing blueliners. More significantly, he was a superior defender in his own end who relied on positioning and discipline rather than physical intimidation for his success. Consequently, his penalty minute totals were remarkably low considering his role on the ice.

Bill Quackenbush began gaining local attention with the OHA’s Toronto Native Sons in 1940-41 when he registered 13 points in as many games. Detroit Red Wings scout Carson Cooper noticed him the following year while he was playing with the Brantford Juniors under coach Tommy Ivan, who himself later became head coach of the Red Wings.

The young rearguard wasn’t looking out of place during a ten-game call-up with Detroit in 1942-43 until he broke his wrist. After recovering from his injury, the parent club decided it was preferable that he spend the remainder of his first pro year with the Indianapolis Capitals of the AHL. He joined the Red Wings’ defense corps permanently the following season.

By the late 1940s, he’d evolved into one of hockey’s top blueliners. 3 times Bill Quackenbush was placed on the NHL’s First All-Star Team and twice he was selected to the 2nd Team.

At the conclusion of the 1948-49 season, he became the first defenseman to win the Lady Byng Trophy. It was at this time that Bill Quackenbush was in the midst of one of the NHL’s more astounding individual achievements. Bill managed to go 131 consecutive games without drawing a penalty. The streak began with the final 5 regular-season games and 10 playoff games in 1947-48, 60 regular-season and 11 post-season matches the next year and the first 45 games in 1949-50. During this penalty-free period, Bill Quackenbush’s regular defense partner was the equally mild-mannered Red Kelly, who later became the second rearguard to win the Lady Byng.

Amazingly, he incurred only one major penalty in his entire career, and that was a dubious call based on a quick wrestling match he had with Gaye Stewart. To many observers, he was the prototype of efficiency and finesse in defensive zone coverage. Bill Quackenbush was also considered a master at diffusing any forward’s attempt to generate offense from behind his opponent’s net.

A month before training camp in 1949, Bill Quackenbush and Pete Horeck were traded to the Bruins for several players, including future Stanley Cup hero Pete Babando. Bill’s rushes with the puck helped endear him to the Beantown supporters who hadn’t seen this type of daring play from the blue line since the days of Eddie Shore.

In 1950-51, the elder Bill Quackenbush had the opportunity to play with his younger brother Max, a lanky defenseman who was 3 inches taller. Later that season, the Bruins’ blue line brigade was decimated by injury, leaving Bill Quackenbush as the only experienced player. Bill was forced to play 55 minutes in one contest, a test of his stamina and experience. Bill retired in 1956 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

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