TORONTO – Pat Stapleton, a longtime NHL defender who has kept an air of mystery about whether or not to own the puck in relation to the goal that won the 1972 Summit series, has died. He was 79 years old.
The Strathroy Rockets, a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League team with which Stapleton was a member, said on their website that the former Chicago Blackhawks Blue-Liner died Wednesday night. No cause of death has been provided.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Pat‘ Whitey ’Stapleton,” said Ontario Hockey League Sarnia Sting, who plays in Stapleton’s hometown, on Twitter. “In addition to his many hockey accomplishments, Pat was an honorary captain when the Sting hosted the Ontario League and (CHL Canada / Russia Series) all-star games.
“A local hockey icon and a fantastic human being, he will be greatly missed.”
Stapleton was part of the Canadian Summit Series team in 1972 and claimed the puck for Paul Henderson’s winning goal over the Soviet Union in Game 8. “
Stapleton was generally shy when asked whether or not he had what would be one of the most famous memories in the history of hockey.
“They say I have it.” We will keep this one for a while, “Stapleton told the Toronto Sun in 2012.” I don’t know if people think it’s a different color or has a hole in it. It’s a washer. “
The reliable defenseman again represented Canada in the 1974 Series as a team captain. This series was won by the Soviet Union.
“Hockey Canada sends condolences to the friends and family of Pat Stapleton. Few loved the game like Whitey, who was so proud to wear the maple leaf in the 1972 Summit series and again in 1974 as captain. His contagious personality will be missed, ”said Tom Renney, CEO of Hockey Canada.
Born July 4, 1940, Stapleton began his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 1961_62. Originally signed by the Chicago, Stapleton was claimed by Boston in the 1961 intraligue draft.
After splitting time between the Bruins and the minor league teams, Stapleton ended up in Chicago, where his career took off. He played eight seasons with the Blackhawks from 1956-66 to 1972-73, helping the team in the Stanley Cup final appearances in 1971 and 1973.
He was named star player of the second team in 1966, 1971 and 1972, and was captain of Chicago for the 1969-1970 season.
“The Blackhawks express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Pat Stapleton, who died last night. As a former team captain and member of the Blackhawks Alumni Association, Stapleton’s contributions to the organization will be remembered, “said the Blackhawks in a statement.
Stapleton signed a five-year contract to become a player / coach with the Chicago Hockey Cougars of the World Hockey Association in 1973. He won the Dennis A. Murphy Trophy as the WHA’s best defenseman in 1973-1974.
After the Cougars folded after the 1974_75 campaign, Stapleton was claimed by the Indianapolis Racers, where he played for two seasons. He adapted for a final season with the Cincinnati Stingers before retiring in 1978.
Stapleton returned to Indianapolis the following year as head coach, facing a team that included future NHL legends Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. His time as a Hall of Fame coach was short-lived, as the Racers folded 25 games during the season.
Stapleton has played 635 NHL games with Boston and Chicago, accumulating 43 goals and 294 assists with 353 penalty minutes.
He added 27 goals and 212 assists in 372 WHA games in Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
Stapleton was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 as a member of the 1972 Summit Series team and was elected as the inaugural World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in 2010.