Walter “Turk” Broda

broda

Inducted June 9, 2005

Broda grew up in Manitoba and developed as a player in the Detroit minor league system. Acquired by the Maple Leafs in 1936 for $7,500, Broda went on to become one of the greatest goalies of all time. He played all 14 seasons in Toronto (1936-52), his career briefly interrupted by a two year stint in the army. Loved by his teammates and fans for his outgoing style Broda twice won the Vezina trophy as the National Hockey League’s top netminder. He helped the Maple Leafs win five Stanley Cup Championships and he earned berths on three All-Star teams. Broda excelled in the playoffs with 13 shutouts in 102 games, posting a phenomenal 1.98 GAA. In 1967 Broda became the first person of Polish heritage to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

INDUCTION BANQUET PROGRAM STORY — June 9, 2005

Walter “Turk” Broda — Hockey Immortal

By: Tom Tarapacki
NPASHF Board Member

The first major figure of Polish heritage in the sport of ice hockey was actually called “Turk.” Walter Broda became known as “Turk” while growing up in Brandon, Manitoba. As Douglas Hunter wrote in his book, A Breed Apart: An Illustrated History of Goaltending:

He was called ‘Turk’ not because he was Turkish – he was actually of Polish extraction – but because in his childhood in Brandon, Manitoba, his freckles made the other kids think of a turkey egg, or because his neck turned red when he angered.

Broda developed as a player in the Detroit minor system, playing with the Olympics in 1935-36. The legend has it that Leafs owner Conn Smythe was in Detroit to check out another goalie, but spotted Broda at the other end of the rink and worked out a deal to acquire him for just $7,500 cash. That Broda would become Toronto’s goalie for most of the next 15 years.

He helped the Leafs win the Cup in 1942, when the Leafs rebounded from a 3-0 series deficit to beat Detroit in seven games. In1943 Broda joined the army, serving with the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II. He came back in 1945 and played in four more Stanley Cup finals, three in a row from 1947 to 1949 and one more in 1951 in which all five games went into overtime against Montreal.

The 1940s were glory years for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs won five Stanley Cups in the decade, all with the Broda in net. Broda earned two Vezina trophies (1940-41 and 1947-48) during that time. He was selected three times as an All-Star as well. Broda played the entire season in goal in eight of his 11 seasons, and part of two others, leading the league in shutouts twice. By the time he retired, Broda had collected more shutouts (62) and wins (302) than any other Leaf goaltender.

As good as Broda was, he was even better in the postseason. His career goals-against average in the playoffs was a remarkable 1.98 over 211 games. Jack Adams, former coach of the Detroit Red Wings, once said that Broda “hasn’t a nerve in his body – he could tend goal in a tornado and never blink an eye”.

Turk’s sense of humor made him very popular with fans and teammates alike. “The Leafs pay me for my work in practices,” he joked, “and I throw in the games for free.” The colorful Broda is also remembered for his weight problems, which Smythe used as a kind of playful publicity stunt. During the 1949 season Smythe ordered the “Turk” to lose some weight, ordering Broda out of the goal until he got his weight down to 189 pounds. Broda cheerfully waged a “battle of the bulge,” to the delight of fans and media.

Broda retired after playing only one game in the 1951-52 season was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967, and died in 1972.

Although he last played between the pipes more than a half-century ago, Walter “Turk” Broda is still fondly remembered as one of hockey’s immortals.