What’s the craziest sports story you can think of?
Jordan’s flu game?
Philadelphia fans pelting Santa Claus with batteries?
Bunch of college kids beating the greatest Olympic hockey team of all time?
All amazing stories,
But for sheer bananas factor… Nothing touches this;
The very first outdoor NHL game.
In 1953 on a promotional tour for beer of all things…. Red Wings general manager Jack Adams, and team captain Ted Lindsay visited Marquette Prison. After touring the facilities, The warden asked Adams if the Red Wings would come play a game at the prison. In a rare moment of politeness (something Jack Adams was not known for) Adams agreed, surmising with a fair amount of logic that the game would never happen. It did.
A couple months after the visit, the warden called to inform Adams that an outdoor rank was being constructed and that the inmates were very excited to play. I can only imagine the look on Adam’s face when he realized he had been back into a corner….
Regardless he did agree, and on February 2nd 1954 the NHL held its very first outdoor game under the backdrop of 30-ft stone walls and razor wire.
There was some concern about giving convicted felons hockey sticks, But we’re talking about hockey players here…. I’ll let a man nicknamed “terrible” explain it: Ted Lindsay reckoned that they could hold their own. “I was never concerned, because I figured that I could take care of myself,” Lindsay said in 2012. “But I felt very strongly from having been close to them in the summertime and mingling with them that there was no reason to be worried.”
Jebus the balls on this dude. Ted Lindsay was 5’8″, His testosterone must have accounted for 90% of his body weight.
It was 21° that morning, perfect weather for an outdoor hockey game. The entire Detroit Red Wings team… One of the greatest ever assembled….. The production line, Sawchuk, Red Kelly…..
All lined up to play the Marquette Prison Pirates. Seriously folks I couldn’t make up that name if I tried…. I might have giggled a little bit reading that the first time.
Before I get into the actual details of what happened during the game…. I just want you to imagine the Washington capitals going to play some random hockey team inside of a Baltimore prison. The Red Wings won the 1952 Stanley Cup They were one of the best teams of the decade if not of all time….
The entire Prison showed up to watch this game. After the first period the Red Wings led 18 to 0 when someone wisely decided to stop keeping score. At one point Sawchuk, who spent most of the game sitting on top of his net (because the only person with bigger balls than Terrible Ted Lindsay was Terry) Left the net to go sign autographs. The pirates couldn’t score on the empty net either.
During the second period Sawchuk, Lindsay and Howe switched teams…. To no avail. finally the pirates just gave up and the Red Wings played an intersquad exhibition game.
At the end of the game, The prison presented the Red Wings with a handmade galvanized steel trophy, and each player received a hand printed wallet with their name on it (there’s a fun joke there about Gordie Howe getting a prison wallet).
Jack Adams wrote a note to the warden after the game saying “we’d love to have signed a few of your boys, But we don’t know when they’re going to be able to play again.”
Karma being what it is, for their incredible show of humanity towards society’s worst offenders…. The hockey gods awarded the Red Wings the Stanley Cup in 1954.