CHICAGO – In the history of any professional sports team, there are high and low times that make up their narrative.
Some of these are remembered more than other , for good or bad, with the former generating pleasant memories for fans.
Even though they didn’t win a Stanley Cup title, the late 1960s and early 1970’s Blackhawks were a popular group for fans because of their success and strong players that took the ice in that era.
Pat Stapleton wasn’t the star of those teams. That honor belonged to the likes of Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Tony Esposito, but he was a strong member of a defense that brought the franchise to the brink of a championship a few times.
That’s how the former captain was remembered on Thursday when he passed away due to a stroke at the age of 79.
Stapleton played eight of his ten NHL seasons with the Blackhawks and was named an All-Star four times. Those came in 1967, 1969, 1971, and 1972, and in that stretch he helped to make up one of the best Blackhawks’ defensive tandems in franchise history.
Stapleton teamed up with Bill White midway through the 1969-1970 season and the pair would lock down the blue line for a few successful Blackhawks’ teams.
They’d win at least 42 games during those seasons that those players were on the team and twice appeared in the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately, the team would fall to the Montreal Canadiens in 1971 (7 Games) and 1973 (6 Games).
In 545 games in eight seasons, Stapleton had 41 goals and 286 assists.
Following his NHL career, the defenseman stayed in Chicago to join the Cougars of the World Hockey Association for two seasons as a player-coach. Stapleton was named a league All-Star in the 1973-1974 campaign, his first of two with the Cougars, and also won the Murphy Trophy for best defenseman in the league.
The defenseman helped the Cougars on a memorable playoff run that season as the upset defending champion New England Whalers in the first round then the Toronto Toros in the second to advance to the WHA Finals. There they were swept by a stronger Houston Aeros team led by NHL legend Gordie Howe.
That run became famous in hockey because the Cougars were forced out of their home – the Chicago Amphitheatre – due to a previously scheduled performance of “Peter Pan.” They had to play a majority of their home playoff games at Randhurst Twin Ice Arena in Mount Prospect.
He play two seasons with the Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA before retiring in 1978.