Gordie Howe was known as "Mr. Hockey," but that name didn't take into account the netminding duties so important to the game. For that there was Glenn Hall, nicknamed "Mr. Goalie" for his consistent and long-lasting success in the National Hockey League. Year after year, Hall was a familiar and intimidating sight in nets across the continent. He hardly missed a game or an award in his 18 NHL seasons and only four times did he finish a season with a losing record. His 84 career shutouts, third of all time, guaranteed his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the sport's best goaltenders.
Hall played his junior hockey with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey Association and was signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 1951. He played in their farm system for two seasons, in Edmonton with the Flyers and Indianapolis with the Capitols. In 1952-53, he made his first appearance in the NHL with Detroit, playing in six games and allowing only 1.67 goals against. He spent much of the next two years with Edmonton, making just two more appearances with the Wings in 1955.
In his time in the minors, Hall perfected his style of goaltending, a rather awkward but effective combination of flopping and standing his ground. Purists who liked their goalkeepers to remain upright hated the way Hall would throw himself to the ice to block the lower corners of the net. Hall had the ability to splay his pads along the ice with his knees practically together in what is referred to today as "the butterfly style."
Detroit had the great Terry Sawchuk in goal in the early 1950s and it seemed as though Hall would have to wait his turn to get a chance at full-time play in the league. Red Wings manager Jack Adams, however, had brought Sawchuk up as a youngster even though Harry Lumley, the Detroit keeper at the time, was still effective and in his prime. Adams decided to do the same with Hall and traded Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins in 1955. Hall took his place between the posts for the Wings at the beginning of the 1955-56 season and rewarded Adams for the confidence the manager had shown in him with an incredible rookie year, coming within one shutout of Lumley's modern record of 13 set two seasons previously. He allowed only 2.11 goals against as he played in each and every game and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. He played one more full season with Detroit, again not missing a game, before he too was shown the door by Adams. He was sent to the Chicago Black Hawks in the infamous Ted Lindsay trade motivated by Adams' anger at Lindsay's attempts to form a players union.
Hall merely continued his streak of consecutive complete games during his time with the Hawks. Though he suffered many injuries, he played for 502 straight regular-season games and another 50 in the playoffs. The endurance record finally came to an end on November 8, 1963, when he injured his back. Ironically, he pulled a muscle not in a game but while getting dressed when he bent over to adjust a strap. Hall spent 10 seasons in Chicago and was placed on the All-Star Team eight times, five of those on the First Team. In 1961 he backstopped the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1938.
Hall shared the Vezina Trophy with Denis Dejordy in 1967. At the end of that season, at the age of 36, he was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and was chosen by the St. Louis Blues. Due in large part to Hall's improbable heroics, the Blues marched all the way to the Stanley Cup final in their first year in the league. Though they would eventually lose to the Montreal Canadiens in four games, Hall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's top playoff performer. In 1968-69, Jacques Plante joined the team and the two veterans shared the goaltending duties. For the first time, Hall - who estimated at the end of his career that he'd had 300 stitches, many of them around his mouth - finally wore a mask during games. Plante and Hall, playing determined hockey to prove they still belonged in the league despite their combined age of over 77, split the Vezina Trophy in 1969.
Throughout his career, Hall would get nauseous before each game. He was often sick to his stomach in the minutes leading up to taking the ice. One teammate even suggested his bucket should have been placed in the Hall of Fame. He retired several times, once with Chicago in 1966 and again with St. Louis in 1969. Each time, though, he was talked into returning, usually with a promise of more money, but he didn't profess to enjoy his livelihood, saying often that he'd meant to retire since he was 15.
Hall retired for good in 1971. He stayed in hockey, usually part-time while he tended to his farm, and worked with the Blues and the Calgary Flames as a consultant and goaltending coach. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.