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Iron Man of the Ice
E.M. Swift
October 27, 1992
Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games in goal—perhaps the safest record in all of sports
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October 27, 1992

Iron Man Of The Ice

Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games in goal—perhaps the safest record in all of sports

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The public seldom saw this side of Hall, the dry and amusing raconteur. "He kept his humor in the locker room, but he's a very sharp-witted guy," says Al MacNeil, a teammate of Hall's with the Black Hawks and now Calgary's director of hockey operations. "You don't want to start trading barbs with him."

MacNeil should know. Hall still ribs him about the year he outscored MacNeil, a defenseman, two points to one. "But Al had a better second half than I did," says Hall, who got both his points before the All-Star break.

The Glenn Hall that hockey fans remember was a guy so tightly wound that he threw up before most games. "Goaltending was hard on Glenn," says MacNeil. "It was hard on all of them, playing without a mask when a deflection could literally kill you. Any number of times I can remember Glenn bringing it up from his toenails about four minutes before a game, so his eyes would still be watering as we stepped on the ice."

The vomiting, says Hall, was not brought upon by fear or dread. "It was the opposite. I was so excited to go out and play that it made me throw up. I thought of it as a strength. If I weren't up for a game enough to get sick before it, I felt I wouldn't play well. It was no big deal. I could have a glass of water and throw it up while it was still cool. A few years ago I was coaching a young guy who said, 'Gee, how could you toss your cookies before every game? I'm never nervous out there.' I told him, 'Yeah, but aren't you embarrassed that you play so horse-bleep and you're not even nervous about it?' That wasn't the answer he was looking for."

Hall loved the games, and he loved the subtleties of his position. "If you're not thinking three or four or five plays ahead, you're not finding goaltending interesting," Hall says. "And, jeez, it's an interesting position, isn't it?"

Certainly the way Hall played, it was. He pioneered the butterfly style that is routinely used by modern goalies. Instead of splitting to stop the low shot, or sprawling sideways and stacking the pads—which was the common style of his era—Hall dropped to his knees and fanned his feet out in a wide V. There were several advantages to this butterfly technique:

1) Hall was able to use his glove hand to catch almost any shot off the ice and, subsequently, kill the play.

2) Most of the bottom of the net was protected, guarding against a deflection. (When a goalie splits, much of the bottom of the net is vulnerable.)

3) It was an easier position to recover from than either the split or the sprawl.

4) Perhaps most important to Hall, his face was kept farther from the ice. "The butterfly was a move designed to keep the face away from the puck," says Hall. "It was just common sense. But it was only used when the puck was tight in. Today, with the masks, they're butterflying on shots taken all over the ice."

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