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Keith Magnuson, Hockey Tough Guy
Luis Fernando Llosa
March 01, 1999
April 6, 1970
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March 01, 1999

Keith Magnuson, Hockey Tough Guy

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April 6, 1970

In his 11 bruising seasons as a Chicago Blackhawks defenseman, Keith Magnuson was Mr. Popularity in the Windy City, beloved by fans and teammates. So devoted was he to the art of hockey pugilism that he took karate lessons before his first NHL season and boxing lessons before his second. "He fought quite a bit," says former teammate Stan Mikita. "There was only one problem with Maggie's fighting. He kept leading with his chin."

Magnuson, a 6-foot, 185-pound Alfred E. Newman look-alike, led Denver to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1968 and '69 and then joined the Blackhawks, who had a league-best 45-22-9 record his first season. While his more noted Chicago teammates—among them hockey titans Mikita and Bobby Hull and goaltending sensation Tony Esposito—received the glory, Magnuson did much of the dirty work, leading the league with 213 penalty minutes.

In his second season Magnuson tried to expand his role by carrying the puck more but was immediately rebuffed. " Pat Stapleton came up to me and said, 'Maggie, we need you to hit,' " recalls Magnuson, now 51. He proceeded to set a single-season NHL record (since eclipsed) with 291 penalty minutes. He helped the Blackhawks claw their way into the 1971 Stanley Cup finals, in which they lost an epic seven-game series to the Montreal Canadiens.

Magnuson crunched bones, bloodied noses and blocked shots in Chicago for nine more seasons—the last three as captain—until knee injuries forced him off the ice in 1980, whereupon the Blackhawks asked him to be a coach. He rose to the head coaching job, but after two years and an uninspiring 49-57-26 record, he quit. "It was killing me," he says. "My family was too young. Hockey is worth a lot to me, but it's not worth my family."

In 1984 Magnuson went to work full time for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Chicago, for which he had been a part-time spokesman and sales rep, and worked his way up the ranks, becoming a vice president in '98. He and his wife, Cindy, live in Lake Forest, Ill., where they raised their two children, Kevin, 22, and Molly, 19.

Kevin followed Keith into hockey, playing defense for Michigan. Last year, as a sophomore, three decades after Keith celebrated his first NCAA crown, Kevin helped the Wolverines win the title. "I had told him when he was a youngster that the greatest thing you can do is be on a hockey scholarship and win an NCAA championship," says Keith. "As I was hugging him after the game, he said, 'Dad, we did it.' "

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