Don't let the goaltender outfit mislead you. Staff Writer E. M. Swift hasn't stopped any pucks lately—and not too many when he played the game. Swift, whose report on the National Hockey League's outstanding sophomore defensemen begins on page 41, was the sophomore goaltender for Princeton during its one-win, 22-loss, 1970-71 season, which he commemorated in the story that introduced him to SI readers (Jan. 16,1978).
Before the 1978 hockey season had ended, Swift had written three more stories for us, and in May we hired him. Since then, he's been one of our more versatile writers.
Swift is candid about his performance in goal during the '70-71 season. "I was the only goaltender on the team," he says. "The coach had no choice but to use me. I made around 40 saves per game. My goals-against average was 6.50, probably closer to seven." Swift and Princeton improved in the next two seasons, if only marginally, with 5-17 and 5-18 records.
Nonetheless, Swift tried out for the St. Louis Blues after graduation in 1973. "No, I wasn't drafted," he says. "My father had dinner with the club president, who talked to the general manager, who sent me a letter. They send letters to a lot of guys. The Blues' first-round draft pick that year was John Davidson, who's now a New York Ranger. I was an early cut."
From the Blues' camp, Swift went to Billings, Mont., where he worked as a TV newsman, a job for which he was even less qualified than playing goalie. "I had no training," he says. "I got the job because the station suddenly found itself short by two announcers. They needed somebody, so they put me on the air. I was horrible."
Undaunted, Swift moved to Boston for the next two years, listing his occupation as "free-lance writer," although at the time he'd never published a thing. "I thought 'free-lance writer' sounded good," he says.
It sounded better than that to the folks at Hockey magazine, who found Swift at a regional tryout for the 1976 Olympic hockey team. ("I wound up in the top four in the Eastern tryouts, but there was no way I'd have made the team," he says.) Hockey's Eddie O'Brien was covering the tryouts, and when he discovered Swift was a freelancer (but failed to discover he was unpublished), he persuaded him to write something for the magazine. A year later Swift joined the Hockey staff.
Of the defensemen story, Swift says, "Today's blue-liners are very different from what they were when my Princeton coach, Bill Quackenbush, played. Then, they could pass the puck, but they didn't know what a slap shot was. Now many can pass like a defenseman of old and have a quick shot, too. It's changing the game."
For our sake—as well as his—we're glad Swift is reporting these changes from the press box, not guarding against them in the crease.