How Le Gros Bill helped build Mr. Goalie's butterfly technique

I found this bit of hockey nostalgia rather timely, as I am in the midst of reading Tom Adrahtas' biography of Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall. Plus the fact that Jean Beliveau's birthday happens to fall today.

Hall, known for his Iron Man record of 502 consecutive games played, also developed the goaltending syle now commonly known as the butterfly.

He was an observant learner, and took from many goalies to learn his craft. Despite a strong skating ability, Hall found it difficult to direct opposing shots with his stick, in the manner he observed used by fellow Hall of Famer Chuck Rayner. He eventually learned that by dropping to his knees, with the stick in front of his pads, he could easily block, absorb and redirect pucks. With his pads directed towards the post, the style would be coined the "V Split" in it's early days. He gradually developed the technique from his Junior career and into the NHL.

He also adapted from the deep crouch used by the man he would succeed between the pipes with the Detroit Red Wings, Terry Sawchuk. Hall took the Sawchuk's deeper stance and bent his knees inward pushing his pads towards apart.. The technique, combined with his leg strength, gave him faster mobility across his crease. A quick glove hand and his fast ability to recover from the ice, in his case often making trade mark acrobatic-like 360 pirouettes, further enhanced his ability to use this new found style.

But unlike many of today's butterfly goalies, Hall didn't rely on it 100 per-cent of the time, as it was still a work in progress. It wasn't until a tall, hulking Habs forward came along, that Mr. Goalie found it had another beneficial use.

"When I was with Detroit, I had to deal with Jean Beliveau,' Hall said. "I started using the "V" to cope with seeing around and through Beliveau. I couldn't move him, so I would drop down to cover as much net as possible while still trying to locate the puck. In order to stop it, you have to see it, and the "V" gave me a chance to see it."

It would prove to be an advantage for the 5'11" Hall against players such as the 6'4" Beliveau and of course is used by many goalies in present day.

- Hall has numerous connections to Beliveau and the Canadiens. It was on Christmas Eve in 1952, when Hall (then with the Red Wings farm team in Edmonton) was at home in Saskatchewan when he received a telegram. Sawchuk was injured and unavailable for their next game at the Montreal Forum. Hall boarded the first flight out of the Praries for his NHL debut. Unfortunately his gear didn't get there and he had to borrow from the team trainer, who often suited up for Red Wings practices.

After a shaky first period in loaned equipment, Hall held on for a 2-2 tie. He stuck around for seven more games, posting a 6-1-1 record.

Hall's epic battles against the Canadiens, especially in the playoffs are well documented as they faced each other on numerous occasions. He would be thwarted by Beliveau and company in the1956 Stanley Cup Final with the WIngs and two more times, in 1959 and 1960, with the Chicago Blackhawks. Finally in 1961, he would find Stanley Cup victory after the Blackhawks defeated the Habs in the semi-final in one of the greatest goaltending battles ever displayed.

The Habs and Blackhawks would meet again in the 1965 Stanley Cup Final, with Hall giving up the Cup cinching goal to Beliveau (Hall has given up more Cup winning goals than any other goalie in NHL history).

Hall's 500th consecutive game was also against the Canadiens and he also gave up Maurice Richard's 500th career goal on January 24 1960.

Source: Adahtas, Tom ,Glenn Hall: The Man They Called Mr. Goalie, Greystone Books, 2003

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