Archive for July, 2014

Dean Prentice - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Whoever was responsible for cropping out the background of Dean Prentice’s photo got a little overzealous and left a rather large hole under his right arm, presumably where there was a shadow.  It takes a minute to notice at first, but now it’s the first thing I see when I look at this card.

Dean Prentice is one of a number of players in this set who appear with teams they are not normally associated with.  Dean, to my mind, is a Ranger first and foremost.  He broke in with them in 1952 and was a regular until being traded to the Bruins in mid ’62-63.

Prentice was a very good winger who spent most of his career on weak teams and is thus less well-known than he should be.  The Rangers scuffled through most of the fifties, the Bruins were horrid in the early sixties, there was a brief moment with a decent Wings squad in mid-decade and then it was expansion teams for the rest of his career.  Through it all, Prentice was a reliable twenty-plus goal-scorer (ten different seasons) who played 22 NHL seasons and almost 1400 games.  He was reputed as a good two-way player and spent most of his Ranger days as the defensive conscience of the top line.  He peaked at 32 goals in 1959-60 and was a Second-Team All-Star.

His teams, unfortunately, only made the playoffs eight times and got out of the first round just twice.  He only appeared in 54 playoff games, scoring 13 goals and 17 assists.

Dean’s 1964-65 season (the season this card was released) ended early and dramatically.  He was off to a good start with 13 goals in his first 30 games, giving him a decent shot at his second 30-goal season.  Game 31 was in Chicago on Dec. 27.

Early in the second period, Prentice blocked a Stan Mikita shot at his own blue line and took off on a breakaway.  The rest unfolded as follows:

 While speeding toward the goal Prentice was tripped from behind by Mikita and crashed into the end boards. Referee Frank Udvari ruled that Mikita tripped the Bruin winger on a clear breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. However, Prentice was sprawled on the ice, unconscious. Through the fog of pain and only slightly revived as a result of his trainer’s cracking an ammonia sniffer under his nose, Prentice heard the taunts of his fierce Blackhawk opponent, Bobby Hull: “Come on Dean, you are not going to let one of your dummy teammates take the penalty shot for you are you? ”

The piercing words hit a nerve. The wounded Bruin pushed aside the pain, took up the challenge, jumped to his feet, grabbed the puck at centre ice, sped in on the goal, pulled a nifty move and tucked the puck behind Blackhawk goalie, Denis DeJordy.  Back on the bench…the unexpected. As the penalty shot champion tried to answer the call for his next shift he was frozen to the bench; his back and legs wouldn’t budge. Dean was carried off on a stretcher and x-rays later revealed that he had a broken back. The tenacious hockey legend had pulled off an unparalleled feat in NHL history in scoring with a broken back. His reward: a goal and a body cast.

(story quoted from hockeyministries.org)

The goal tied the game at two, but with Prentice out, the Bruins would give up the next four and lose 6-2.  Prentice would see no more action until the following season.  He wouldn’t miss significant time again.

Dean Prentice retired in 1973-74, never having played a game in the minor leagues.  He is also my uncle’s cousin, though there was a big age gap and I don’t know how well they knew each other, if at all.

Dean Prentice - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys back

Eric Prentice played 5 games with the Leafs in 1943-44.