Posts Tagged ‘charlie hodge’

Charlie Hodge - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

There are a lot of things that have changed about hockey in the past 50-odd years and while many are inarguably for the better, one thing that I do miss is the small goaltender.  Modern goaltenders are incredibly efficient and there is a certain technical beauty to the way they play.  Older, smaller goalies were just a lot more fun.  In order to cover the same amount of net, they had to play a lot further out and this demanded a lot more movement and action.  It was really exciting to see a great save and there were lots of them.  I went into this in more depth a number of years ago.  I don’t think it’s any less true today.

Now, even by the old standards, Charlie Hodge was a small goalie.  At 5’6″ and 150 pounds, he’s about 7-8 inches shorter and 50-60 pounds lighter than a modern goaltender and he’s over a foot shorter than Tampa’s Ben Bishop.  I never got to see him play, but he must have been a hoot.  To play as long as he did and as well as he did, he had to have been agile, lightning-quick and aggressive.  Any short goalie who didn’t play that way usually added the adjective “former” to their description.

Charlie spent most of the 1950s as the #2 goalie in the Habs system.  Given that the starter was Jacques Plante and most teams tended to run their goalies for full 70-game seasons, this meant that he spent all his time in the minors save for the occasional injury to Plante.  When he did get to play – 14 games in 1954-55, 12 in 1957-58, 30 in 1960-61, he always gave a good account of himself.  His 2.47 GAA in 1960-61 actually led the NHL.  Inevitably, though, Plante would return and Hodge would go back to the AHL.

In 1962-63, Plante was injured and missed 14 games and rather than bring up Hodge , the Habs went with youngsters Cesare Maniago and Ernie Wakely.  For Charlie, the writing must have seemed to be on the wall.

Funny things happen, though.

After the ’62-63 season ended, Plante was traded to the Rangers in a swap of starting goaltenders (amongst a bunch of other players).  Gump Worsley came over in the deal and was expected to be the 1963-64 starter, but he was injured early on.  The call went out for Hodge, now 30, to fill in.

He was brilliant.

He led the league with 8 shutouts, posted a 2.26 GAA, won the Vezina Trophy (goalie for team with fewest goals against) and was voted to the second All-Star team.  It was Worsley who would have to fight his way back into the lineup.

As the 1960s progressed, the goalie tandem became more common and Hodge began to split time with the Gumper.  They combined to win the 1965-66 Vezina along with Stanley Cups in 1965 and 1966.  The arrival of expansion and the emergence of a young Rogie Vachon (also a rather short netminder) finally pushed Hodge out the door.  He became an Oakland Seal for three seasons and then an original Vancouver Canuck in 1970-71.  He retired following a contract dispute prior to the start of the 1971-72 season.

 

Charlie Hodge - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Charlie wasn’t really that wide.