Goalie "Red" Henry: An All-Star Netminder: was another great Owen Sound goalie who played for the love of the game.
In January 1947, Frankie Brimsek, the Boston Bruins’ goaltender informed his club that he would need some time away from the team as he had just found out that his 11-month-old son was dying. In the 1940s NHL clubs only carried one goalie, so a replacement had to be found.
A call was made to the Hershey Bears to borrow "Red" Henry for a game against the Montreal Canadiens. The Owen Sound native made his NHL debut against the star-studded Canadiens featuring "Rocket" Richard. In front of a crowd which numbered 13,900, almost the size of his home town, Henry turned aside the Canadiens to record a 3-0 shutout victory.
Gord "Red" Henry Hershey Bears - Paul White Sports Photograph Collection
Despite this stellar performance, this did not mark the beginning of a career in the NHL for Gord Henry. Instead, he returned to Hershey where he would spend the next nine years playing with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League with the exception of a few trips to fill in for the Boston Bruins. The fact that he spent most of his career in the AHL did not matter to Gord Henry. He told his brother-in-law, Bill Williams of Leith, that he preferred Hershey to Boston and that he played hockey because he loved the game. Where he played did not matter. What mattered was that he played!
Gordon "Red" Henry was born on August 17, 1926 in Owen Sound. He played minor hockey and after playing for the Midget and Juvenile, teams he tended goal for the Owen Sound Orphans in the Ontario Intermediate League. Henry began his professional career with Hershey in the 1943-44 season at the age of 22.
Until the 1946-47 season he shared the goaltending duties with Harvey Bennett. Late in that season Bennett was injured and Henry was called upon to play the entire playoffs. This playoff series was probably the highlight of Gord's career. Hershey won the American League championship and Gord Henry recorded a league record five shutouts in the playoffs. These heroics ended the two-goalie system in Hershey. Until the end of his career Gord Henry was THE goalie in Hershey!
Another highlight of his career occurred on April 11, 1953. The Boston Bruins were playing the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs. When their regular goalie could not play, the call went out to Hershey for Henry. On that night Gord faced Jacques Plante in the Montreal nets and once again Henry turned aside the vaunted Montreal attack for a 4-1 Boston victory.
Confidence is the mark of a good goaltender. Although Gord did not play regularly in the NHL he was happy and content to play the game at which he was so good. He was a wily veteran and never displayed an overawe about the NHL Bill Williams tells an interesting anecdote which reveals much about Henry's character.
On an occasion when he had been called up to Boston. All-star defenseman Bill Quackenbush instead of clearing the puck around the boards out of the Boston end, he fired the puck straight up the ice from behind the net. An opposition player intercepted the puck and fired it into the net before the startled Henry could react.
Quackenbush made an uncomplimentary comment about the goal and Gord responded by saying words to the effect "I may have let it past me, but even in the minor leagues up in Owen Sound, the defensemen know enough to shoot the puck out along the boards, not up the middle!"
In 1952 Gord Henry shared the goaltending position on the American League All-star team with Cleveland's Johnny Bower. Gord Henry earned the admiration of team mates and opposition alike. After a game against Springfield, Eddie Shore, arguably the best defenseman in the history of the NHL, until Bobby Orr, commented on a play that Henry had made to defeat Shore's team.
"The stop Henry made in the second period on Eddie Olson was one of the smartest pieces of goaltending I've ever seen. The way Henry cut Olson's angle to nothing by having nerve enough to skate out and meet Olson's charge was the biggest single play of the game as far as I was concerned."
In 1955 Henry retired from the Hershey Bears. His knees were affecting his play and he had been in a terrible car accident. His love of the game did not die with his retirement. He returned to Owen Sound and played with the Mercury's.
In 1957-58 he backstopped the Meaford Knights to the OHA championship. When he returned to Owen Sound from Hershey, he purchased a farm at the Irish block. In October 1972 Gordon "Red" Henry passed away at the very young age of 46.
I would like to thank Bill Williams for sharing not only his stories about his friend and brother-in-law, but for also allowing me to view Gord Henry's scrapbook of his career and the memorabilia which was gathered during his career.
A version of this story first appeared in my Sports History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in 199. For more information about Owen Sound's hockey history, check out my latest hockey book, Journey Through Owen Sound's Hockey History.
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