Q & A With Former NHL Enforcer Dave Hutchison (Part II)

In part one of the interview with former NHL enforcer Dave Hutchison, we chatted about what it meant to be a role player – what it meant to be a fighter. He talked about some of the questionable areas in today’s game and what it was like to play with Derek Sanderson.

In part two, ‘Hutch’ discusses playing with Hall of Fame defence partners, the influence of a former coach and how it would be in today’s game for a player in his role.

THW: In 1981-82 with the Blackhawks, you had a career high in points with 23 and in penalty minutes with 246. In 1978-79 with Toronto you had a career high in plus-minus with plus-36. What can you attribute these particular numbers to?

DH: Well, the plus-36 was because I was playing with Borje Salming. You know, the year I played with Borje we had a good team in Toronto. We got beat by the Habs in the playoffs, but they were winning the Cup for a few years in a row then.

With Doug [Wilson], it was the same thing. I was sliding it over to him and I was getting assists. Plus-minus was because of the guys I was playing with. But I did take pride in my plus-minus.

I wanted to make sure that when they were putting me out there with an offensive defenceman that I was doing my job – being a defensive defenceman and not rushing up the play.

I learned that when I was in L.A. early in my career. My coach out there, Bob Pulford, taught me a lot about staying in the NHL.

He said, “You’re not that good, so do as your coaches tell you to do and you’re going to be alright. If you try to think you’re a real good player and handle the puck a lot, you’re not going to be alright. You’re going to be out of this league.”

He had a rule with me. I was only allowed to touch the puck for one second. So I had to know what I was going to do with it before I got it. If somebody passed it over to me, it was gone. I wasn’t allowed to bring it out of my own end or carry it through centre ice or hang onto it for any longer than one second. If I did, I got benched.

THW: Did that force you to see the game differently – to look ahead?

DH: Well, I knew that once I got it – bang – I had to get rid of it or one-time pass up the middle. So anyway, back then, he taught me that I wouldn’t be handling the puck. I remember one time, I got back and I tried to beat a guy through centre ice and down you go. I was sitting on the bench after that. So I took pride in my plus-minus.

THW: You mentioned it before, but do you think you could survive in today’s game?

DH: Well, I could always skate well, but my big thing was that I was an aggressive player and the game was different back then. You know, they allowed that. Look at these big guys now, they’re getting chewed out of the league. Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren with the Leafs. George Parros, so the Habs don’t have anybody anymore. The big guys are going.

Although you still have to have what they call team toughness. See I still like the way the Bruins play with Chara and Lucic. They show emotion out there – hitting. It’s always been a hitting game – it’s allowed. It’s like football, you’re allowed contact. But the way the Habs are kind of running it, they’re doing something right.

Doug Wilson, Chicago Blackhawks, Dave Hutchison, NHL
Dave Hutchison was tasked with watching over Doug Wilson (above) during his playing days. (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

THW: Did you have a favourite teammate that you enjoyed playing with?

DH: Oh, I couldn’t say one. I can tell you a few of them. Borje Salming, Doug Wilson, Butch Goring in L.A. with the Kings. A teammate of mine, a real good friend of mine back then, was a native by the name of Gary Sargent. Him and I were real close. He was the best man at my wedding. But you just don’t see them anymore. I haven’t seen Gary in 30 or 40 years. What happens is you move away and you lose track.

Now, I still have our Leafs alumni so I’m active with them and our NHL alumni. So I still have a real nucleus of friends including Gary Leeman, Rick Vaive, Dennis Maruk, Mark Laforest. So we travel together with our alumni. I’ve been really fortunate to still hang around with these guys. They still play. I don’t play too much because my back is screwed, my hips and knees. But I always referee so I don’t have to work too hard out there. I just kind of glid around with the whistle in my hand and a microphone. I do a little play-by-play of the game and do some funny comments and some slapstick, you know, so it’s fun.

THW: You got to go up with Doug Wilson when he accepted his Norris Trophy, what was that like?

DH: Well, he brought me up to Montreal when he won it. It was more than just staying back. When I played with him and Borje Salming, for example, I was protecting those guys too. See, you were allowed to do that back then.

They always wanted to take a shot at this ‘chicken Swede,’ you know, they used to call [Borje] that. So when guys would, that’s what the Leafs got me for. That’s why the Blackhawks – and Pully (Bob Pulford) – paired me up with Doug Wilson, to make sure he was getting some room out there and not getting run over.

More with Dave ‘Hutch’ Hutchison: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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