Pat Stapleton, a defensive star throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s in both the NHL and WHA, and one of just three players on both Canadian Summit Series teams, passed away today at the age of 79.
Stapleton started his career with the Boston Bruins in 1961, spending just two seasons in the pros before being sent to the juniors, before being claimed by Chicago in 1965. After only one more stop in the juniors, Stapleton became a full time Black Hawk, spending eight seasons in Chicago and being named a four-time All-Star. Stapleton left the NHL in 1973 for the upstart World Hockey Association, moving south-side to join the Chicago Cougars, becoming a player-coach for two seasons. Stapleton would coach one more season and play three more years in the WHA, for two with the Indianapolis Racers and one with the Cincinnati Stingers before retiring in 1978.
While NHL players did not play in international competitions until 1977, Stapleton was named to the 1972 Summit Series team, pairing with Chicago teammate Bill White on the blueline, starting in all but Game One of the series; legend had Stapleton as the player who fished out Paul Henderson’s Game Eight winning goal, although even 40 years later the status of this claim is still unknown. Having joined the WHA in 1973, Stapleton became just one of three players (alongside Henderson and Frank Mahovlich) to suit up for Canada at both the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series, captaining Team Canada for all eight games and notching three assists. Stapleton was inducted with Team Canada 1972 to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.
Our condolences go out to the Stapleton family, as well as the extended hockey community across Canada, his hometown of Strathroy and in his adopted hometown of Chicago, on the loss of a member of one of the most influential international hockey teams in history.