After years of having his hockey career stymied under the thumb of the legendary taskmaster Eddie Shore in the minor leagues, Bill White deservedly was at the right place at the right time when the Los Angeles Kings traded him to the Blackhawks in 1970.
Acquired after a knee injury sidelined Hawks captain Pat “Whitey” Stapleton, White eventually was paired with Stapleton to form one of the best blue-line duos in the NHL and helped the Hawks win five division titles and reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and 1973.
White, a classic stay-at-home defenseman who played in six consecutive All-Star Games from 1969-74 and briefly coached the Hawks after Billy Reay was fired in 1976, has died at 77.
White, a Toronto native, spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, the last five with Shore’s Springfield Indians of the AHL. He finally made it to the NHL at 28 with the expansion Kings and was an immediate hit. He made the All-Star Game with the Kings in 1969 and 1970.
When White was traded to the Hawks on Feb. 20, 1970, the timing was nearly perfect. The Hawks, who had finished last in the East Division in 1968-69, were in the midst of a worst-to-first renaissance, sparked by rookie goaltender Tony Esposito. They went 16-3-2 after acquiring White to edge the Boston Bruins in a tie-breaker for the East Division title.
Never a big goal-scorer — he had 50 goals in 604 NHL games —White was a standout defender. He was third in voting for the Norris Trophy behind runaway winner Bobby Orr in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He and Stapleton also played a key role Team Canada’s memorable victory over the Soviet Union in the “Summit Series” in 1972.
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