Autry Erickson (yes, he was named after famous Christmas carol singer Gene Autry) was a steady defensive defenseman in the NHL back in the 1960s. He was far from flashy, but he was dependable.
After starring in junior with the Lethbridge Native Sons, Prince Albert Mintos and Regina Pats. He moved on to spend 226 games in the NHL, more than half with the Boston Bruins in two full season - 1959/60 and 1960/61.
But those were the days of the Original Six, and there was only about 36 jobs available for NHL defensemen. Even with two full seasons of NHL experience under his belt, Erickson would spend much of the 1960s in the minor leagues. He briefly reappeared with Chicago for a total of 34 games, and with Toronto for a single game.
Though he only played that one game with the Leafs, it was certainly a well timed game to play. Erickson filled in for game one of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals. Of course, that was the year the Leafs won the Stanley Cup. By playing in that single game Erickson earned his name's engraving on the Stanley Cup. Reportedly, Erickson only skated one third period shift, and also served a Toronto too many men on the ice penalty.
"It was nice to go to the west coast. It was kind of like a vacation with pay," Erickson said in Brad Kurtzberg's excellent book Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals: Hockey's Most Colorful Team.
Erickson admitted that it was tough to play in Oakland. There were constant rumors that the team would move, and team morale was terrible as they did not win very many games.
After the inaugural season with the Seals, Erickson left the NHL on his own accord. The team had planned on his return, but Erickson jumped at the opportunity to join the Phoenix Roadrunners. Phoenix offered him a chance to play with a promise of a coaching job down the road. The aging Erickson was worried about his long term future. Like so many insecure hockey players of that era coaching seemed like an only option
Erickson would coach the Roadrunners for a couple of seasons before returning to the NHL for a short stints as assistant GM and assistant coach with the expansion New York Islanders. He soon left hockey to work for an airline company based in California.
Autry Erickson died on August 21st, 2010. He was 72 years old.