American Hockey League legend Harry Pidhirny died on December 20th, 2010, just weeks before he was to be enshrined in the AHL Hall of Fame.
Pidhirny played 1,071 games in the American Hockey League over 17 seasons, starting in 1948 with the Philadelphia Rockets through to 1966 with the Baltimore Clippers. Along the way, he also played for the Springfield Indians (most famously), Syracuse Warriors and Providence Reds. He also played with the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League and Muskegon Mohawks of the International Hockey League. For all his lengthy career in professional hockey, he only appeared in two NHL games - both with the Boston Bruins in the 1957-58 season.
The 82 year old succumbed to his fight with cancer. Pidhirny was due to be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame on January 30th, 2011 along with Mitch Lamoureux, Maurice Podoloff and Larry Wilson. He will still be honoured with a posthumous induction.
Pidhirny was the first player in the history of the AHL to play more than 1,000 games and his total still ranks third all-time. His 376 goals, 453 assists and 829 points place him sixth in league history. He scored at least 20 goals in 12 consecutive seasons, and he once scored 6 goals in a single game, one of only four players in AHL history to do so. He was also known as an ironman, as he rarely missed a game due to injury.
So why was Pidhirny, described as one of the most reliable AHL players in the 1950s, not able to crack a NHL line-up for more than just 2 measly games? Pidhirny himself chimed in on that one back in October 2010 when his Hall of Fame induction was announced.
"To go up to the National League, it was tough. I worked for Eddie Shore. He was a real bugger. He wouldn't let me go, so I was stuck with him for 12 years."
But he always cherished his two games in the big leagues.
"It was great. One was in Montreal and one was in Boston against the Leafs. We were playing against some good hockey players."
"If Harry had played at a different time, he would have been in the NHL," Ted Shore, son of Eddie, told reporter Garry Brown. "But it was so tough back then with only six teams in the league."
“He was a really valuable kind of guy. Good scorer, defensive player, penalty killer, captain, and everything else,” added Sam Popei, a retired sports reporter who watch him play closely. He also described him as a "stylish" player who could be counted on in all situations.
Pidhirny had worked as a car salesman in Scarborough after his hockey career was done.