"Sudden Death" Mel Hill

The name Mel "Sudden Death" Hill will forever be frozen in the etches of hockey history. That's because of his NHL record three overtime goals in the same playoff series.

Born in Glenboro, Manitoba, Mel played his junior hockey for the Saskatoon Wesleys, Sudbury Wolves and Sudbury Frood Miners. His last season in Sudbury (1936-37), which saw him score a league leading 18 goals in 15 games, convinced the Boston Bruins sign him as a free agent on October 26, 1937.

Hill was no immediate hit in Beantown by any means. It wasn't until his second season, 1938-39, that he gained regular ice time, scoring 10 goals during the regular season. It was in the subsequent post-season that he had his immortalizing series against the New York Rangers.

"The first game (2-1) was a real endurance test, " Hill recalled. " It went on for three overtimes. Bill Cowley fed me a pass down the wing and I beat Davey Kerr with a high shot to put us ahead in the series. I scored on Kerr again the following night in overtime (3-2) and we took a 2-0 lead over New York."

Boston won the third game as well before Rangers unthinkably roared back with three straight wins to set up a deciding seventh game at the Boston Garden. Once again the teams battled to an overtime after Ray Getliffe had scored for Boston and Muzz Patrick for New York to make it 1-1. Like in game one the teams played two scoreless overtime periods before Mel became the hero once more.

"It was around eight minutes of the third overtime, " Hill remembered. " Cowley fed me a pass from behind the net and I was right on top of Rangers goalie Bert Gardiner. I held the puck for a second then flipped it up into the net on the short side. The fans went wild and it was a tremendous thrill to win a series for my team. "

It was somewhat ironic that Rangers general manager Lester Patrick had turned down Hill years earlier because he was " too frail for big-time hockey".

In the Stanley Cup final against Toronto, Mel once again was a key figure as Boston won in five games. He assisted on both of Roy Conacher's goals as Boston won game four 2-0. He also opened the scoring in the Cup clinching game that Boston won 3-1. All in all Mel scored 6 goals and 3 assists in the playoffs that year.

Two years later, in 1941 it was time for Mel to once again sip champagne from the Cup. This time he scored the semifinal-series clinching goal against Toronto.

"That one ranks right up with the goals against New York, " Mel said, " I came out of the corner with the puck and fired a hot shot past Turk Broda. We went on and rolled over Detroit in four straight games to win the Stanley Cup."

Mel wasn't a star player and he played within his limitations.

"I was a basic, unspectacular player who usually performed well when it counted, but I just happened to get super-hot in that series with New York," he said.

Mel also admitted that carrying the tag of " Sudden Death" wasn't so easy at times.

"It wasn't an easy tag to carry the rest of my career. It seemed like I was expected to be the hero in every playoff game from that moment on. The name "Sudden Death" was easier to live with after I retired," Mel jokingly said.

Mel was sold to the Brooklyn Americans on June 27, 1941. There he played for one season before the team folded. He was then picked up by Toronto and racked up his best season statistically when he scored 44 points (17+27) in 49 games (1942-43).

Mel played in Toronto until 1946 and then continued to play in the AHL until 1948 (Pittsburgh Hornets). Then for the next four seasons Mel played senior hockey with the Regina Caps before retiring.

After hockey he went into the soft drink business in Regina, Saskatchewan. He built a house in nearby Fort Qu'Appelle where he lived for the next 25 years until he passed away in 1996


Anonymous,  5:17 PM  

MEL HILL IS AWSOME. good glenboro boy

danahill 3:44 PM  

I went to the Hall of Fame in Toronto,
and looked and could not find him,
I asked one of the old timers whom I remembered from the Gardens and he told me ,"MEL never made into the Hall of Fame"
I was shocked and disapointed,
Anyone know of his family history, either in Canada or when they came from England ?

Derek 5:17 PM  
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Derek 7:25 PM  

Mel Hill's 3 OT Goals

1)At 1:10 am - 35 seconds from the end of the third 20-minute
period of overtime - with the crowd rubbing its eyes wearily and wondering whether the deadlock would ever be broken, Cowley flashed along the right boards and centred a beautiful high pass directly in front of Dave Kerr in the Ranger net. Hill, 23-year-old left winger in his first year with the Bruins, skated in and batted the puck cleanly past the Ranger goalie into the side of the net.
As the red light flashed, the Bruin players clustered around the winning scorer, thumped him on the back, and almost
carried him to the dressing-room.

The 23-year-old sharp-shooter from Saskatoon, winding up his first full year in the NHL, scarcely could get his uniform off for the whacks on the back and handshakes his thankful teammates and wellwishers forced on him.
Smiling wearily, Mel claimed no credit for the winning goal he shot, after 59 minutes and 25 seconds of overtime.
“It was probably the greatest thrill of my life,” he said, “but the credit goes to Bill Cowley. I couldn’t have scored without Bill’s pass.

The “forgotten man” of the Bruins, Mel Hill, today had boosted his club into a commanding two game lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup hockey playoff series and stood out as the leading Boston opportunist as the Rossmen pointed for the third game of the series on Sunday.
The right winger on the Cowley-Conacher line caged the winning goal in the first overtime period to give the Bruins a 3-2 victory. This duplicated his performance in New York when the Bruins took the opener 2-1 in overtime.
The 23-year-old rookie right winger, who has been nothing more than a stooge during the past season, for the second consecutive time caged the winning marker to give the Bruins a two game lead over the Rangers in the four out of seven series.
Hill scored the winning goal on a beautifully executed play by “Cowboy” Bill Cowley who jumped the Ranger forwards. They came tearing in after Cowley and as they did he passed back to Mel Hill, coming in at top speed, took the disc and rifled it through the legs of Bert Gardiner rookie goalie recalled from Philadelphia to replace the injured Dave Kerr. It was practically a duplicate of the play which won the game for the Bruins last Tuesday night in New York after 110 minutes and 25 seconds. It was the Hill-Cowley combination that scored the win
in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

Play in the overtime period was slow with both teams laying back waiting for the break. The Bruins got it and Cowley jumped the forwards, raced in with the Rangers trailing him. Bill went in close drawing the entire team in with him and then passed back to Hill who rifled a shot through the legs of Gardiner for the winning goal in 8.24 of the overtime.

3)Hockey-mad Boston fans had a new hero today in John Melvin Hill, 24-year-old Saskatoon sensation.
Hill blasted the rubber into the net after 108 minutes of terrific hockey at the Garden at 12:40 a.m. today to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory in the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Rangers.
It marked the third time during the series that Hill scored the winning goal for the Bruins in sudden-death overtime periods.

Eight minutes after the third sudden-death overtime period started, Hill took a pass from Roy Conacher and Bill Cowley, and blazed from 15 feet out to beat Ranger goalie Gardiner for the clincher. A record equaling crowd of 16,981 fans turned the sports palace into an uproar as the winning tally was counted.

As far as Hill is concerned, those three overtime goals against Rangers were the big thrills of his hockey career, the last one, of course, being the biggest. But he admitted that without Bill Cowley, the veteran bruin center from Ottawa who passed him the puck on each occasion, he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

Derek 7:26 PM  
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Derek 7:27 PM  

Mel Hill Attributes Success with Bruins to Long Study of Possible Ice Situations.
By Jack Calder
Hockey’s sudden death scorer, 23-year-old Mel Hill, attributes any high powered job he does for Boston Bruins to every possible ice situation with his four boarding-house buddies.
Hill fired the overtime goal that brought the Bruins three of their four victories over New York Rangers in the semi-finals. No one else ever has scored three overtime goals in the playoffs.
And Mel, a quiet 162 pound pinch-hitter from Saskatoon, believes a good deal of the credit belongs to four teammates who live with him in a big suburban Brookline rooming house. He had high praise too for Bill Cowley, the centre who gave him passes for all three sudden death goals.
“Milt Schmidt, Porky Dumart and Bobby Bauer stay in the room next to his and Roy Conacher has that one next to mine,” Hill said today. “We all get along like a million dollars and you should be around here when we have a hockey clinic.”
“The kraut kids lived together last winter and they asked Roy and me to come to this house when Art Ross made us regulars this season,” Hill explained. “We clicked right away, and soon we were talking, eating and sleeping hockey.”
“None of us can sleep until three or four o’clock in the morning after a game, so everybody gathers in here. Sometimes we play cards awhile just to take the edge off, but mostly we just talk over the games, figuring out what we should have done in such and such a case.”
Gradually, the talks have paid better and better dividends. Conacher came on with a rush to take the league’s goal getting title. Then Hill staged his amazing streak against the Rangers, and finally the sauerkraut line produced both goals when the Bruins opened the finals with a 2-1 victory over Toronto.
Just Little Things
“Those goals of mine were just little things along the way,” Hill said. “Cowley, who really knows how to lay down a pass, handed me the puck and I batted it in.”
The youngster couldn’t see himself as what Manager Art Ross likes to call a “super star”.
“No, nothing very much ever happens to me,” he said. “Except once”.
“In 1937 I was working in the Frood mine and playing hockey for Sudbury. That was the year we won the Dominion championship.
“One day a stope collapsed about 100 yards from me and four men were killed. My teeth chattered for a week any time there was a sound in the mine. But outside of that, nothing has ever happened to me.”

Derek 7:28 PM  
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Derek 7:29 PM  
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James Benesh,  3:01 AM  

For soemeone who has apparently done a lot of research on the Boston Bruins, derek doesn't know squat about Duke Keats.

A bench warmer? Couldn't cut it? Matt Moulsen stats?

Actually, Derek, if you look at Duke Keats' numbers for Boston in the 1927 season, his per-game average is as good as Herberts - they'd have tied for the team lead had they each played the full season. Keats was traded to the Hawks halfway through, and had the highest PPG for them, too. His 24 points were actually good for 9th in the NHL in this ridiculously low-scoring season prior to the introduction of the forward pass.

1928 was more of the same. Keats played just 5 games with Detroit and then went to Chicago and even though legit HHOFer Mickey MacKay had a headstart, Keats scored more points with Chicago than he did, leading an NHL team in scoring once again, and coming 10th in the NHL in points.

And don't brush off what he did in the west, either. That league was as strong as the NHL, particularly in 1925 and 1926 after it absorbed the PCHA. In the years following the merger, look who won the first Hart. The first 3 vezinas. eight first team all-star spots on defense starting in 1931. And so on.

Keats is not the weakest HHOFer, far from it.

Your comment was made a long time ago but I hope you come back to answer for it.

Derek 11:29 AM  

Duke Keats was a great western hockey league player - his stats shows this. You point out that he equalled Jimmy Herbert that season and Herbert is not in the HHOF. He played 2 NHL seasons and finished 9th in 1926-27 and 10th in 1927-28. As you said I am a Bruin researcher and I can only say that Keats was slow and out of shape so the Bruins only kept him 17 games. I don't know how he managed the points that he got because he did not get much ice time. He managed to be good trade bait for Frank Fredrickson and Bruins went on the the 1927 finals.

This is an example of the hockey Keats played in the west when he got his points.
"After the Patricks introduced the three-zone forward passing system they had to put new teeth into the rules in order to chase such persistent loafers as Skinner and Keats out of the attacking zone. After excursions down the rink, Skinner and Keats liked nothing better than to pull up, rest on their sticks, and engage in friendly chatter with the opposing netminder."

His 4 goals for the Bruins was not memorable in my research and comparing points 49 (30-19) in 82 games does not even compare to non hall-of-famer Carson Cooper who had 43 points in 58 games as a Bruin or Jimmy Herbert who had 63 goals in 118 games. Herbert is the brunt of jokes as a poor Smythe trade and Keats is in HHOF. Maybe that is what bothers me most (ha). But Keats is in the HHOF for what he did in the west - and I am sure a guy with the last name of Patrick ensured this. I will say Keats is one of the weakest HHOFers. If we used him as the base standard then many players that are not in the HHOF should be -- Lionel Hitchman is not in the HHOF - Now that is mind boggling.

Derek 11:40 AM  

In 1973 Gordie Howe quoted:
“Everything developed from hockey. I used to listen to the radio and follow the Turk Broda’s and the Syd Howe’s, and all the great hockey players. There was a great name in hockey by the name of Mel Hill. When I was a young fellow about 9 years of age, he used to drive by our house in a great big convertible, sitting proud as a peacock, and that was a professional hockey player. I think that did it. I used to dream about it.

The Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly – April 16th 1996:
Passing of John Melvin Hill
Mr. Krawetz: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in this House today to express my condolences on the passing of a great local sports hero. Sadly, last week, John Melvin Hill of the Fort Qu’Appelle area passed away. In the 1930s, Mr. Hill captured the imagination and hearts of hockey fans across Canada when he played for the Boston Bruins. He gained the nickname Mel “Sudden Death” Hill after scoring three winning overtime goals in the 1939 play-off series against the Rangers. The Bruins went on to capture the cup. Mel’s feat is now hockey legend. He also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs when they won the Stanley Cup in 1945. After leaving hockey, Mel returned to his roots in Saskatchewan. He operated Mel Hill Beverages in Regina until
1970, when he and his wife Jean retired on a farm near Fort
Qu’Appelle. He is survived by his son, Roy, and his daughters,
Peggy, Arleen, and Sandy, and their families. I ask all members of this Assembly to join me in expressing my condolences to Mr. Hill’s family and friends.

Milt Schmidt’s Ovechkin reference when Ovechkin almost single handedly willed his Caps into winning game 2 against the Penguins in 2009:
“The only comparison I can make to the way Ovechkin took over that game Monday was when we won the Stanley Cup in 1941 (it was actually 1939) and my teammate, Mel Hill, had overtime goals in three of our four wins against the Rangers.”

-Some say the slapshot was the worst thing for hockey. It really is a lazy play.

Derek 2:51 PM  

The Leader Post – Regina:
Mr. Lestaire Patrick, as shrewd a gent as the hockey trade has ever known, made a mistake six years ago as he sat in the Winnipeg Amphitheatre.
Sunday night, in far-off Boston, it cost him a crack at the Stanley Cup.
Mel Hill was the mistake. Patrick had the smooth-skating Saskatoon youngster at his Winnipeg amateur school but decided the youth didn’t register. So he turned him loose. Mr. Hill proceeded to Sudbury, helped that town win an Allan cup, signed for Boston Bruins and squared his account with Patrick in the current playoffs. All he did was win three overtime games for the bruising Bruins and stave off a gallant Ranger rally that all but made NHL history.
Regina knew Hill as a boy in overalls who cleaned bricks all one summer when the old Crystal Brewery was being dismantled. He had come to Saskatoon to join the Pats. But before the season opened the Pats tossed in the towel and Hill moved along after being passed up by Patrick that fall.
An athlete with a tremendous burst of speed as he cuts in on goal from his wing, Hill would appear to have definitely arrived in the big time. And Art Ross has the laugh on Mr. Patrick this time.

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