Aut Erickson

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.

The following season the NHL doubled in size by introducing six expansion teams. The new franchises stocked their rosters with veterans from the minor leagues. Erickson finally returned to the NHL on a full time basis, skating on the blue line of the Oakland Seals.

"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.


Axxell,  9:25 AM  

..A shame this punter only learned of Aut Erickson`s passing weeks after His demise..Not a word or press release by the NHL or The Boston Bruins Alumni! Mr Erickson`s legacy deserves a better fate!

Kukler 3:21 PM  

I got to know Aut while working for the Phoenix Roadrunners and attending two of their training camps. I was a young Kid but Aut always treated me with respect. Before I joined the Navy, Aut let me be his "Side Kick" helping him start his Sporting Goods Business in the Phoenix Area, and even let me manage his small store on the West side of town.

I had kept in touch for a few years after leaving the Phoenix area, and regret not taking the time to contact him before his passing.

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