Donald Joseph Ward
Born: October 19, 1935 (Sarnia, Ontario)
Died: January 6, 2014 (Shoreline, Washington)
The journeyman defenceman Don Ward had two cups of coffee in the NHL before settling in on the blue line with the Seattle Totems. He skated 11 seasons for the Totems as part of a defensive corps known as the Jolly Green Giants for their sweaters. With Ward anchoring the defence, when he was not in the penalty box, the Totems won Western Hockey League championships in 1967 and ’68.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder played a season of junior hockey in his hometown with the Sarnia Legionnnaires. He was playing senior hockey with the Windsor Bulldogs in 1956-57 when he joined the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League. He was with the Bisons the following season when he got a three-game tryout with the Chicago Black Hawks.
Ward divided the 1958-59 season between the Victoria Cougars and Calgary Stampeders of the WHL. In the summer of 1959, the Boston Bruins claimed him in the inter-league draft and he joined a rearguard brigade including Fern Flaman, Larry Hillman, Dale Rolfe, Dallas Smith and Doug Mohns. Seeing spot action over 31 games, Ward recorded a single assist, while being slapped with 16 penalty minutes. In mid-January, 1960, he was sent down to the Bruins AHL farm club, the Providence Reds.
After a season with the WHL’s Winnipeg Warriors, the Bruins traded Ward’s rights to Portland of the WHL, who soon after traded him to Seattle, where he adopted a more pugnacious style of play than before.
“I didn’t run all over the place, but if they came near me, I took them out,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2006. “If they were looking for me, I wasn’t too hard to find.”
The bashing blue-liner became a fan favourite in Seattle. Over 11 seasons, he scored 32 goals and added 142 assists. But he more often appeared in the scoresheet in the punishment section, as he served 1,110 minutes in the penalty box for the Totems.
He suffered plenty of ordinary hockey injuries in his career — broken ankle, separated shoulder, surgically-repaired knees, three disks removed from his neck — but it was during a game with Buffalo where he learned a painful lesson about hockey’s brutal ways.
“We were playing Rochester and a guy challenged me,” he told the Seattle newspaper. “I was a young kid and I dropped my stick first and was ready to fight. He two-handed me with his stick, knocking out five or six teeth across the front. I always kept a piece of wood in my hands after that.”
The defenceman was released by the Totems after the team lost a 10-1 exhibition game against the parent Vancouver Canucks in September, 1972.
The Los Angeles Sharks had claimed Ward in the World Hockey Association’s inaugural player draft that summer, so he spent the 1972-73 season, his final campaign in pro hockey, with the Sharks farm club, the Greensboro (N.C.) Generals of the Eastern Hockey League.
He was a supervisor for many years at Ellstrom Manufacturing, a veneer and plywood maker, in Ballard, Wash., retiring in 2006.
A son, Joe Ward, was selected 22nd overall in the 1980 NHL entry draft by Colorado. The centreman played in four games with the Rockies in 1980-81 without recording any points.
Ward leaves Anne, his wife of 57 years; son Joe; two grandsons; and, two sisters. He was predeceased by three sisters and a daughter, who died in 1978, aged 21.