John Edward (The Octopus) Stoddard
Born: September 26, 1926 (Stoney Creek, Ontario)
Died: January 29, 2014 (Owen Sound, Ontario)
One of the tallest hockey players of his era, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound forward Jack Stoddard skated in 80 NHL games with the New York Rangers. He was nicknamed The Octopus for his long reach. Trivia buffs remember him as the first NHL player to wear unlucky sweater No. 13 for an entire season.
The right winger blossomed with the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League, including seasons with 25, 32 and 37 goals. The Reds won the Calder Cup championship in 1949 with Stoddard scoring four goals in 14 playoff games. He was in his fifth campaign with the Reds and was the leading scorer in the AHL (20 goals and 28 assists in 34 games) when the Rangers traded three players (Jean-Paul Denis, Pat Egan, Zellio Toppazzini) for him.
Rangers coach Bill Cook placed Stoddard on a line centred by Edgar Laprade with Reggie Sinclair shifting to left wing. After 20 games, Stoddard fractured his right wrist in a collision with defenceman Jim Ross at a Rangers practice and was out for the rest of the season.
He returned in good form the following season, scoring twice in a 3-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. The win was the Rangers’ first after going 0-4-2 to open the 1952-53 campaign. He scored 12 goals and added 13 assists in 60 games that season to go with the four goals and two assists he recorded in 20 games the previous season.
Days before the start of the 1953-54 season, the Rangers called up scrappy winger Ike Hildebrand from the AHL Cleveland Barons. Stoddard took his place in Cleveland, where he made a solid contribution with 23 regular season goals. He also enjoyed his second Calder Cup title.
Stoddard returned to Providence for a season before becoming a senior player in Ontario, wearing the sweater of the Owen Sound Mercurys, Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, Whitby Dunlops, Woodstock Athletics and Chatham Maroons, with whom he won the Allan Cup national senior championship in 1960. He played a series of exhibition games in the Soviet Union with the Maroons in November, 1960.
In 1972-73, he coached the senior Owen Sound Downtowners.
Stoddard’s professional career included three games as a goaltender for the Reds at the end of the 1947-48 season. Regular netminder Harvey Bennett got injured, so Stoddard took his place between the pipes. He lost all three games, surrendering 26 goals for an eye-popping 8.67 goals-against average.