Ralph William Nattrass
Born: May 26, 1925 (Gainsborough, Saskatchewan)
Died: April 30, 2014 (Edmonton, Alberta)
A bruising defenceman who spent four seasons in the NHL, Ralph Nattrass played good defence on some bad Chicago Black Hawks teams.
The 6-foot, 185-pound rearguard made his NHL debut on Dec. 8, 1946, firing a pair of 60-foot shots past Montreal goalie Bill Durnan. He also added an assist on a goal by Doug Bentley, but the Canadiens won the game in Chicago, 5-3. The Associated Press account of the game praised the young defenceman’s “tremendous stick power.”
Nattrass skated in 35 games in his rookie season, but he was a regular among the Hawks’ blue-line corps for three seasons from 1947-50. He was often paired with Bill Gadsby, a future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In 223 NHL games, Nattrass scored 18 goals with 38 assists. He also received 308 penalty minutes. He never skated in an NHL playoff game.
In one of his final NHL games, he engaged in a memorable brawl with Murray Henderson of the Boston Bruins. The players high-sticked one another and Nattrass was assessed a misconduct for roughing up two linesman. He was also assessed a match misconduct. “The fight began anew when the two reached the penalty box,” the AP reported, “and Henderson was given an additional misconduct for his part.”
Born in a farm village in southeastern Saskatchewan, Nattress played juvenile for the Melita Bombers before joining the Moose Jaw Canucks for two seasons of junior play. The Canucks lost the 1945 Memorial Cup by four games to one to the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors. The defenceman scored nine goals and added five assists in 17 playoff games, while recording a leading 33 minutes in penalties.
He had been spotted by former NHL goalie Tiny Thompson, who recommended him to the Hawks. Nattrass turned professional with the Kansas City Pla-Mors in 1945-46, helping them win the regular-season and playoff championships in the inaugural season of the United States Hockey League.
At the 1950 training camp in North Bay, Ont., Nattrass skirmished with Harry Lumley, a new goalie acquired by the Hawks. Chicago then demoted the defenceman to Milwaukee, but he refused to report. On Oct. 4, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He spent the season with their American Hockey League farm team, the Cincinnati Mohawks, where he recorded no goals with 30 assists in his final pro hockey campaign.
The retired defenceman worked as an NHL linesman in the 1954-55 season.
Nattrass sold cars for a living while playing hockey, one of many enterprises in which he engaged in a long business career.