Red Wings four-time Stanley Cup champion dies at 96

Marty Pavelich, part of the Detroit Red Wings’ heyday in the 1950s, has died at age 96.

Pavelich died in his sleep Thursday into Friday, according to his son, Andrew Hofley. Pavelich had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) around May.

‘We were watching baseball and I was holding his hand,’ Hofley said. ‘A peaceful end to an extraordinary life.’

In early June, the four-time champion reflected on his career.

‘I may not have been the most talented member of those teams but you were never going to outwork me,’ Pavelich said. ‘Nor could you ever have more desire to win than I did. I would like to think my legacy and what I am most proud of was my leadership in the locker room. I hated to lose — still do — and that is what I have attempted to pass on to all of the young people in sports and business I have met through the years.’

In his prime, Pavelich was 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds of determination. He was a perfect complement to a lineup that boasted Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, providing a relentless drive to shut down the opposition’s top players. He famously had a long-running rivalry with Montreal Canadiens star Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard.

One of Pavelich’s favorite stories was the time he checked Richard so hard that the Canadien suffered a cut above the eye.  Later in the game, Richard was going to run Pavelich from behind, but Bob Goldham yelled at Pavelich to watch out, and he escaped injury.

“On behalf of the entire Red Wings organization I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the Pavelich family,” Red Wings owner Christopher Ilitch said in a statement. “Marty was beloved by all those who knew him, including my parents, Mike and Marian Ilitch. He was an integral part of four Stanley Cup championship teams for the Red Wings in the 1950s and one of the hardest working players of his generation. He will be greatly missed.”

Pavelich recorded 93 goals among 252 points in 633 games. 

Contact Helene St. James athstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter@helenestjames.

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