Ed Van Impe
As a hockey player, Ed Van Impe was not blessed with blazing speed, flashy puck-handling skills or an offensive touch from the point. But buried deep within his frame was a copious supply of toughness, determination, and the intelligence to play within his abilities. Those abilities remained consistently anchored to his own zone where he held court as one of the ultimate defensive defensemen of his day.
Van Impe played his junior hockey with the Saskatoon Quakers of the SJHL from 1956 to 1961. Afterwards, he turned pro with the Calgary Stampeders for a season before launching a lengthy stay with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL. During his five campaigns in Buffalo, the Blackhawk prospect seemed to have little hope of cracking Chicago's well-stocked defensive corps. As a minor-leaguer, Van Impe tended to frequent the penalty box as often as the worst offenders of the league. It is possible that the Blackhawks feared that his unruly play might have undermined the club's collective goals.
In 1966-67, however, Van Impe finally got his break in the Windy City. At age 25, the rookie rearguard, who considered himself a slow developer, had matured sufficiently well, to hold down a sixth and seventh defensive spot. He also picked up his usual 100-plus penalty minutes per season.
But when league expansion arrived the following year, Van Impe was left unprotected. Flyers' GM Bud Poile saw a solid prospect in Van Impe and thus picked him off from the Hawks' roster.
His arrival in the City of Brotherly Love was perfect timing for the sturdy rearguard to ply his rugged trade. For the more than eight seasons that followed, he blossomed into one of the Flyers' most consistent defensive blueliners. He excelled at clearing his crease and was a fearless shot-blocker. In a game against the Seals one night, Van Impe caught a puck right in the mouth off the stick of Wayne Muloin. Six of his teeth were shaved off at the gum line, 35 stitches were required to close up his lips and 15 more to tie up his tongue. But being tough as an old hockey glove, he still managed to return for the final eight minutes of the game.
In 1974 and 1975, Van Impe, in the company of his fellow "Broad Street Bullies," savoured two Stanley Cup victories that represented the peak of his career. Late in the following campaign, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he lasted for only 22 games, retiring in 1976-77.