Pete Stemkowski scored 206 goals and 555 points in 967 career NHL games. (THN Archives)
Status: Former NHL center from 1964-1978 with New York, Toronto, Detroit and Los Angeles. Played in 1968 All-Star Game. Scored 206 goals in 967 NHL games.
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 196 pounds
DOB: Aug. 25, 1943 In: Winnipeg
Hockey Inspirations: "Jean Beliveau, Frank Mahovlich."
Nicknames: "Polish Prince, Stemmer, Dumb Polock. I mean, I've heard it all. As a pro athlete you've got to have thick skin."
Favorite Movies: "My Cousin Vinny. For some reason I love that movie. Humor was so funny. I've seen it 10 times."
Musical Tastes: "I'm old-fashioned – ‘60s, oldies, country."
Early Hockey Memory: "I didn't take hockey that seriously ‘til I was 18, 19. I was a junior. They sent me from Winnipeg to Toronto to play for the Marlies. I went there and won the Memorial Cup. I turned pro, but couldn't make the Leafs because they were winning Cups. So they sent me to Rochester. And we had guys like Dick Gamble and Stan Smerk and Bronko Horvath and Ed Litzenberger. Old time guys. These guys wouldn't even talk to me. I remember I roomed with Dick Gamble that first road trip and I think we were together for two days and we never said one word to each other. I was so intimidated by those guys. They made me feel like: ‘You better prove yourself, kid. You're a pro now. You show me something and we'll accept you.’ I had to do something. I scored some goals in junior. Got some good press clippings turning pro. ‘We read what you can do in the papers. You show us what you can do on the ice.’ Until I proved myself I wasn't really accepted by them."
Favorite Meal: "Prime rib on a Saturday night with an end cut, some mashed potatoes and I'd be pretty happy."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: "Vanilla cherry Breyers. And Whistlestop Cheesecake."
Pre-game Feeling: "They always said I was a prankster. I'd always be a guy that would crack one-liners. ‘Where we gonna go drinkin' after the game?’ I was always the funny guy. Had a routine, we’d eat at one, watch General Hospital at three – everyone who roomed with me knew what was going on in General Hospital. Then at 3:30 we'd sleep ‘til 5. That was the ritual. Cup of tea before game, get to the rink. I always liked to loosen things up with one-liners."
Greatest Sports Moment: "Probably winning the Stanley Cup (1967). The ultimate goal for anybody who plays pro sports. The summer going home. We won the Cup in Toronto. I went to Winnipeg, high school kids, people coming to my door. In the community. The recognition, the parade."
Most Painful Moment: "When I got hit playing for the Rangers. Was in the hospital for two weeks with a serious concussion. Had a bit of a clot. A year later the doctor said I was in pretty bad shape there. Whiplash. Mike Pelyk of Toronto hit me after I threw a pass. Severe whiplash. I had headaches for four or five days, pains up and down my legs. I was out eight weeks, in the hospital for two. Also, the front teeth out. Six stitches. All part of the game. I don't think anybody could play 15-20 years in a contact sport and not have some type of injury."
Favorite Uniforms: "I like the Rangers and Maple Leafs."
Most Memorable Goal: "Triple overtime goal (Stanley Cup semifinal Game 6 with New York in Chicago). Something that people still bring up today. We played ‘til about midnight. Chicago was really killing us – hitting goalposts, crossbars. Then around midnight I came in and picked the corner on Tony Esposito and the game was over. It's a thrill for me because people still bring it up today. People remember where they were, listening on a transistor radio, young kids in grammar school. One was stuck in an elevator. One guy was on his way to the hospital, his wife was giving birth that particular night. People always bring it up, it's nice."
Closest NHL Friends: "Steve Vickers is high on that list. Teddy Irvine. Gilles Villemure. We drive in to New York together, meet for lunch occasionally."
Toughest Competitors: "Ronnie Harris – strong, physical guy. Wally Tkaczuk – when he got the puck you just couldn't take it off him. He was that strong on his skates."
Funny Hockey Memory: "Eddie Shack playing in Toronto for us. Sid Abel was the GM for the Detroit Red Wings. Abel said he's got legs, got talent, but he's the dumbest hockey player I've ever seen. So we played Detroit and Eddie Shack goes down the ice, splits the defense and puts the puck in the net. He skates over to the Detroit bench. He goes, ‘Sid!’ Sid looks up. He goes, ‘Score...s-c-o-r-e.’ I mean, it was pretty serious. Nobody ever laughed at anything in those days. Even Sid Abel turned around and started laughing like crazy. A pretty hilarious moment...in the middle of combat. Eddie Shack just broke up everybody."
How Would You Like To Be Remembered: "I really did give it everything. My reputation may have been like a happy-go-lucky, prankster type of guy. But believe me, when it came to playing I was all business. Never gave me greater satisfaction than to win. Always tried to excel in the playoffs. I feel that's what people remembered about you. Be remembered as someone who scored in the clutch, when it was important. Was a team player that contributed to any success that we had. Loose, dropped the jokes. But as soon as they dropped the puck, I was a pretty serious player."