Danny Lewicki (THN Archives)
Danny Lewicki was still just a kid when he completed a hat trick of championship titles, a record that will likely never be broken. Then his career hit some bumps in the road before his retirement at 31.
By Namish Modi
Danny Lewicki may not have had the fairest of shakes at an NHL career, but he can be remembered for one particular record. He remains the only player to win the Allan Cup, Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup as a junior.
“I don’t think that record will ever be broken,” he said.
Lewicki, 83, has fond memories of his playing days but also recollects some things that didn’t go his way, resulting in a short career. In his autobiography, From the Coal Docks to the NHL, Lewicki highlights his life from his childhood growing up in an immigrant enclave in Fort William, Ont., all the way to the end of his pro career – nine seasons as an NHLer. “There were many problems with management in those years,” Lewicki said. “You were not allowed to speak back, which I did, unfortunately.”
Lewicki signed a C-form in 1948 when the Toronto Maple Leafs purchased him at 16. Little did he know this document would result in him not being able to decide where to play when he turned 18. He was playing with the Stratford Kroehlers of the OHA at the time. The Leafs then moved him to their affiliate, the Toronto Marlboros in 1949. He refused to report. “In retrospect, I believe a can of worms was opened for which (Leafs owner Conn) Smythe never forgave me,” Lewicki wrote.
Eventually Lewicki reported to the Marlboros, and it would be a blessing in disguise. He was a key contributor for the 1950 Allan Cup champion senior Marlboros. He had 42 points in 17 playoff games and was named playoff MVP.
It was the second time Lewicki had been a key cog on a playoff march. He had 40 points in the playoffs for Port Arthur and was instrumental in a sweep of the Barrie Flyers in the 1948 Memorial Cup final.
Lewicki broke through with the Leafs at 19 in 1950 and had a tremendous start before disaster struck. The Leafs held an open practice with school kids in attendance, and someone threw a paper clip on the ice. Lewicki, a fast skating left winger, hit the metal full stride. “My groin was torn to shreds,” he said.
It was a devastating blow for Lewicki, who at the time had 16 goals with nine remaining games and was challenging Terry Sawchuk for the Calder Trophy. He ended up finishing third.
When the 1951 playoffs began, Lewicki wasn’t healed fully, but he was ordered to play by the polarizing Smythe. “Mr. Smythe said to me, ‘Stand up, pull your trousers down.’ So I pulled them down and he said, ‘Look at him, he’s got legs like a thoroughbred. If he can walk, he can skate. He’s playing.’ He (told the trainer), ‘You tape him up, freeze him.’ ”
An ailing Lewicki played the playoffs as a checking winger, helping the Leafs win the Cup. He spent most of his next three seasons with the Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL before being sold to the New York Rangers in 1954. Lewicki didn’t squander this chance to be back in the NHL, notching 53 points with the Rangers in 1954-55, earning second-team all-star honors. He spent four seasons with the Rangers before playing one final year in Chicago.
Following his playing career, Lewicki coached for a brief time with Jr. A Hamilton in the OHA. After coaching, he sold advertising for CHUM Radio for 15 years, followed by sales manager jobs for Munro, then Acklands. Lewicki will always think of himself first as a hockey player. “You have that built in your heart,” he said. “Once a hockey player, always a hockey player.”