prison break, 1954

Jailhouse Puck: Detroit coach Jack Adams shows off the championship latrine bucket with Red Wings captain Ted Lindsay at his side.

It was on a Tuesday of this same date in 1954 that the soon-to-be-Stanley-Cup- champion Detroit Red Wings played a famous afternoon exhibition game within the walls of Marquette State Prison on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Detroit lined up all their big guns, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio; the green-sweatered Prison Pirates got their goaling from Bugsy Williams, a thief who’d been released from  solitary confinement for the occasion.

“They were scoring a goal a minute,” recalled Marquette’s athletic director, Oakie Brumm, “and could have done it quicker if I had pulled the puck out of the net faster. When it was 18-0 Wings at the end of the first period, the scorekeeper quit keeping score.” Far from the scoring, Sawchuk sat atop his net and once, when the puck did come his way, raced out to try his luck at on Bugsy Williams. He took a deliberate tripping penalty, too, so he could sign some autographs in the box. The second period saw the two teams mix their line-ups. For the third, the Red Wings played an intra-squad, showing off their skills to the enthusiastic crowd of inmates and guards.

Boxed: Detroit winger Johnny Wilson on the bench with goaltender Terry Sawchuk and a Marquette guard.

The game went into the books as a 5-2 Detroit win: at least, that’s the story the Associated Press flashed out to newspapers across North America. The prize was the fabled Doniker Trophy, which still resides in the Red Wings’ archive — a prison latrine bucket seconded to service to reward the visiting champions. The NHLers also received hand-tooled wallets to remember their visit, and they shared a meal with the Pirates.

The Red Wings played a second exhibition that night, on the ice at the local Marquette Palestra, against the Sentinels of the Northern Michigan League. They won that one 16-6.

Walls of Red Wing: The ice at Marquette State Prison, Michigan, as it looked in the 1950s.

 

One thought on “prison break, 1954

  1. I love Puckstruck. I’ve studied a lot of hockey history but envy you your detail and great photos. Congratulations that are long overdue.

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