Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 1941: Sam LoPresti makes 80 saves

On March 4, 1941, in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks goalie Sam LoPresti made 80 saves on 83 shots, both are records that still stand today for shots against and saves in regulation for a goaltender. On the other side of the ice Frank Brimsek sat between the pipes for the Bruins, he only faced 20 shots in the contest. On the other hand, LoPresti saw 27 shots in the first period, 31 in the second, then 22 in the third. LoPresti only played a season and a half before he was called to war. During that time he posted a 30-38-6 record. After battling for his life while helping others keep theirs he was not able to return to the ice at the professional level.While his time in the NHL was short LoPresti will for ever be etched into the rich history of the league.

LoPresti was called up during the '40-'41 season, he played in 27 games, going 9-15-3. In his only full season in Chicago he played in 47 games, posting a 21-23-3 record while giving up a league leading 152 goals. The team reached the playoffs both seasons he was with them, he went 3-5 in the postseason with a goals against average of 1.92. If it wasn't for World War II his career might have continued, but like many men he had to serve his country.

Following the '41-'42 season LoPresti left the NHL and joined the U.S. Navy. It was there that he would face the biggest battle of his life. In February of 1943 the ship he was on was sunk by a torpedo, LoPresti was presumed to be the first professional athlete to be killed in World War II. Luckily for him and the other 28 men around him that was not the case. The men clung to a lifeboat for 42 days before being rescued off the coast of Brazil, they had traveled more than 2,500 miles before the ordeal ended. The men survived by drinking rain water and rationing a very small amount of food. A sailor later recalled LoPresti killed a Dolphin with a makeshift knife to help them survive. I'm sure he would have much rather faced 83 shots every night of his life than to be stuck at sea, not knowing if he would live to see tomorrow. LoPresti lost 55 pounds during the ordeal, he never returned to the NHL. He might have just been the MVP of that crew and he was definitely a hero who served his country proudly.

After returning to the States, LoPresti played some amateur hockey and ran a tavern. His record for saves and shots against has survived more than 70 years. When asked about that crazy game against the Bruins LoPresti said "They were shooting from every angle and I didn't see half the shots. They were bouncing off my pads, chest protector, my arms, my shoulders. I didn't even know where they were coming from. I lost 8 to 10 pounds that night."  It had to be something to see a goalie get peppered like that and basically stand on his head while facing such an onslaught. The only thing I wish is this fact ended with a win for the goalie he damn well deserved it after a performance like that.

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