In 20 years the Chicago Black Hawks piled up the sorriest record of any team in major-league hockeya game played almost exclusively by Canadians living in or visiting the U.S. in pursuit of their trade.*In all that time, the Black Hawks managed to finish as high as third only once, wound up dead last in nine of the past twelve seasons. But this year everything suddenly changed. To the astonishment of their most devoted supporters, the revitalized Hawks are second in the National Hockey League standings.
Key to the Black Hawks' resurgence lies with three veteran forwards known to all Chicago as the Pappy Line: Left Wing Ted Lindsay, 33, Center Tod Sloan, 31, and Right Wing Eddie Litzenberger, 26. With a total of 69 goals, 94 assists, the Pappy Line is far and away the highest-scoring line in the league.
Nobody expected much from the Pappies when they were put together last November. The handsome, well-built (6 ft. 3 in., 194 Ibs.) Litzenberger was an in and outer who had only occasionally shown the brilliance that made him rookie of the year in 1954. The small (160 Ibs.), scrappy Lindsay was considered past his peak, came to Chicago last year after 13 brilliant years as a star with the Detroit Red Wings. Sloan, most recently a bench warmer for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was bought last summer chiefly for utility purposes.
This season the Black Hawks started off in their usual fashionmiserably. As center on the first line, young (20) Bobby Hull proved too fast for Lindsay and Litzenberger and wore them out. Coach Rudy Pilous decided something had to be done. He put Sloan at center, and the Black Hawks promptly performed the prodigious feat of walloping the league-leading Montreal Canadiens on their home ice. They have lost only 17 of 47 games since.
"They seemed to know each other's moves from the start," says Pilous of his veterans. "It's a form of mental telepathy. They can crisscross and drop a puck, and they can crisscross and not drop it, and they won't get fouled up." Lindsay's aggressive play (he is the most penalized player in the league) and Sloan's playmaking brought Litzenberger to life. At week's end he was within four points of leading the league in individual scoring. Pilous figures his Pappy Line is still young enough to stay together two or three more years, and the Pappies themselves shrug off advancing age. Growls Elder Statesman Lindsay: "Old? Like hell."
*Only U.S. -born player currently in the Na tional Hockey League is the Detroit Red Wings' Charlie Burns , who was born in Detroit but grew up in Toronto, chose Canadian citizenship when he turned 21.