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Detroit Red Wings

First Defensemen To Win Lady Byng Were Both Red Wings



Red Kelly stamp
Red Kelly and Bill Quackenbush were Detroit Red Wings defensemen who won the Lady Byng Trophy.

According to hockey legend, winning the Lady Byng punched Bill Quackenbush’s ticket out of Detroit.

During the 1948-49 season, Quackenbush, an NHL All-Star defenseman with the Red Wings, played the entire 60-game NHL schedule without incurring a penalty. “I guess I don’t do the things you get put off for,” Quackenbush explained to the Boston Globe.

For his gentlemanly efforts, Quackenbush ended up receving the Lady Byng Trophy. He was the first NHL defender to win the award.

That summer, Wings GM Jack Adams shipped Quackenbush to the Boston Bruins. The gruff Detroit boss made no effort to hide his disdain for those who’d won the Lady Byng.

“They are substituting the Byng for bang in hockey,” Adams complained to the Montreal Gazette. “The Lady Byng winners have taken over. Now they’re making it a game for pantywaists.

“That’s what’s wrong with basketball. Too sissifed. I don’t want to see that happen to hockey.”

Mentor To Kelly

While in Detroit, Quackenbush mentored young defenseman Red Kelly, who broke in with the Wings in 1947-48, in the ways of playing the game effectively while still playing within the framework of the rule book.

“He showed me the subtle things you could do to avoid taking penalties, things like body positioning and using your stick to take the puck off an opponent,” Kelly once said.

The youngster learned his lessons well. Three times during his days with the Wings, Kelly would also win the Lady Byng Trophy – in 1950-51, 1952-53 and 1953-54.

Kelly always bristled at the notion that the Lady Byng went to players who didn’t take penalties. He felt the basis for the recogniton of the award winner should be about its original intention – to honor those who played the game for cleanly and effectively.

“People look at the penalty minutes aspect,” Kelly said. “Don’t tell me about a player’s penalty minutes. Tell me about how many goals are scored against the team when he is on the ice. I’ll bet it’s not too many.”

Until the win by Bryan Campbell of the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, Kelly and Quackenbush were the only defensemen to be awarded the Lady Byng.

“When you think about what a defenseman does, that really was a remarkable achievement,” former Wings forward Harry Watson once said.