A quietly solid performer for the Detroit Red Wings in the first half of the 1960s, Larry Jeffrey died on Tuesday. He was 81 years old.
Jeffrey jumped right from the junior ranks into the Detroit lineup as a first-year pro during the 1961-62 NHL season. His NHL rookie season saw him scoring five goals in 18 games.
By the 1962-63 campaign, Jeffrey was an NHL regular. He played in all five Stanley Cup final games that spring as the Red Wings lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would skate in 129 NHL regular-season games by his 23rd birthday.
RIP to Larry Jeffrey. The Left Winger played 368 NHL games, 170 with the Detroit Red Wings. He scored in his 1st NHL game. Jeffrey is a Stanley Cup Champion winning with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967. Rest easy Mr. Jeffrey. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/2NghkUTtLf
— The Hockey Samurai 侍 (@hockey_samurai) July 19, 2022
The 1963-64 season was Jeffrey’s best as a Red Wing. Skating mainly on a line with Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith, he accounted for 10 goals and 18 assists in 58 games. Jeffrey also suited up for all 14 playoff games as the Wings lost a seven-game Cup final series in a rematch with the Maple Leafs.
Jeffrey Scored Stanley Cup OT Winner
Detroit was traliing 1-0 in the Cup final series when Jeffrey took pass from Gordie Howe and flipped a shot past Leafs goalie Johnny Bower at 7:52 of overtime to give the Red Wings a 5-4 verdict in Game 2.
“It was the perfect pass from Gord,” Jeffrey told the Windsor Star at the time. “I yelled to him when I thought I was set up and he put it right on my stick. I just flipped it and it was in.”
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) June 12, 2020
He would be the last Red Wings player to tally a Stanley Cup final OT goal until Kris Draper scored at 15:44 of the first extra period against the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the 1998 Cup final series.
Moving to the Leafs in 1965, Jeffrey was part of Toronto’s 1966-67 Cup-winning club but injury kept him out of the final series against Montreal.
Knee Injury Ended Career
The Wings would reacquire Jeffrey in 1969. He came to Detroit from the New York Rangers with Sandy Snow in a trade for Terry Sawchuk. However, Jeffrey would never be playing another game for the Red Wings.
A horrific knee injury suffered while playing a preseason game at Cleveland ended up proving to be career ending. Jeffrey worked out with the Wings all through the 1969-70 season but never saw any game action.
“His kneecap is only the size of a quarter,” Red Wings coach Sid Abel told writer Joe Falls. “I doubt Larry will ever be able to play again.”
“Sid’s wrong,” Jeffrey countered. “The kneecap is the size of a nickel. But I’ll play again. At least I hope I will. I just can’t give up. I’m too young for that.”
Hope did not spring eternal for Jeffrey. Abel was correct. He never played again and was forced to retire at the age of 29.