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That Night the Red Wings Trainer Played Goal for the Rangers

Julian Klymkiw. who died recently, enjoyed a unique NHL debut



Julian Klymkiw, former Red Wings trainer
Red Wings trainer Julian Klymkiw was pressed into action as a goalie for a 1958-59 NHL game.

The night of October 12, 1958 the Detroit Red Wings were playing their NHL season home opener at Olmypia Stadium against the New York Rangers.

It was a big night for a lot of players. Charlie Burns, Len Lunde, Claude Laforge, Gus Mortson, Dunc Fisher and Gerry Ehman were all making their Red Wings home debut. It was also the first home game with the team for Julian Klymkiw.

On September 3, 1958, Klymkiw (pronounced klem-Q) was acquired by the Red Wings from the Western Hockey League’s Winnipeg Warriors. He would be serving as assistant trainer and spare goaltender for the club. Little did they know that barely over a month later, he’d also be serving as their opponent.

Klymkiw, who died earlier this month in Winnipeg at the age of 89, was working the Detroit bench when the game began, handing out towels, tending to wounds. Before the night would be reaching a conclusion, Klymkiw would be finding himeself working in the net for the visiting Rangers.

Detroit was leading 1-0 entering the third period on a goal by Gordie Howe. Early in the frame, Red Kelly hit Howe with a lead pass. As Howe drove to the Rangers net, he was upended by New York defenseman Bill Gadsby. Howe went crashing into the Rangers goal and in the process, took out New York goalie Gump Worsley.

After examining Worsley on the ice, Red Wings team physician Dr. J. Donald Sheets was calling for a stretcher. The diagnosis was that the Gumper was suffering from a pulled tendon in his left leg.

Now In Goal For The Red Wings

The Rangers didn’t travel with a backup goaltender. Fortunately, the Red Wings had one on their bench. They ended up loaning Klymkiw to New York to finish the game.

However, there was no David Ayres-like happy ending for Klymkiw. Allowing two goals on nine shots over his 19 minutes of work, he would finish the night with a 6.32 goals-against average and a .778 save percentage. Detroit won 3-0, backed by a 24-save shutout from Terry Sawchuk.

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Like Sawchuk, the players beating Klymkiw were also destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Howe and Marcel Pronovost ended up scoring for the Red Wings. Howe’s goal was his 388th in the NHL.

Lengthy Minor Pro Career

That would be it for Klymkiw’s NHL career. A junior with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Klymkiw played one season in the IHL, seeing time in Michigan with the Grand Rapids Rockets. He also performed for two seasons in the WHL. Later, Klymkiw would be playing senior hockey in Winnipeg. Three times he tended goal in the Allan Cup playdowns.

A community leader following his playing days, the AHL Manitoba Moose, top farm club of the Winnipeg Jets, annually present the Julian Klymkiw Community Service Award. Among the pat winners was another former Red Wings goalie, Eric Comrie, now with the Buffalo Sabres