The arrival of Gilles Boisvert to the Detroit Red Wings was notable for both its timing and its magnitude.
On June 3, 1955, not even two months removed from Detroit’s second straight Stanley Cup title and fourth since 1950, Red Wings GM Jack Adams engineered a blockbuster deal that left hockey fans reeling.
Adams shipped NHL All-Star goalie and reigning Vezina Trophy holder Terry Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins along with forwards Vic Stasiuk, Marcel Bonin and Lorne Davis to the Boston Bruins in exchange for forwards Real Chevrefils, Ed Sandford, Norm Corcoran, goalie Boisvert and defenseman Warren Godfrey.
At the time, it was the largest exchange of players in a single trade in NHL history.
During the 1954-55 season, Boisvert’s pro rights belonged to the Montreal Canadiens. In the spring of 1955, he was on loan to Detroit’s Edmonton farm club to serve as standby goalie during the WHL playoffs.
1/4 Hockey lost a very special man on Thursday with the passing of Gilles Boisvert at age 89. I’d been a Facebook friend of Gilles for years and we spoke by phone on occasion. 693 games in goal from Junior B, only 3 in the NHL for @DetroitRedWings in November 1959. … pic.twitter.com/MiPXGZPwey
— Dave Stubbs 🇨🇦 (@Dave_Stubbs) October 1, 2022
“As I was practising with the team, the trainer approached me and said that I would be playing for Edmonton the next year,” Boisvert, who died Thursday at the age of 89, recalled last year in an interview with Detroit Hockey Now.
Instead, on June 1, 1955, he was claimed by Boston from the QSHL’s Montreal Royals during the Inter-League Draft.
“I said to my wife, Boston is a long way from Edmonton,” Boisvert said. “Then the trade happened.”
The blockbsuter nine-player deal took place on June 3, 1955.
Boisvert Played Three Games For Red Wings
Boisvert would be waiting almost five years before getting an NHL chance with the Red Wings. In late November of 1959, Detroit goalie Sawchuk, the man Boisvert was traded for in 1955, was hospitalized with viral neuritis. Red Wings No. 2 goalie Dennis Riggin was in the WHL with Edmonton. Detroit could never get him to Olympia Stadium in time for a Nov. 26 game against the Canadiens.
Boisvert, third on the Red Wings goalie depth chart, was on loan to the AHL Cleveland Barons, a much closer journey. There was just one problem – Boisvert was on a bus with his Cleveland teammates, heading to a road game in Springfield, Mass.
A call to the New York State troopers dispatched a police cruiser to track down the bus and pull it over. Boisvert was summoned off the bus and escorted to the Syracuse airport, where he caught a flight to Detroit. The drop of the puck was delayed 20 minutes to accommodate Boisvert’s arrival to the rink.
Boisvert 0-3 As Red Wings Netminder
It would be nice to report that Boisvert then backstopped the Red Wings to victory, but that wasn’t the case. He made 26 saves in a 4-2 loss to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Canadiens. This game was also notable in that Montreal netminder Jacques Plante wore a mask. It was the first time a masked goalie performed in an NHL game at Detroit. Andre Pronovost, grandfather of former Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha, assisted on the first NHL goal Boisvert ever allowed.
Two nights later, Boisvert made 25 saves but absorbed a 1-0 loss at Montreal. What would prove to be his final NHL appearance came on Nov. 29, 1959. Toronto beat Boisvert and the Red Wings 4-1 in Detroit. Sawchuk returned to the net for a 4-3 win over Boston on Dec. 5.
Although his NHL days were limited, Boisvert spent 16 seasons in pro hockey.