Terrance Gordon "Uke" Sawchuk (December 28, 1929 – May 31, 1970) was a Ukrainian Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played 21 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers.
Sawchuk was born and raised in East Kildonan, a working-class, Ukrainian section of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the third of four sons and one adopted daughter of Louis Sawchuk, a tinsmith who had come to Canada as a boy from the Austrian-controlled Ukraine, and his wife, Anne Maslak Sawchuk, a homemaker. The second son died young from scarlet fever and the oldest, an aspiring hockey goaltender whom Terry idolized, died suddenly of a heart attack at age seventeen. At age twelve, Sawchuk injured his right elbow playing football and, not wanting to be punished by his parents, hid the injury, preventing the dislocation from properly healing. Thus, the arm was left with limited mobility and several inches shorter than the left, and bothered him for his entire athletic career. After inheriting his older brother's goalie equipment, Sawchuk began playing ice hockey in a local league and worked for a sheet-metal company installing vents over bakery ovens. His goaltending talent was so evident that at age fourteen a local scout for the Detroit Red Wings had him work out with the team, who later signed him to an amateur contract and sent him to play for their junior team in Galt, Ontario, in 1946, where he also finished the eleventh grade but most likely did not graduate from high school. The Red Wings signed him to a professional contract in 1947, and he quickly progressed through their developmental system, winning honors as the Rookie of the Year in both the U.S. and American Hockey Leagues. Sawchuk also capably filled in for seven games when the Detroit goalie Harry Lumley was injured in January 1950. Sawchuk showed such promise that the Red Wings traded Lumley to the Chicago Black Hawks, even though he had just led the team to the 1949–1950 Stanley Cup. Nicknamed "Ukey" or "The Uke" by his teammates because of his Ukrainian ancestry, Sawchuk led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups in five years, winning the Calder Trophy as the top rookie (the first to win such honors in all three professional hockey leagues) and three Vezina Trophies for the fewest goals allowed (he missed out the other two years by one goal). He was selected as an All-Star five times in his first five years in the NHL, had an astounding fifty-six shutouts, and his goals-against average (GAA) remained under 2.00. In the 1951–1952 playoffs the Red Wings swept both the Black Hawks and the Montreal Canadiens, with Sawchuk surrendering just five goals in eight games (for a minuscule 0.67 GAA), with four shutouts.
The chubby Sawchuk was ordered by Detroit general manager Jack Adams to lose weight before the 1951–1952 season, and his personality seemed to change when he dropped more than forty pounds, becoming sullen and withdrawn. He became increasingly surly with reporters and fans, and preferred doing crossword puzzles to giving interviews, and struggled for years to regain the weight. Also contributing to his moodiness and self-doubt was the pressure of playing day in and day out despite repeated injuries — there were no backup goaltenders. He frequently played through pain, and during his career he had three operations on his right elbow, an appendectomy, countless cuts and bruises, a broken instep, a collapsed lung, ruptured discs in his back, and severed tendons in his hand. Years of crouching in the net caused Sawchuk to walk with a permanent stoop and resulted in lordosis (swayback), which prevented him from sleeping for more than two hours at a time. He also received approximately 400 stitches to his face before adopting a protective facemask in 1962. In 1966, Life Magazine had a make-up artist apply stitches and scars to Sawchuk's face to demonstrate all of the injuries to his face over the years. The make-up artist did not have enough room for everything.