Remembering Gordon Strate, the Red Wing who never scored a point

No other player in NHL history played more games without scoring a point than Gordon Strate.

No other player in NHL history played more games without scoring a point than Gordon Strate.

To my way of thinking, you have to be pretty darn good hockey player just to skate a single 30-second shift in the National Hockey League. How good, then, would someone have to be to stick around for a total of 61 NHL games, despite not recording a single point in any of them?

That’s the question that popped into my mind when I recently came across Gordon Strate’s odd record for futility. His was the kind of oddball story that I’ve always enjoyed digging into.

Strate was a rugged defenseman who played parts of three seasons at Olympia Stadium in the late 1950s. Whether playing in the Western Hockey League (where he spent his early career) or suiting up for the Detroit Red Wings, the Edmonton native played the old-school, stay-at-home style of defense, which limited his chances for tallying points. But 61 games without getting on the scoring sheet? It was unprecedented. To this day, no other NHL player (except goalies) has skated in as many games without managing at least one point. The runner-up is Frank “Frosty” Peters, a New York Rangers blue-liner who played the entire 44-game schedule in 1930-31 without registering a goal or an assist.

Aside from Strate’s statistical quirk, I discovered another unusual aspect to his career. He belonged to the Church of Latter Day Saints. As a Mormon, Strate didn’t drink, smoke, cuss, or chase women, which had to set him apart from 99.7% of his contemporaries in the ‘50s. Strate, a second-team WHL All-Star in 1957, felt confident enough in his professional prospects to marry a young lady named Myrna. During their 56 years together they would produce six children and 33 grandchildren.

After playing 45 games with Detroit in 1957-58, Strate spent the next few years in the minors. Figuring his chances of returning to the NHL were slim, and with a growing family to feed, he left the game after one last season with Sudbury. He opened a tire shop in Fort St. John, British Columbia, which became a kind of local landmark. Upon retiring, he made his way back to his hometown of Edmonton. I intended to call Strate and ask him about his days in and out of hockey, to get his thoughts about his odd NHL record, maybe even get his opinion of Brother Mitt. But I was too late. He had died just a few months earlier, surrounded by loved ones. He was 77.

I decided against bothering his family. Instead, I scrolled through the dozens of reminiscences posted on the funeral home’s online book of condolences. I was struck not only by the number, but by the content. “As kids we were awed that a former, professional hockey player was in our home and such a gentleman and fun guy!” wrote a woman named Lona. “He was always such a kind-hearted man.” Said a fellow named Gene: “Gord was always a true gentleman who never failed to ask how you were, and how your family was.”

Surprisingly, there was not a single mention of Strate’s NHL career, and hardly any hockey references at all. The community knew the old rearguard for his beguiling half-smile, his love of gardening, his visits to sickly friends, his caroling of neighbors at Christmas, for a variety of small kindnesses. “The world would be a better place if more men were like Gordon Strate,” a person wrote. That sentiment was echoed by others, almost to the word. As an epitaph, it seems as good a way as any to close out this little story about Gordon Strate, the Wings defenseman whose life evidently was anything but pointless, even if his NHL career was.

6 replies on “Remembering Gordon Strate, the Red Wing who never scored a point

  • Dan

    Reading this article brings me great pride and fond memories! I grew up with Gord and went to school with his children and had great respect for them all. My parents always had hockey parties for the FSJ Flyers which Gord played many, many games with the boys. Trust me, he looked like a Pro and played very much at a high caliber of hockey and made the others who played with him step up their game many notches. In fact, during that time the Flyers were known far and wide as the team to beat and as a hockey child with dreams to be in the NHL, Gord Strate and the men who played hockey with him, were a big, big part of our lives and dreams. I can assure you that the way he loved and raised his family, there will be many more “Gord Strate’s” in the world who will carry on his ethics and kindness. May the pro’s of today live to contribute even half of what he did with his community and family.

    Fort St. John was and is very proud to have had him in our lives.

    Dan Watson and Family.

  • Paul Leriger

    I met Gord in 1965 when I moved to Fort St. John I played hockey with him till he retired and spent many years with him in Rotary he was always the true gentlemen I will always be thankful for the time spent with him and his wife Myrna

    Paul & Judy Leriger

  • Christine Wik Clark

    Fifty plus years ago Gordon agreed to be a lifeguard at my birthday party. He made it possible to rent the Fort hotel pool and ensure we all were safe and sound! Very kind and generous! Many great memories when the 2 families had dinner together. My dad Alf Wik played with Gord on the FSJ Flyers. Lots of hockey parties at our house! Had to have orange crush for Gord and Myrna. Such good memories!

  • Alice Lock

    Gord and Myrna were such special and fun people. He played hockey with my late husband Dale for years. Gord,Myrna and myself were the non drinkers in the bunch but you would never of known it..Gord was as silly and fun as you could get. Remembering him in his 1920s bathing suit still makes me laugh. A genuine gentleman….

  • Diane Jensen

    Mr. Strate (as the next younger generation we would never have used his first name!) was a gentle, hard working, soft spoken man who worked on many many community projects as a member of the Rotary Club, alongside my Dad Ben Jensen. I remember several events, including annual Father Daughter lunches where Dad and Gord alternated the honour of bringing the most daughters, our family with 4 girls, and the Strates with 5 eventually!
    I am very proud of those Dads and the way they lived the example of being great community (and people) supporters.

  • Nicole Strate

    I loved this! Thank you for giving me more information on my grandpa! it was so nice to know that other people liked him and that everybody remembers him! Thank you!

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