He may have lost his NHL shutout record this week but now the family of the late Terry Sawchuk would like to find his two stolen Stanley Cup rings.
The guy who beat this long-held record earned it. But whoever stole the rings not only didn't, but also fleeced a nice family of some very special memories.
It would be a nice Christmas present to see them returned.
"It has been a mystery for almost 40 years," said Sawchuk's 55-year-old son, Jerry, one of seven children. "We feel the rings are still out there somewhere."
And perhaps thanks to New Jersey Devil Martin Brodeur's 104th shutout this week, the extra spotlight on the legendary Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender from Winnipeg, who won four Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies in a brilliant 21-year career, will help shed light on their location.
"He didn't get rings for the earlier championships," said Jerry yesterday, from his home in Michigan. "One was from the 1955 Stanley Cup with the Red Wings and the other from the 1967 Maple Leafs."
This has been a roller-coaster week for the Sawchuks. Their dad's 103 shutout record had held up for the almost four decades since he died at 40 on May 31, 1970 in New York after an off-ice scuffle with Rangers teammate Ron Stewart.
Sawchuk received internal injuries and died of a pulmonary embolism. "We don't like to talk about it," said Jerry. "It was a bit of both their fault."
At the time of the "incident" Jerry was 15. "I will never forget when the doctor came to tell me. It was a shock."
Jerry relived that sadness Monday night when Brodeur was going for the record. "I was actually asleep on the couch when my son came in and 'said you better get up because Martin has a shutout going and there is only seven minutes left.'"
The Sawchuks are big hockey fans and have the NHL network so they were watching as Brodeur brought home the record.
"It was very emotional," said Jerry. "I had tears because I know what my dad went through to get it."
Records are "made to be broken" and "we went through his before when Patrick Roy was the first to beat his most wins record (447)." Roy "was so classy" when they met him and the family has put out a congratulatory call to Brodeur, whom they also hope to meet.
Jerry said he never once heard his battle-worn, scarred and much-stitched-up father comment on his achievements.
"He didn't like being put on a pedestal and never challenged his salary which was $36,000 in his final year."
Calling him humble and friendly, teammate Ron Ellis agreed. "He never talked about himself."
In fact, Sawchuk didn't talk much at all -- particularly on game days. "You could call him a loner."
But, says Ellis, Terry let his play between the pipes do the talking. "He was great. He had agility and was quick. The way Terry challenged Bobby Hull in the 1967 playoffs was something else."
Jerry said it was the one cup he was old enough to remember.
"It was awesome," he said. "He showed me the bruise on his shoulder where Hull had hit him. It was like a rainbow."
There wasn't much celebration that went with his cup wins. Jerry said his dad was someone who today would be described as having clinical depression, which was not treated.
"I don't think people understood the suffering he went through," he said. "He shouldn't have been an athlete. He was a freak of nature and was driven by two things -- fear and adrenalin."
His fear was "of losing his job because he didn't know how he was going to feed his family if he did. He was always insecure about it. That's why, despite horrible injuries, he hung on."
In the year after his father's death, said Jerry, someone broke into the family's home and took off with the two rings. "We were already in turmoil because it was just after dad had died," said Jerry.
But today those rings would mean a lot to Terry's family because they were a piece of him and of his tremendous accomplishments.
"We look for them at sports shows and auctions," he said. "So far no luck."
But the rings are out there somewhere. Who has them?
Don Cherry last night urged whomever that is, to end the game once and for all.
"They would be a hero to me if they did. I mean they can't wear them or put them on eBay so why not put them in the mail to make a family very happy," said Cherry.
"Terry deserved those rings and I will tell you as someone who was at a Leafs training camp he was the only guy who would sit down and have a beer with the minor leaguers. He wasn't a phoney and told it like it was. He was sure nice to us."
Don is right. If you have them, contact the police or the Hockey Hall of Fame and return the rings to the Sawchuks. Same goes if you know who has them.
"It would be great to see them again," Jerry said. "If someone could return them there sure would be some happy grandkids."
Perhaps somebody this Christmas can do the right thing and give those two rings back to the family of the man who earned them.