Garth Boesch 1920 - 1998
Inducted 1999 Hockey
Garth stated that “reading, writing and arithmetic were absorbed somewhere between hockey, baseball, track and football” while growing up in Riceton. He began playing hockey at the local rinks and attended high school at Notre Dame College Wilcox playing under Father Athol Murray (1937-40). Garth stated that Father Athol Murray was a ‘special person’ who provided guidance while Garth played in the Junior Hockey League.
Following high school he played for the Regina Rangers of the Senior Hockey League winning the 1941 Allen Cup. The last game of the five-game series against the Sydney Millionaires was described as the most thrilling game in Allen Cup history. In June of 1941 Garth was claimed by the New York Americans (owner/coach Mervyn ‘Red’ Dutton) in an Inter-League draft. It was the 1941-42 season (still playing with the Regina Rangers) that Garth received his notice from the Canadian Armed Forces.
As a member of the Armed Forces Garth was not allowed to travel to the US so remained in Canada and played with the Lethbridge Maple Leafs of the Alberta Senior Hockey League. He was stationed there the next year and played for the Lethbridge Bombers (the Armed Services Team) of the Alberta Senior Hockey League. He was voted to 1st Team All-Star and won the MVP of the Year Award. He remained in Canada for the duration of the war to get his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) flying training and was a flight instructor based in Souris (where he received his 'wings' - pinned on his tunic by his father - one of his 'proudest' days) and Winnipeg MB. 1943-44 and 1944-45 were busy military years and no time for hockey. Garth was discharged during the 1945-46 season, he left the air force with a rank of Flying Officer.
During the war the New York Americans had folded and Garth’s rights were picked up by the Toronto Maple Leafs (1943). (Red Dutton was appointed to the position of ‘Governor of the NHL’ in 1943.) Following the war Garth was sent to the Pittsburgh Hornets, the Maple Leafs farm team. In 1946 Garth attended the Maple Leafs training camp and made the team.
[excerpt from Stan Fischler’s The Greatest Maple Leafs 1946-51] Only two players wore moustaches in the NHL during the 40’s – Don “Bones” Raleigh of the Rangers and Garth Boesch of the Maple Leafs. Raleigh’s was only a temporary fixture; Boesch’s remained permanent and complimented his cool defensive style. A Saskatchewan wheat farmer, Boesch was a cog in the Toronoto dynasty launched by Conn Smythe in 1946. From the 1947 playoffs through April 1949, the Leafs won three Stanley Cups in three tries aided by the superb play of Boesch. His defense partner was Bill Barilko and together, they perfected the Maginot Line knee drop, in which they would simultaneously fall to their knees to block enemy shots, as if they were connected by invisible rods. During the 1949-50 season, when Smythe conducted his notorious fight against fat on his team, Boesch was one of the few Leafs to check in on the scale under his established weight. As defensemen go, Boesch was one of the most underrated quality backliners ever to play in the majors.
Garth played 197 regular season and 34 playoff games in the NHL as a defenceman - all with the Maple Leafs. These Leafs were the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups (1947, 48, 49). He was known as a 'stay at home' defenceman rarely caught out of position and had a heavy body check. He was selected to play in two All-Star Games (1948 and 1949). Garth played with such notables as Syl Apps, Bill Barilko, Turk Broda, Bob Goldham, Howie Meeker, Nick and Don Metz. Conn Smythe once called him the most underrated player in the NHL and stated during the ’48 series “when Boesch plays, we win!”
He returned to the family farm and played baseball in the off-seasons. When his father passed away he chose to return to Riceton and farm full-time. He, along with his wife Billie, became proficient trap shooters with success at the provincial level. In 1950 Garth won the Saskatchewan Provincial Trap Shooting Championship in singles and doubles (with wife Billie). Garth was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sport Hall of Fame in 2013.