Grant Scott Fuhr is one of the most clutch goaltenders ever to play ice hockey.
Born in Spruce Grove—a small town 30 minutes west of Edmonton, Alberta—on this date in 1962, his birthfather was black and birthmother was white. Unable to care for their baby, young Grant placed with and adopted by Betty and Robert Fuhr, who gave him his first pair of skates at four. His boyhood idol was Glenn Hall—nicknamed “Mister Goalie” and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. At seven, Fuhr announced to his parents that he would one day play in the National Hockey League. A dozen years later, he made good on his word.
After playing two stellar seasons in goal for the Victoria Cougars in the junior Western Hockey League, 19-year-old Grant Fuhr was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the eighth overall pick of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. The Oilers were entering their third year in the league and head coach Glen Sather was teaming with head scout Barry Fraser to build a young nucleus of talent that would dominate the NHL in the coming years. The 5’10”, 201 pound Fuhr played in 48 games as a rookie, going 28-5-14 while amassing a 23-game unbeaten streak. In his first five seasons, Fuhr shared regular-season goaltending duties with Andy Moog but, come playoff time, Sather put his “money goalie” between the pipes. After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in his second year, Fuhr led Edmonton to their first Stanley Cup title in 1983-84. The following year, Fuhr was 15-3 in the postseason, leading the Oilers to their second straight Stanley Cup. In his third campaign, Fuhr stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced, tops in all of hockey. Led by a core of future hall of famers that included Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier [Daily Dose, 7/3/15], Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey [Daily Dose, 6/1/16], the Oilers won five championships between 1984 and 1990. Fuhr was brilliant in goal, amassing over 1,000 saves in four of those years.
In 1991, Fuhr was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-player deal. After a season and a half in Toronto, he was traded to Buffalo, where he teamed with Dominik Hasek to give up the fewest goals in the league. He rejoined Gretzky with the Los Angeles Kings in 1994-95 before spending the next three seasons in St. Louis. Fuhr played in a franchise-record 76 consecutive games for St. Louis in 1995-96 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the playoffs. Fuhr played his final NHL season with the Calgary Flames. On October 22, 1999, he won his 400th career game in goal, becoming only the sixth net-minder in NHL history to reach that milestone. Grant Fuhr announced his retirement from hockey following the 1999-2000 season.
Over the course of his 19 year NHL career, Grant Fuhr was a good regular season goalie. In the playoffs, he was great. Fuhr played in six Stanley Cup Finals and won five of them. His Edmonton Oiler teams were intelligent and immensely talented—particularly on offense, but their attacking style often left Fuhr without much defensive support. Fuhr won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 1988, the same season he finished second [to Gretzy] in voting for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Fuhr holds single-season goalie records for assists , games played , consecutive games played , and postseason wins [16, in 1988]. His 23-game undefeated streak in 1982 remains a rookie record. Fuhr won two Canada Cup gold medals, cementing his legacy by turning away shot after shot from the mighty Russian team in the three-game series in 1987. Mr. Fuhr played in six All-Star Games and had his number 31 retired by Edmonton in 2003. At the time of his retirement, Fuhr stood amongst the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, ranking sixth in career wins, ninth in games played, and second in assists. In 2003, the man that Wayne Gretzy has called, “the best goaltender in NHL history” was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, becoming the first black player to be enshrined.