It has been almost a year to this day that Sault-native and famed NHLer Chico Maki has died. If you listen closely on quiet nights you might be able to still hear the young voices of Maki and friends like Gene Ubriaco playing ball hockey on Wallace Terrace or at the rink in the old Central Park.
I have an old NHL Coke-a-cola hockey card of Chico and his teammates too like Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. I bought it online years ago and used to look at, not knowing he was from the Sault until I saw his picture on our Wall of Fame at the Essar Centre. Now as then, it is something I cherish.
Chico Maki was an important NHL player from the original-six era who spent his 15-year career checking the opposition and setting up his big-star teammates.
Maki, who died August 25th at age 76 at his home in Port Dover, Ont., was never known for his scoring alongside the other stars but he netted the puck 143 times during his 15-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks.
But it was his selfless play, going into the corner to get the puck and to feed the likes of another Saultite, Phil Esposito and Bobby Hull, that earned him widespread respect and celebrity status which survived long after he retired the axe, as they say.
He played Junior B in Simcoe in the 1950s and lived in the area during the off-season and after his retirement from hockey in 1975.
He once turned down a chance to play in the WHA with Bobby Hull because he was so loyal to the Blackhawks.
He won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 1961 and made it to three NHL all-star games.
In one, he netted a goal 36 seconds after the opening faceoff – a record at the time for the fastest goal to start an all-star game.
He finished his career with 436 points.
He was inducted into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition in 2001.
He actually came back to the Sault in 1959-60 to play a game with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds and got an assist in that single game.
Most of his career though was centred around the Blackhawks and their farm team the St.Catherine’s Teepees.
In his last two seasons with the Teepees he got about a point per game but his best season with the Blackhawks was one of his last in 1971-72 where he grabbed 47 points in just 62 games and 5 points in 8 games of that playoff year.
Maki played for the Hawks from 1961-62 up until 1975-76.
He is a part of Sault History I will have to explore further and was sad I couldn’t get to talk to anyone this time about him and to go into all the great things his did for the game.
R.I.P. Chico. God Bless.