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This week on Small Town Hockey Heroes, we are going to look at Eddie Panagabko, a man who had a brief career in the NHL before venturing to success elsewhere in the hockey world.
Born on May 17, 1934 in Norquay, Saskatchewan, he would eventually make his way to the Humboldt Indians for the 1951-52 season. In 43 games with the team, he earned 50 points, followed by 14 more points in nine games in the playoffs. Panagabko would spend the next few years with the Indians, hitting a SJHL best in 1952-53 when he had 51 points in only 33 games.
This was followed by a very brief stay with the Seattle Bombers, one game, and then time with the Melville Millionaires and Grand Rapids Rockets. With the Rockets in 1954-55, he had 60 points in 60 games, enough to earn him a spot with the Boston Bruins the following year. It was during that season that the Indians were the best team in the SJHL, and league champions. This allowed them to take on the Western Canada Semi-Final, they took on the Regina Pats, beating them 5-3 in the first game before falling four straight after that.
After that run through the playoffs, it was time for Panagabko to take his run at the Bruins and NHL hockey.
In 28 games with the big club, he had three points. He spent part of the year with the Bruins and 41 games with the minor league Hershey Bears, where he had 41 points in 41 games.
In 1956-57, he would play one game for the Bruins, recording no points. That would be his last stay in the NHL.
For the next five years, he would spend his time in the AHL with the Hershey Bears and Providence Reds, with his best year coming in 1960-61, when he had 52 points in 68 games with the Reds. In 1957-58, he would win the Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears.
After his time in the minor leagues, he spent the next six seasons in the WHL with the L.A. Blades, San Francisco Seals and San Diego Gulls. He found his way to the WHL courtesy of a trade on July 26, 1962 when the Bruins traded him with Orland Kurtenbach and future considerations, which would be Gerry Ouellette, for Larry McNabb and cash. Kurtenbach for his part would go on to have a successful NHL career with the Maple Leafs, Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He would serve as the first-ever captain of the Canucks as well.
In 1962-63, he had his best season of hockey ever, recording 78 points in 70 games. That season, and the following one, he would captain the Seals to the Western Hockey League Championship, also known as the Lester Patrick Cup, twice.
Following one of the Cup wins, Panagabko spoke to the crowd, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, at the end of every hockey season, it is always hard for us players to say goodbye, even to one another…we don’t want to say goodbye. We just want to say so long.”
For some reason, probably related to an unhealthy habit, Panagabko had the nickname Eddie “Can Of Tobacco” Panagabko.
Panagabko would serve as captain, the second in the team’s history, from 1962 to 1965.
At the end of the 1967-68 season, he would officially call it a career at the age of 33.
Panagabko would pass away at the young age of 44 on Jan. 18, 1979.
Over the course of his career he would have 228 points in 346 games in the AHL, 60 points in 60 games in the IHL, 131 points in 108 games in the SJHL, 297 points in 378 games in the WHL and three points in 29 games in the NHL.
Information for this comes from Wikipedia, HockeyDB, Legends of Hockey, The California Golden Seals and Elite Prospects.