In his 11 bruising seasons as a Chicago Blackhawks defenseman,
Keith Magnuson was Mr. Popularity in the Windy City, beloved by
fans and teammates. So devoted was he to the art of hockey
pugilism that he took karate lessons before his first NHL season
and boxing lessons before his second. "He fought quite a bit,"
says former teammate Stan Mikita. "There was only one problem
with Maggie's fighting. He kept leading with his chin."
This is an article from the March 1, 1999 issue
Magnuson, a 6-foot, 185-pound Alfred E. Newman look-alike, led
Denver to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1968 and '69 and
then joined the Blackhawks, who had a league-best 45-22-9 record
his first season. While his more noted Chicago teammates--among
them hockey titans Mikita and Bobby Hull and goaltending
sensation Tony Esposito--received the glory, Magnuson did much
of the dirty work, leading the league with 213 penalty minutes.
In his second season Magnuson tried to expand his role by
carrying the puck more but was immediately rebuffed. "Pat
Stapleton came up to me and said, 'Maggie, we need you to hit,'"
recalls Magnuson, now 51. He proceeded to set a single-season
NHL record (since eclipsed) with 291 penalty minutes. He helped
the Blackhawks claw their way into the 1971 Stanley Cup finals,
in which they lost an epic seven-game series to the Montreal
Magnuson crunched bones, bloodied noses and blocked shots in
Chicago for nine more seasons--the last three as captain--until
knee injuries forced him off the ice in 1980, whereupon the
Blackhawks asked him to be a coach. He rose to the head coaching
job, but after two years and an uninspiring 49-57-26 record, he
quit. "It was killing me," he says. "My family was too young.
Hockey is worth a lot to me, but it's not worth my family."
In 1984 Magnuson went to work full time for the Coca-Cola
Bottling Company of Chicago, for which he had been a part-time
spokesman and sales rep, and worked his way up the ranks,
becoming a vice president in '98. He and his wife, Cindy, live
in Lake Forest, Ill., where they raised their two children,
Kevin, 22, and Molly, 19.
Kevin followed Keith into hockey, playing defense for Michigan.
Last year, as a sophomore, three decades after Keith celebrated
his first NCAA crown, Kevin helped the Wolverines win the title.
"I had told him when he was a youngster that the greatest thing
you can do is be on a hockey scholarship and win an NCAA
championship," says Keith. "As I was hugging him after the game,
he said, 'Dad, we did it.'"
--Luis Fernando Llosa