Long before Cory Schneider or Martin Brodeur were the Devils’ stars in the nets, there was one man who was the face of the Devils franchise. He was a champion on Long Island, traded west to Denver and came with the team back east. He would go on, after his career was over, to become a coach and, finally, a beloved broadcaster. He is Glenn “Chico” Resch and on October 24, 2014, the Devils paid tribute to a good friend.
Glenn Resch was born on July 10, 1948 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He gained the nickname Chico during the 1970’s from Islander teammate Doug Rombough due to his resemblance to Freddie Prinze’s character on the popular television show Chico and the Man. After a year with the Regina Pats of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, he chose a path that was almost unheard of at the time for a Canadian player: he moved south and chose to play NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. After three seasons with the Bulldogs (including being named to the All-WCHA Second Team in 1970-71) and graduating with a degree in education, he was not drafted by an NHL team and joined the Muskegon Mohawks of the International Hockey League for the 1971-72 season. After a year in the IHL where he played 59 games and posted a 3.10 goals against average as well as four shutouts (he also took home the James Norris Memorial Trophy [fewest goals allowed], was rookie of the year and selected to the First All-Star Team), he moved on to the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League for the 1972-73 season. In his lone season in the AHL, Chico put up a 4.14 GAA in 43 games played. His minor league odyssey continued in 1973-74 when he moved to the Central Hockey League and the Fort Worth Wings. The difference was, the Wings were a part of the New York Islanders organization, as Chico was now on the cusp of making his debut in the NHL. He would again spend one season in the CHL where he would go 24-20-11 in 55 games. His 3.18 GAA would help net him MVP and First Team All-Star honors.
After playing two games for the Islanders in 1973-74, Chico would arrive in the NHL full time in 1974-75 and would never look back. He played 25 games in 1974-75 going 12-7-5, but his breakthrough season was 1975-76 when he played in 44 games going 23-11-8 with a 2.07 GAA. That year he finished second in Calder Trophy voting and was a Second Team All-Star. Chico would spend almost five more years with the Isles, but his playing time would erode each year as Billy Smith rose to become the Islanders’ undisputed number one. He would be named a Second Team All-Star in 1978-79 posting a 26-7-10 record with a 2.50 GAA and would win his only Stanley Cup with the team in 1980, but he was firmly entrenched as a backup by then. The Islanders were on the rise to becoming an NHL dynasty, but it would be without Chico, as he would soon be on the move.
On March 10, 1981, the Islanders traded Chico along with Steve Tambellini to the lowly Colorado Rockies for Mike McEwen and Jari Kaarela. For the players moving east, it must have been a gift from heaven, as they were going from the bottom feeding Rockies to the Stanley Cup-bound Isles. For Chico and Tambellini, it must have felt the complete opposite. But Chico, a man known for his undying optimism, embraced the challenge and soon became the Rockies’ number one. He started eight games for the lowly Rockies that first year, posting his first ever NHL losing record at 2-4-2. He did not fare much better in his second year in Colorado, the franchise’s final in Denver, going 16-31-11 in 1981-82 with a 4.03 GAA. However, it was not a lost season, as Chico would win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” Then, on June 30, 1982, everything would change for the Colorado Rockies franchise as new owner Dr. John McMullen was granted permission to move the team to East Rutherford, New Jersey and the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Chico was headed back east.
Chico Resch’s contribution to the early days of the New Jersey Devils cannot be overlooked. He was a name that many fans in the New York metropolitan area already recognized due to his time with the Islanders and, thus, the jovial goaltender became the face of a franchise that needed one more than anything else in those early seasons. That inaugural season in Jersey saw Chico post a 15-35-12 record for a struggling team with a 3.98 GAA. The next year would see Chico pick up his 200th career victory against his former team, the New York Islanders (a team the Devils had – rightfully so – struggled against in their young history), but his record slipped to 9-31-3 in 51 games with a 4.18 GAA and a .871 save percentage (a new stat recorded for the first time in 1983-84. In Chico’s final full season with the Devils in 1984-85, he, again, played 51 games improving to 15-27-5 with a 4.16 GAA and a .857 SV%. In 1985-86, Chico would play 31 games with the Devils going 10-20-0 before he was traded away to the team’s Turnpike Rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Sent to Philly for the Flyers’ 3rd round choice in the 1986 NHL Draft (Marc Laniel) on March 11, 1986, this remains the first and only trade between the two teams since the Devils arrived in New Jersey. Chico would play a total of 22 games for the Flyers between 1985-86 and 1986-87 posing a 2.96 GAA and a .900 SV% before hanging it up for good in 1987.
Upon his retirement, Chico did some broadcasting for the Minnesota North Stars (he already had some broadcasting experience, having worked for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada during the playoffs following his team’s elimination in the 1970’s). Following his one year stint as a broadcaster for the North Stars in 1987-88, Chico worked first as a general manager in junior hockey and then as the goaltending coach for the expansion Ottawa Senators. In 1996, Resch joined Sports Channel New York as a color commentator alongside Mike “Doc” Emrick for the New Jersey Devils. That pairing continued until Emrick left the team to work fulltime for NBC and Chico was partnered with Steve Cangialosi. Chico announced his retirement as an announcer shortly before the end of the 2013-14 season and called his last game in the Devils’ season-ending win over the Boston Bruins on April 13, 2014.
Chico returned to Prudential Center on October 24 to be greeted by thousands of his closest friends. Whether fans remembered him as an Islander, from his days as an early Devil, or as his days of eating and greeting on TV, everyone had a Chico memory and they were all on display that night. Hosted by “Doc” Emrick, the festivities included a speech from the man himself and footage of the Devils presenting him with a new boat, which should serve him very well as Chico enjoys his retirement in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” One of the best gifts, though, undoubtedly came from the National Hockey League itself, as Chico was granted his own day with the Stanley Cup (the tradition of each player getting the Cup for a day did not exist when Chico and the Islanders won it in 1980). In a great touch, the naturalized US citizen, who represented Team USA in two Canada Cup tournaments, was granted his wish as Devils anthem singer, Arlette, sang a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” prior to the start of the Devils game against the Dallas Stars. Later, on the MSG Plus broadcast, Chico would reunite with Emrick and Cangialosi on commentary for the television audience.
Although the Devils ultimately dropped the game to Dallas in a shootout, Chico’s undying optimism could be felt throughout the building and there was a feeling that, although the Devils might have been down tonight, there was more hockey to be played and things would work out in the end.
So, from this Devils fan and from Devils fans everywhere: Thank You, Chico.