1924--2017 JOHNNY BOWER - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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1924--2017 JOHNNY BOWER


HE WAS OFTEN described as ageless, largely because the Hall of Fame goaltender kept his birthdate a mystery for much of his life. When Johnny Bower (born Johnny Kiszkan) was 15, he first lied about his age in order to enlist in the Canadian Army during World War II, claiming his birth certificate had been lost in a fire. Upon his return to Prince Albert, Sask., four years later, the only boy in a family of nine—who learned to play with goalie pads fashioned out of mattresses—backstopped a season for his hometown junior hockey team before turning pro and joining the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. He played for the New York Rangers in the 1953--54 season, but it wasn't until the summer of '58 that Bower, at age 34 (he would finally reveal his birthdate after retiring), became a regular NHL starter on Punch Imlach's Maple Leafs. Bower played 12 seasons in Toronto, where he won two Vezina trophies ('61 and '65), was named an All-Star four times and helped the Leafs win four Stanley Cups. Despite battling arthritis and nearsightedness later in his career, Bower remained a fixture in the Maple Leafs' goal well into his 40s. After a short battle with pneumonia, Bower died Dec. 26 at a hospital in Mississauga, Ont., at age 93.