Larry Zeidel was hockey's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
On the ice he was the evil Mr. Hyde and off the ice he was the nice Dr. Jekyll. He received the tag of "The fastest stick in the Midwest" and it wasn't because of his slick stickhandling. Larry had a reputation of using his stick as a spear whenever he felt it necessary, which was quite often.
No other professional player was involved in more stick swinging incidents than Larry. His most famous one came in the NHL against Bruins Eddie Shack. Both combatants tried to scalp each other after Shack had made racial remarks against Larry, who was Jewish. In another stick swinging incident that happened in the WHL it was Larry and Willie O'Ree (the first black player in the NHL) who tried to chop off each others heads. WHL's league president Al Leader almost expelled Larry from the league.
So how come that Larry became such a rough player? Larry had two explanations for this.
"I guess there are a couple of reasons. First, I played some senior hockey in Quebec City and we could play well and win, but the fans would rather have us involved in a real brawl and lose the game. There were a lot of rugged guys in the league at that time, too, so maybe it was partly a matter of survival. The other thing is that there's the big thing of being young and having stars in your eyes. The clubs themselves are as much or more to blame. They play up the tough guys. Guts, guts, guts is all you hear from a lot of coaches and managers, even as early as junior. I was playing for some coaches and managers who would tell me ' go get him ' ,so I did "
To Larry's defense it has to be said that he tried to clean up his "bad boy" image late in his career, but it was tough to convince the referees and opponents about that. Late in his career Larry explained how hard it was to get "straight".
" I feel my past is haunting me now, even though I'm trying very hard to avoid penalties. After you're regarded as a tough guy, every rough kid who comes along wants to make a name for himself, too, and because you've got that reputation, you're the target."
Larry was tough and fearless. During one game in 1955 he blocked a shot with his head that caught him in the temple. He continued to play but was later ejected from the game which probably saved his life. It was later revealed that he had sustained a serious skull fracture. In his early years Larry played for Porcupine Combines (NOHA), Verdun Maple Leafs (QJHL), Barrie Flyers (OHA), Quebec Aces (QSHL) and Saskatoon Quakers (SSHL). It was during his days in Saskatoon that he picked up his nickname "The Rock".
Larry made his NHL debut during the 1951-52 season for the Detroit Red Wings. His start couldn't have been better. He immediately won a Stanley Cup with Detroit that year. Larry also played a couple of games for Detroit in 1952-53 before being sold to Chicago in 1953. In Chicago he played one full season (53-54) before he was traded back to Detroit again. Larry spend the next 13 seasons in the minor leagues before being picked up by the expansion Philadelphia Flyers in 1967. He played very steady in Philadelphia and finished with a strong +12 rating for the expansion team. After a couple of games for Philly in 1968-69 he decided to retire, almost 41-years old.
Larry was one of the most controversial players of his time who had a sharp stick, elbows and tongue. He dished out a lot of blows but also was on the receiving end of many. Simply put, Larry didn't take any crap from anybody.