Alexander Peter "Fats" Delvecchio - Born December 4, 1931 in Fort William, Ontario is a Canadian former professional ice Hockey centre/left winger, coach, and general manager.
Delvecchio played his first organized Hockey for the Knights of Columbus Canadiens. A Detroit Red Wings scout named Lou Passador, who was working in the Lakehead region of Northern Ontario, spotted the young Delvecchio and recommended Alex to Detroit general manager Jack Adams. Adams signed the youngster and Alex was placed on Passador's Fort William Hurricanes, a Junior B team. In two years there, Delvecchio grew five inches in height and gained twenty pounds. The Red Wings GM transferred the seventeen-year-old to the Detroit-sponsored Oshawa Generals, a junior team in the Ontario Hockey Association / OHA.
Delvecchio finished second in the OHA, scoring 49 goals and adding 72 assists for 121 points. The productivity forced Red Wings GM Jack Adams to turn Delvecchio professional, in spite of his still retaining a year of junior eligibility.
During the 1950-51 campaign, Delvecchio played his first game in the NHL - a contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "I probably didn't get off the bench," Alex laughed many years later.
Delvecchio started the 1951-52 season with the Indianapolis Capitols, Detroit's American Hockey League / AHL affiliate. In the first six games, he had scored three goals and six assists. The Red Wings took notice, and brought Delvecchio up to the NHL full time as a centre. in the 1951-52 season, his first full season with the Red Wings, the rookie scored 15 goals and 22 assists, helping Detroit finish first through the regular season, and then in the payoffs, Delvecchio had 3 assists, as the Red Wings won the 1952 Stanley Cup in eight straight games.
Delvecchio would go on to excel both at centre and left wing for 22 full seasons and parts of two others for the Red Wings, and was notable for his spot on the "Production Line" with linemates Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. In 1954 and 1955, the Red Wings also won the Stanley Cup championship.
From his NHL debut, Alex established himself as a skilled goal scorer, but prided himself more on his playmaking abilities. "The goals are nice, of course, but I've always taken a lot of pride in assists. It's a centreman's job to get assists," he stated.
Delvecchio cracked the twenty-goal mark for the first time in 1955-56 and finished ninth in NHL regular season scoring that season. It was the first of ten times Alex would finish in the top ten amongst the NHL's regular season scorers, accomplishing the feat again in 1957-58, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68 and 1968-69.
Delvecchio was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on three occasions - 1959, 1966 and 1969.
In 1962-63, Delvecchio assumed the captaincy in Detroit, replacing Gordie Howe, who was given an assistant coach title as well as continuing his play on right wing. Alex served as captain of the Red Wings until his retirement in 1973.
A broken ankle kept Delvecchio out of 22 games in 1956–57, but other than that, he hardly missed games, only missing 14 games over the final 16 seasons of his career.
Like so many of his peers, Alex Delvecchio felt the lure of the World Hockey Association when that professional league debuted in 1972. A very generous offer was tabled by the Houston Aeros which would allow Alex to re-join his friend and former linemate, Gordie Howe. "I'd spent my whole life with the Wings and, what the heck, I'd better finish with them," Delvecchio decided at that point. "Why fool around somewhere else for one year. Why not spend it right here where I enjoy playing hockey." In 1972, Alex was approaching his fortieth birthday, and had already played twenty-one seasons. "If I was younger and had another eight or ten years of hockey left, I would have really considered that Houston offer just for a change of scenery."
No player except Nicklas Lidström in NHL history played more games in a career spent with only one team. Despite his impressive career, Delvecchio was never the Red Wings' leading point scorer in a season. The closest he ever came was in the 1969–70 NHL season, where he was just three points behind Howe for the team lead.
On November 9, 1973, just 11 games into the season, Delvecchio, in his twenty-fourth NHL season, all with the Detroit Red Wings, and in his thirteenth campaign as captain, was selected by Red Wings' owner Bruce Norris and general manager Ned Harkness, to replace Ted Garvin as coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
When Delvecchio retired, he was only the second player in NHL history to play in twenty or more seasons with a single team. Linemate Gordie Howe was the first. During the twenty-four seasons with Detroit, Alex scoried twenty goals or better in thirteen of those seasons.
Delvecchio played in 1,549 regular season NHL games, scoring 456 goals and 825 assists, and played in 121 NHL playoff games, scoring 35 goals, 69 assists.
For some time, the Detroit Red Wings had promised Alex a career with the organization when the day finally came to hang up his skates. Coaching had been an occupation he had considered. "You look at things differently when you become coach," Delvecchio admitted in an interview at that time. "You are part of management and instead of thinking just about your own game, you are thinking about twenty guys. The thing that hit me immediately was practice; the difference of players in practice. Some players work their tails off while others hardly break a sweat. I remember my first reaction. 'Did this go on while I was a player?' It did, of course, but when I was a player, I was working on my own problems at practice and not paying attention to others."
Alex was later awarded the dual role of coach and general manager, hiring former Wing defenseman Doug Barkley in 1975 to handle the coaching duties so he could focus on the GM's role. Barkley lasted just two months and, after being relieved of his duties by Delvecchio, the GM went back behind the bench to coach. Alex was relieved of both the general manager's duties and the coaching responsibilities in March, 1977, and was replaced by former teammate, Ted Lindsay.
Delvecchio was the recipient of the Lester Patrick Award in 1974 for outstanding service to Hockey in the United States.
Alex Delvecchio was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.
Alex Delvecchio inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
The Detroit Red Wings retired #10 on November 10, 1991
Alex reflected on his life as a professional Hockey player, pointing out candidly how there are lows that go with the exceptional highs. "It's still a hard life for a man and his family. The professional athlete surrenders his life to his sport. He surrenders his social life, his freedom, his whole being. He is governed by managers and coaches. He is regimented. Often, there are rules as to when he goes to bed and when he wakes up, when he eats and what he wears. A professional athlete definitely cheats his family. He is not always there when his wife and children need him. His wife has to bear a lot of the burdens alone. The athlete so often is gone on the holidays. He is home a little while, then gone again. The family gets used to the routine. At first, maybe the little ones cry when you pack up to go away again. For a father, that's sad. I feel like I have not really gotten to know my children as well as I wanted to. They have grown up without me. That is a hard thing for a man to accept."