John Melvin "Sudden Death" Hill - Born February 15, 1914 in Glenboro, Manitoba – Died April 11, 1996 in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskachewan was a professional ice Hockey right winger.
Hill played his junior Hockey for the Saskatoon Tigers, starting in 1932, then joined the Saskatoon Wesleys for the 1933-34 season.
Hill would then go to Ontario and play for the Sudbury Wolves in the 1934-35 season, and then join the Sudbury Frood Miners in 1935. His last season in Sudbury (1936-37), which saw him score a league leading 18 goals in 15 games, and Hill scored 8 goals and 14 assists in the playoffs, leading his team to the 1937 Allan Cup championship, along with the Northern Ontario Hockey Association Championship 1937 and the Nickel Belt Hockey League Championship 1937.
Hill was signed as a free agent by the Boston Bruins on October 26, 1937, and he spent most of the season with Providence Reds of the IAHL, but did get to play in 6 games with the Bruins, scoring 2 goals.
The following year Hill was a full time Bruins forward, playing in 46 regular season, Hill scored ten goals and had twenty points, but it was in the playoffs that year that he rose into prominence. In the semi-finals that year against the New York Rangers, he scored three sudden-death overtime goals to help the Bruins knock off the New York Rangers.
"The first game (2-1) was a real endurance test, " Hill recalled. " It went on for three overtimes. Bill Cowley fed me a pass down the wing and I beat Davey Kerr with a high shot to put us ahead in the series. I scored on Kerr again the following night in overtime (3-2) and we took a 2-0 lead over New York."
Boston won the third game as well before Rangers unthinkably roared back with three straight wins to set up a deciding seventh game at the Boston Garden. Once again the teams battled to an overtime after Ray Getliffe had scored for Boston and Muzz Patrick for New York to make it 1-1. Like in game one the teams played two scoreless overtime periods before Mel became the hero once more.
"It was around eight minutes of the third overtime, " Hill remembered. " Cowley fed me a pass from behind the net and I was right on top of Rangers goalie Bert Gardiner. I held the puck for a second then flipped it up into the net on the short side. The fans went wild and it was a tremendous thrill to win a series for my team. "
In the Stanley Cup final against Toronto, Mel once again was a key figure as Boston won in five games. He assisted on both of Roy Conacher's goals as Boston won game four 2-0. Hill also opened the scoring in the Cup clinching game that Boston won 3-1. All in all Mel scored 6 goals and 3 assists in the playoffs that year, helping the Bruins win the 1939 Stanley Cup championship.
Hill earned his nickname "Sudden Death" this playoffs by scoring a record three successive overtime goals.
The next 2 seasons were average if not slow seasons for Hill, as her scored only 9 goals and 11 assists in the 1939-40 season and even less the next season, but would score a very important goal in the 1941 playoffs, as he scored the semifinal-series clinching goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"That one ranks right up with the goals against New York, " Mel said, " I came out of the corner with the puck and fired a hot shot past Turk Broda. We went on and rolled over Detroit in four straight games to win the 1941 Stanley Cup."
Hill was traded to the Brooklyn Americans for cash on June 27, 1941. He only played one season in Brooklyn as the team folded, but he scored 37 points in 47 games there. After the season his rights were transferred to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the dispersal draft, and played in 49 games with the Leafs, contributing 44 points in his first season in Toronto.
The 1942–43 proved to be Hill's best in the NHL, as he scored seventeen goals and forty-four points (17+27) in forty-nine games.
A broken ankle 17 games into the 1943-44 season sidelined Hill until the following fall, when he came back to help the Maple Leafs to the 1945 Stanley Cup championship, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in the playoffs.
Hill played 35 games for the Maple Leafs the following year, and was then sent to the Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL. He played the next two seasons for the Hornets, and helped them to the 1947 American Hockey League / AHL Finals for the second time in team history, losing Game 7 to the Hershey Bears. Hill scored 3 goals and 6 assists in the playoffs.
Hill would finish his Hockey career with the Regina Capitals from 1948 to 1952, and once again returning to the Allan Cup championship series, this time in 1949 and losing in 5 games to the Ottawa Senators. Hill would score 8 goals and 6 assists in the playoffs.
Mel Hill admitted that carrying the tag of " Sudden Death" wasn't so easy at times.
"It wasn't an easy tag to carry the rest of my career. It seemed like I was expected to be the hero in every playoff game from that moment on. The name "Sudden Death" was easier to live with after I retired," Mel jokingly said.
Gordie Howe Quote
“Everything developed from Hockey. I used to listen to the radio and follow the Turk Broda’s and the Syd Howe’s, and all the great Hockey players. There was a great name in Hockey by the name of Mel Hill. When I was a young fellow about 9 years of age, he used to drive by our house in a great big convertible, sitting proud as a peacock, and that was a professional Hockey player. I think that did it. I used to dream about it.
John Melvin (Mel) Hill is a “Honoured Member” of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted in 1985.
Mel "Sudden Death" Hill was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2004