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Unsung Hawks: Phil Russell

Wednesday, 12.16.2009 / 10:59 AM / Features
By Harvey Wittenberg  - Web Contributor
Russell's franchise-record eight penalties in a game still stands.
Breaking into the NHL ranks right from junior hockey is no easy feat; even the great Gordie Howe began his career in the minors. It's even more notable when you can do it with a team that finished first in its division the three previous seasons.

Phil "Rusty" Russell made such a jump, coming to the Blackhawks in 1972 after being selected 13th overall in the entry draft. Phil was regarded even then as a potential NHL enforcer, having led the WCHL in penalty minutes in both of his seasons with the league's Edmonton squad. He was known as a hard-nosed defender who skated well for his size and was also a smart puck handler.

Even with a team that included the likes of Keith Magnuson and Jerry "King Kong" Korab, Russell made an immediate impact in Chicago, most often on the bodies of Blackhawks opponents.

In each of his first five seasons with Chicago, Russell led the team in penalty minutes. He also set a team record when he picked up eight penalties in game on March 26,1977 against Minnesota, including six minors, a misconduct and a game misconduct.

Phil appeared in 504 games for the Hawks between 1972 and March, 1979, and racked up 1,288 penalty minutes during that span.

In 1979, Russell was involved in one of the biggest trades in Blackhawks history, when Chicago sent him go to Atlanta with Ivan Boldirev and Darcy Rota in exchange for five players, including Tom Lysiak.

After retiring from hockey in 1987, Phil came back to Chicago, scouted for the Blackhawks and operated a local pub. He also coached hockey at various levels, including one season with the Blackhawks' then-ECHL affiliate in Pensacola with fellow former Hawk John Marks.

Phil still resides in the Chicago area and remains active with the Blackhawks Alumni Association.