The tale of Wilf Cude is legendary within goaltending circles, and for good reason, especially among old-school netminders who have an appreciation for the game’s history. But even the youngest goalies can appreciate the pressures that caused Cude to crack.
Cude, a native of Wales who grew up in Manitoba, had a nice 10-year NHL career during the 1930s and early ’40s playing for five teams, primarily with the Montreal Canadiens (though he had a cup of coffee with the Boston Bruins in 1931-32). At 135 pounds, Cude was likely the smallest man to ever tend goal as a professional, and he often was used as a spare throughout his career, loaned to whichever team was suddenly in need of a goalie. He even managed to play in two All-Star games. However, it isn’t Cude’s playing career that was his claim to fame (or infamy). It was the way he left the game.
As the story goes, Cude sat down to a pregame dinner with his wife, his nerves more raw than his steak. Suddenly, and without warning, he picked up the slab of beef and flung it across the room, barely missing Mrs. Cude. The steak plastered against the wall, almost defying gravity. Reportedly, Cude told his wife: “If the steak comes down, I’m through.”
Cude was an ex-goalie an instant later when the sirloin hit the linoleum. Tell any goalie that story, and you’ll likely get a nod of understanding and a wry smile. Almost anyone who has ever played the position can empathize, and sympathize, with the diminutive Cude. Goaltending means dealing with immense pressure, and often taking on that emotional weight alone.