This is what happened next to Connie Madison, the oldest rookie in NHL history

During the 1972-73 season, the St. Louis Blues had injury troubles. It got so bad that 12 defensemen played for them that season, and one of them was Cornelius ’Connie’ Madigan.

It’s not strange to call up players from affiliates or leagues with lower ranks than the NHL. However, there was something different with Connie Madigan, and with the call-up from the WHL, he set a groundbreaking NHL record that lives on today. And with how the game is played today and how well-organized, professional, and prepared teams are today, we’re pretty sure the record will never be beaten.

When Madigan got his call-up, he didn’t know he was setting a record. It wasn’t until after his first game that a broadcaster came up to him and told him the news: He was the oldest player ever to make his debut in the NHL.

Some goalies have been older when playing their first NHL game, but no skater has ever been older than Connie Madigan’s 38 in 1973.

Madigan had been a standout defenseman in the old Western League. He was a tough guy, someone you didn’t mess with, and he earned the nickname ’Mad Dog.’ Don Cherry played with Madigan when in WHL’s Spokane Comets. He was a great teammate and a good skater, but mostly tough. When Cherry played against Madigan, it wasn’t as fun.

“I came down the ice with the puck and Connie swung his stick and broke it over my arm. I dropped the puck back to the teammate behind me, and he was so afraid of Connie that he didn’t touch the puck,” Cherry told The Hockey News.

OCT 7 1963, OCT 27 1983 Howe, Marty Spts file 5p Denver Post Photo by Duane Howell Denver Blueliners Grid for Vancouver Invaders defensemen Marty Howe and Connie Madigan. Marty Howe (left) former DU All-America and Con Madigan (right) reteran WHL defense who form a tough blue line ***** for the Denver Invaders Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

For some time, Madigan was one of the best defensemen in the WHL, earning several all-stars. He was too good to sell to an NHL team, so he just stayed in the minors.

And he did so until he was called up by the Blues, who traded for Madigan’s rights in exchange for a minor-league player and cash. He played 20 games in the NHL before returning to the minors.

Ross “Mad Dog” Madison in Slap Shot

Just four years after making his debut, he gained widespread fame with the cult movie Slap Shot, still known as one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

In the movie, Madigan appeared as the menace ”Ross ’Mad Dog’ Madison.” He was the one who, memorably, gave the one-finger salute to the Charlestown fans before having a huge brawl with the Chiefs.

After Madigan’s NHL career, he was assigned to the WHL’s San Diego Gulls. Not long after, he was traded back to the Portland Buckaroos, and he stayed in the city until he died early January, 2024, in his longtime home of Portland. He was 89.

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