Hockey pioneer passes away
by Chris JUREWICZ|09 JAN 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
Tributes have poured in from around the hockey world following the passing of Reggie Savage on Christmas Eve.

The Montreal-born Savage died after a battle with cancer. He was 53.

Savage was selected by the Washington Capitals 15th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. He is among 11 Black players in the organization’s history who are honoured in a permanent display at Washington’s Capital One Arena.

“The Washington Capitals are saddened to learn of the passing of Reggie Savage, who spent three years in the Capitals organization from 1990-93,” the Capitals said in a statement. “Washington’s first-round pick in the 1988 NHL Draft, Savage began his professional career with the club’s AHL affiliate in Baltimore before making his NHL debut with the Capitals on Feb. 5, 1991. His talent and love of the game fueled a memorable playing career that spanned 15 seasons across several professional leagues and multiple continents.”

Savage overcame incredible odds to make the NHL as Black players were still few and far between in the league in the 1980s (in fact, the sport of hockey itself was much less diverse than it is today). He faced rampant racism throughout his minor hockey career in Quebec.

“My father always told him, ‘It's not because you're Black, it's because you're good,’” his sister Sonia Savage told "Sometimes, he would need security to get out of the arena. There was a lot of stuff that happened to him that we didn't know about it because he never complained. Reggie, he did what he had to do.”

Savage played 34 NHL games for the Capitals and Quebec Nordiques from 1990-94 and continued his professional career in the International Hockey League, American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, United Hockey League and in Italy and Switzerland until he retired in 2005. Among his personal accomplishments were a 42-goal campaign in 1991-92 with the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks and five 30-plus goal seasons in the American league, two with Baltimore, one with Springfield and two with Syracuse. He also scored 25 goals in 27 games with Asiago HC in Italy in 1998-99.

Savage’s junior hockey career was also the stuff of legend. He played three seasons with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres, scoring 68 goals and 122 points as a rookie in 1987-88 and then following that up with 113 and 94-point seasons. In 1986-87, the prolific scorer had 82 goals and 57 assists for 139 points in just 42 games with his under-18 club in Richelieu, helping guide the team to the Air Canada Cup, now called the Telus Cup, Canada’s under-18 national championship. He had 19 points in nine games at the Air Canada Cup and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Savage represented Canada at the 1989 IIHF World Junior Championship and had nine points in seven games to help Canada finish fourth. His points total was second on the team.

Savage scored his first NHL goal against the Minnesota North Stars on Nov. 18, 1992 in rare fashion. He scored on a penalty shot and the stick he used for the goal is displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“The NHL Alumni Association is devastated to learn that Reginald Savage has passed away at the age of 53 after his courageous battle with cancer,” said the NHL Alumni Association on Instagram.

Hockey Canada stated: “We send our condolences to the family and friends of Reggie Savage, a 1989 World Juniors alumnus and 1987 Air Canada Cup MVP.”