pieri

toppazzini

Considered by most to be the greatest player in the long history of professional hockey in Rhode Island, Zellio Toppazzini was a prolific offensive talent over 15 American Hockey League seasons.

Toppazzini broke into the pro ranks with the Hershey Bears in 1948-49 and split his first three seasons between Hershey and the Boston Bruins. After beginning the 1951-52 campaign with the AHL’s Cincinnati Mohawks, the right winger was traded to the Providence Reds, setting the stage for a legend to be born.

The native of Copper Cliff, Ont., found a new home in Providence. Toppazzini notched 45 points in 33 games with the Reds after the trade and helped his new team reach the Calder Cup Finals. A year later, he led Providence in goals and points, and his 74 points in 62 games earned him Second Team AHL All-Star honors in 1954-55 despite the Reds’ last-place finish.

In 1955-56, Toppazzini was at the heart of one of the most impressive seasons by any team in AHL history, one that helped cement his place in Reds lore. “Topper” was named a First Team AHL All-Star, leading the circuit with 71 assists and 113 points in 64 games as Providence completed a worst-to-first turnaround, rolling to a league-best 45-17-2 record. He then added seven goals and 13 assists in just nine playoff contests – becoming the first AHL player ever with 20 points in a single postseason – as the Reds won the Calder Cup.

The championship would be the franchise’s last, but Toppazzini remained one of the elite players in the AHL for several more seasons. He recorded 53 points in 44 games while also seeing NHL action with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1956-57, and after sitting out the 1959-60 season he returned to the Reds and led the team with 31 goals during the 1960-61 campaign.

Toppazzini’s connection to Providence continued beyond his retirement in 1964. He made Rhode Island home for him and his family, and later coached at Providence College. In 2000, the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society selected Toppazzini as the team’s “Player of the Century,” an honor befitting the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (279), assists (448), points (727) and games played (650).

Toppazzini, who passed away in 2001 at the age of 71, ranks 13th on the AHL’s all-time scoring list with 786 points in 785 games.

Career AHL Statistics – Zellio Toppazzini
  Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1948-49 Hershey Bears 49 9 14 23 15 -- -- -- -- --
1949-50 Hershey Bears 34 16 9 25 6 -- -- -- -- --
1950-51 Hershey Bears 12 6 5 11 2 -- -- -- -- --
1951-52 Cincinnati Mohawks 7 2 4 6 0 -- -- -- -- --
  Providence Reds 33 20 25 45 6 11 3 7 10 2
1952-53 Providence Reds 64 35 32 67 23 -- -- -- -- --
1953-54 Providence Reds 70 33 43 76 18 -- -- -- -- --
1954-55 Providence Reds 62 21 53 74 12 -- -- -- -- --
1955-56 Providence Reds 64 42 71 113 44 9 7 13 20 2
1956-57 Providence Reds 44 13 40 53 16 5 0 1 1 4
1957-58 Providence Reds 70 27 42 69 14 5 1 1 2 0
1958-59 Providence Reds 67 17 38 55 14 -- -- -- -- --
1960-61 Providence Reds 68 31 34 65 2 -- -- -- -- --
1961-62 Providence Reds 66 21 36 57 2 3 1 2 3 0
1962-63 Providence Reds 61 16 24 40 10 6 4 4 8 0
1963-64 Providence Reds 14 1 6 7 0 1 0 0 0 0
  Playing Totals 785 310 476 786 184 40 16 28 44 8