His teammates and friends called him "Pete" and although he was a small man, he was one of the most feared defensemen of Original Six hockey in the NHL. Pierre Pilote was born in Kenogami, Quebec, but his family moved to Fort Erie, Ontario, when he was young. He learned to skate as a child, but between the ages 14 and 17 he never played at all because the local rink burned down and he had nowhere to go. As a result, Pilote didn't play his first game of organized hockey until he was 17, and even then he almost had to quit because of bad luck.
He played parts of five seasons with the Buffalo Bisons, but during 1955-56 he was called up to the Black Hawks to try the NHL game. On his first shift, Tod Sloan of the Leafs walked around him for a great scoring chance, but his play improved steadily and by the next fall he was part of the team full-time.
Pilote also became renowned as a tough guy who should be avoided, a reputation enhanced when he knocked both Henri and Maurice Richard out cold during the same mix-up. Pilote played the next 376 games in a row with Chicago, including five seasons without missing a game. His "iron man" streak finally ended when he dislocated a shoulder during the 1961-62 season. Pilote was a superb defenseman at both ends of the ice. In his own zone he blocked shots fearlessly, but he also wasn't afraid to join the rush and he was a first-rate passer. He teamed with Elmer "Moose" Vasko on the blue line, and together they formed the best duo in the league in the late 1950s.
After the Hawks captured the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1961, Pilote was made captain in October 1961 on a team that also featured Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. He was named to the First or Second All-Star Team every year from 1960 to 1967 and played in eight consecutive All-Star games during that time. He won the Norris Trophy for three successive years, 1963 to 1965, and finished as one of Chicago's leading scorers from the blue line. In 1968 the Hawks traded their aging hero to Toronto for Jim Pappin, but Pilote played just one season with the Leafs before retiring. When he left the game, he made no apologies, shed no tears and didn't look back for a second.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.