They gave Elmer Lach a car in 1952, yes, and that’s what everybody was focussed on, I’m sure, and remember, if there are still people who remember the night of March 8, a Saturday to some, maybe, but if you were one of the 14,452 fans at the Forum in Montreal, it was Elmer Lach Night. Lach, who died on Saturday at the age of 97, was much honoured over the course of his 14-year NHL career; his success is measured out in Hart and Art Ross trophies, along with the three Stanley Cups he helped Montreal to win. By 1952, he was, as La Patrie put it, the Habs’ centre-star and pillar-veteran. If anyone needed a reason beyond the adjectives to throw him a party, there was, too, the fact that Lach had recently become the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing a retired Bruin, Bill Cowley, and his 594 points.
Lach was at least a little bewildered by the whole affair, contemporary accounts affirm, if not entirely overwhelmed. He figured not at all on the scoresheet as the Canadiens tied Chicago 4-4. Between the second and third periods they got around to giving Lach his presents. His wife Kay came out on the ice, and their seven-year-old son, Ronnie, was there, too, with roses for her and a five-pound box of candies for him, and Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde spoke and so did Canadiens’ captain Butch Bouchard, and Toe Blake was on hand, Lach’s old linemate, three years’ retired, though not Maurice Richard, who was injured, and in Florida, though he did send a telegram, which they didn’t have time to read out on the ice, on account of there were altogether too many telegrams to read.
When it was Lach’s turn to speak, he started in French, and the Forum erupted: the roof and the wall burst, said La Patrie. The Gazette: “Such a roar went up that he was forced to hold up until it died down.”
The presents were said to be worth $10,000 — about $90,000 in today’s dollars. Whatever else you want to say about the loot, the volume and variety was impressive.
It included a cake, from Inter-City Baking in Montreal, and
from Pal Blade Corp., a supply of razorblades to last a lifetime.
Peoples Credit Jewelers awarded Lach a silver platter. From some minor officials who worked for the Canadiens he received … another a silver platter. The minor officials numbered ten, and their platter was inscribed with their names and the words In Appreciation of Your Great Sportsmanship With the Canadian Hockey Club.
A third silvery platter arrived from Lach’s hometown, Nokomis, Saskatchewan.
Living Room Furniture gave an armchair and
there was — from admirers and Hartney Limited — a bedroom set and a dining-room set.
Fans gave an Electrolux refrigerator and
there was a deep-freezer from International Harvester.
Also, thanks to Lavigne Window Shades,
Air Cool Venetian blinds for all Lach’s windows.
He got 100 pieces of dinnerware (Ronald Co.) and butchers’ knives (Glo-Hill Co.) and the employees of Butch Bouchard’s club gave him a garburator and
on behalf of the radio and print journalists covering the Canadiens, Baz O’Meara of The Montreal Star presented Lach with an all-in-one radio-phonograph.
Lach’s teammates gave him a washing-machine while
citizens of Lachine who thought the world of him pitched in for a television set.
A fan gave a cushion — maybe hand-stitched? I don’t know any more about that than I do about the blanket given by M. McIntosh or
the other three blankets that travelled all the way from Moose Jaw, sent by admirers.
From Waterman Co. Lach received three pens and pencils and
from A. Gutta, a woman’s bag and
also there were two shirts from Y. Lebrun and
three pairs of shoes from Salon Antoine as well as
a camera, from H. Kirshmer,
a golf bag from Harry Dennis and
a membership courtesy of the Lakeshore Golf Club.
Watches. Lebern Jewelry gave a Roamer and
Sabra Jewelry a Longines.
Letang Hardware contributed two travel clocks.
And what Soireé Elmer Lach would have been complete without a $50 Stetson hat (from the president of the Stetson Hat Co. himself)? Not this one. There was
a suit, too, from Joe Frifero and
a dressing gown that Jack Gold gave, also
a sports jacket from Frank Jerome and
from the mayor, a pair of cufflinks.
The car he got was a 1952 Oldsmobile “Rocket 88.”
Butch Bouchard drove it out to centre ice.
Wearing skates or not skates? I like to think skates.
Imperial Oil threw in 100 gallons of gas.
He got a pair of season’s tickets from the Montreal Baseball Club and
from M. O’Connell, a week’s vacation at O’Connell Lodge on Lac des Loups.
The thoughtful patients at the Hospital for Sick Children got him two dozen golf balls not to outdone by the hospital at Ste. Anne de Bellevue, which sent an ashtray.
From Studio Adolphe Lach got a portrait of himself and
from La Patrie a colour photograph while
not least, but last
there was a rowboat, from La Vecheres Engineering.
[Illustration/Photo: Classic Auctions]