An icy night in Quebec City; a hot hand, and a cold one.
That was the story , in sum, of a Saturday night 103 years ago last night, January 31, 1920, when, as the Quebec Chronicle put it, “Joe Malone had a scoring bee all by himself.”
Malone, 29, scored seven goals that night as his Quebec Bulldogs bamboozled the visiting Toronto St. Patricks by a score of 10-6; no-one since has scored more in an NHL game.
A review of the night’s events might include a mention that the crowd at the old Arena in Quebec was the smallest crowd of the season across the league in what was the NHL’s third season: just 1,200 spectators showed up.
It was a frigid night, to be fair, outside the rink as well as in. “The cold was so intense,” the Chronicle advised, “that [Corb] Denneny, the Toronto centre, had his right hand badly frozen during the game.”
Both teams made do with just eight skaters, I’ll mention, and while Quebec stuck with Frank Brophy in goal for the duration, Toronto switched out Ivan Mitchell after two periods in favour of Howie Lockhart. Mitchell allowed six goals, four of them by Malone, while reliever Lockhart saw four pass him by, three from Malone.
Malone might have had an eighth goal. Just before the first period expired, a shot of his hit Mitchell on the chest before trundling up and over his left shoulder and dropping down behind him. The goal judge wasn’t convinced that it had crossed the line, so no goal.
The other NHL game on the schedule that night in 1920 had the Senators hosting the Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa’s Laurier Street Arena, and that one ended 11-3 for the home team. Punch Broadbent scored a hattrick for Ottawa on Canadiens’ goaltender Georges Vézina; three other Senators, including Frank Nighbor, helped themselves to a pair.
Joe Malone’s outburst gave him 20 goals in 12 games, setting him up to win the NHL scoring title that season. In 24 games, he finished with 39 goals and 49 points, two goals and three points ahead of Montreal’s Newsy Lalonde.
Lalonde had actually scored six in a game against those same two Toronto goaltenders earlier in January of 1920, while Malone followed up by scoring six of his own on Ottawa’s Clint Benedict in March of that same season. The following year, Toronto’s (thawed-out) Corb Denneny and his older brother Cy (for Ottawa) each scored six of their own. Three other players have repeated that six-goal feat since: Syd Howe (in 1944, for the Detroit Red Wings); Red Berenson (1968, St. Louis Blues); and Darryl Sittler (1976, Toronto Maple Leafs).
Syd Howe’s double hattrick in ’44 came 24 years after Joe Malone’s bonanza, which you’d think might have stuck in the NHL’s historical memory. No. For a little while there, the league forgot all about it.