The young Welshman is something they called Wilf Cude, back when he was in the business of guarding NHL nets in the 1930s, though sometimes it was the plucky Welshman. He was, true enough, born in Barry in Wales in 1906, not long before his family upped and moved to Winnipeg. Cude died on a Sunday of today’s date in 1968, at the age of 61.
Cude played his first NHL hockey for the Philadelphia Quakers in 1930, sharing the net with Joe Miller and Jakie Forbes. It wasn’t what you’d call an auspicious debut: Cude’s record was 2-22-3 that season. The Quakers folded after a year; Cude went on to serve as the league’s spare goaltender through the 1931-32 season, available to any team that might need his services in an emergency, which is how he ended up tending Boston’s net (for two games) and Chicago’s (an 11-3 rout by Toronto in which he replaced his childhood friend Charlie Gardiner and allowed nine goals.)
Montreal signed him in 1933, but with Lorne Chabot firmly ensconced in goal, Canadiens soon loaned Cude to the Detroit Red Wings, where he excelled, helping to haul his team into the 1934 Stanley Cup finals against Gardiner’s Black Hawks, who prevailed in four games. Called back to Montreal for the following season, Cude played seven injury-plagued seasons there before quitting the nets in 1941. Sensational, the newspapers called him in Montreal, and dazzling, and Gibraltar-like.
In the spring of 1938, when the Red Wings and Canadiens travelled to Europe for a post-season barnstorming tour, one of the early games the teams played was at Earlscourt in London. Montreal won that one, 5-4, on ice described as sticky. Before the puck dropped, Cude was called to centre ice for a special celebration of his Welshness: a London beauty queen bestowed on him a wreath of leeks, while the crowd of 8,000 cheered.
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Terrific story, Stephen. Wilf Cude is one of the more interesting NHL stories of that era, and while ‘leeks’ were a tribute to him, fans would recognize a different spelling of that word in regards to Cude.