george the first

Here’s George Hainsworth in all his ratty glory at some point during the 1929-30 NHL season, by the end of which he and his Montreal Canadiens had commandeered the Stanley Cup. Born in Toronto on this date in 1893 — it was a Monday, then — Hainsworth and the Habs defended their championship the following season. He had, of course, taken up the Montreal net in 1926, following  Georges  Vézina’s tragic death, whereupon he claimed the first three editions of the trophy that was instituted in Vézina’s name to recognize the NHL’s outstanding goaltender. In 1928-29, Hainsworth set a record (it still stands) for most shutouts in a season, posting a remarkable 22 in 44 regular-season games for the Canadiens. Another season of his ranks sixth on that same list: in 1926-27, Hainsworth kept a clean sheet in 14 of 44 regular-season games.

the port perry woodpecker

Chin Up: Born in Port Perry, Ontario, on a Saturday of today’s date in 1900, John Ross Roach led the Toronto St. Patricks to a Stanley Cup championship in his rookie season, 1921-22. He played seven seasons in Toronto in all, captaining the team along the way, and lasting long enough to see the St. Pats transform into Maple Leafs in 1927. Roach played for the New York Rangers after that, and then went to Detroit in 1932, as the Falcons were turning into the Red Wings. He stayed on in Detroit after finishing his NHL career in 1935, going to work as a car salesman for Ford.

the lowdown

Now I Lay Me Down: Born in Chambly in on a Wednesday of today’s date, Denis Herron is 70 today: salutations to him. Here he’s stretched out for puck-stopping purposes at Montreal’s Forum in December of 1981 in a game against the Quebec Nordiques. Herron was in his third and final year with the Canadiens that year, winning the William M. Jennings with teammate Rick Wamsley. (The previous year he’d shared a Vézina Trophy with Richard Sévigny and Michel Larocque.) In September of 1982, Montreal traded Herron back to Pittsburgh, the team from whence he’d come to the Canadiens in 1979. All in all, Herron played 14 NHL seasons, including a stretch with the Kansas City Scouts, before finishing his major-league days as a Penguin in 1985. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

incoming

Stop Right There: Has any NHL goaltender looked more mortal in the nets, resembled a guy who ended up there by mistake, suggested (as John K. Samson put it) what it might be like if our poor everyday dads somehow, ridiculously, ended up pressed into sudden service at the Forum? But of course Gump Worsley’s goaling was the real major-league deal: he won a Calder Trophy, two Vézinas, and four Stanley Cup championships in his day to prove it. Born in Montreal on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1929, he turned 37 in 1966. He was labouring through a 13th NHL season that year, his third with Montreal, as he made the case that he was one of the league’s best puckstoppers. Successfully, as it turned out: he and fellow Canadiens goaltender Charlie Hodge not only shared the Vézina Trophy that year, they guided their team to a second successive Cup. (Image: La Presse)

goal-time charlie

Partners in Pads: Goaltender Charlie Hodge was in on six Stanley Cup championships when the Montreal Canadiens were winning them in the 1950s and ’60s. Here he is (on the right) in 1966, when he shared the Hab net (and a Vézina Trophy) with Gump Worsley. Hodge died on this date in 2016 at the age of 82. (Image: La Presse)

a rest is as good as a change

Practice Makes Parched: Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, on a Thursday of this date in 1945, Doug Favell is 77 today: all hail to him. Scene here: a practice at Montreal’s Forum, February of 1969, when Favell’s Philadelphia Flyers were in town to take on the Canadiens. Bernie Parent would get that start for Philadelphia, and the loss, which went into the books as a 4-1 win for Gump Worsley’s Habs. A rumour adrift that same week had Favell and winger Brit Selby heading to Toronto in a trade for centreman Mike Walton. That didn’t happen, but the Leafs did send Walton to the Flyers in 1971 in a trade involving Parent … whereupon the Flyers quickly flipped Walton to Boston. Favell, of course, did end up in Toronto, by way of a 1973 swap that brought Bernie Parent back to Philadelphia just in time to win a pair of Stanley Cup championships. (Image: La Presse)

emile francis, 1926—2022

Top Cat: Sorry to hear tonight of the death of Emile Francis, a.k.a. the Cat, at the age of 95. Born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1926, his NHL goaltending career had him stopping pucks for six seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, Francis went on to coach the Rangers, steering them to the Stanley Cup finals in 1972, where they lost to the Boston Bruins. He coached the St. Louis Blues, too, and served as GM, too, of the Rangers, Blues, and the Hartford Whalers.

small wonder

Tiny Thompson kept his pads in a cardboard box when they weren’t strapped to his legs, and they were the very same pads he wore for almost all of his long and distinguished career, starting in 1924 in Duluth, where he suited up for the USAHA Hornets before taking his talents to Minneapolis and the AHA Millers. Thompson, who died this same week in 1981 at the age of 77, joined the Boston Bruins in 1928, playing parts of 12 seasons there before retiring as a Detroit Red Wing in 1940 at the age of 35.

Cecil was the name he was given when he was born, in Sandon, B.C. He’d grown to 5’10” by the time he was playing in Boston’s nets, wherein he won a Stanley Cup in 1929 as well as, four times, the Vézina Trophy. Thompson had stopped 100,000 pucks by the time he boxed up his pads for good; that was his calculation. “Never make a move,” he advised, “until the man with the puck has made his. There is no place for guesswork in goaltending.”

 

 

(Image © Arthur Griffin. Courtesy of the Griffin Museum of Photography. Photograph may not be reproduced in any form per the copyright holder. All rights reserved.)

flyby

Lift-Off: Posing here in 1940-41, Sam LoPresti puts Emile Francis to shame, I’d say, when it comes to sailing across his net in search of a puck that may or may not ever show up.

Like Frank Brimsek and Mike Karakas (Bob Dylan, too), Sam LoPresti hailed from Minnesota’s Iron Range. Born on a Tuesday of this date in 1917 in the now-ghostly mining town of Elcor, LoPresti grew up in nearby Eveleth. He played two seasons for the Chicago Black Hawks, and was a stand-out in his team’s (ultimately unsuccessful) playoff series in the 1942 playoffs against the Boston Bruins.

In March of 1941, as a rookie, LoPresti played another famous game against the Bruins. In this one,  he faced 83 shots, stopping all but three in a 3-2 Boston win. LoPresti’s teammate Doug Bentley was, for one, disgusted … with Boston. “They must have been lucky because they certainly weren’t good,” the winger told a reporter next day. “Any team which has to take 83 shots at a goalie isn’t good in my book. What a bunch of Deadeye Dicks. Phooey.” (Doug Bentley did not himself score in this game, it might be pointed out, though his brother, Max, did.)

“I couldn’t sleep all night,” offered LoPresti. “I was so exhausted from the game that I kept tossing and turning in bed.” When he did manage, finally, to sleep, his roommate, Chicago’s Eveleth-born defenceman John Mariucci, woke him up to remind LoPresti how wonderfully he’d played. “I’m so tired now I’m going to sleep all the way back to Chicago,” LoPresti said.

Following the 1942 season, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, then transferred to the Navy. In February of 1943, he was serving as a gunner’s mate on a merchant ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on an Atlantic crossing. Along with 20 or so shipmates, he spent 42 days in a lifeboat before being rescued off the coast of Brazil. He did eventually return to hockey, though never to the NHL: he played senior hockey in Duluth and Eveleth before retiring from the ice in 1951. LoPresti was a charter member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted in 1973. His son, Pete, followed him into the crease, tending NHL goals in the 1970s for the Minnesota North Stars and (briefly) the Edmonton Oilers.

Sam LoPresti died in 1984 at the age of 67.

old bonesy

“He always looked like he had no chance to stop the puck,” was Tony Gallagher’s (sort of unkind) appraisal a couple of years ago, writing in the Vancouver Province. “Virtually every save he made looked like a fluke — or in some cases, a miracle — and yet he won championships in every league save the NHL.”

Goaltender Gary Bromley, born in Edmonton on a Thursday of this very date in 1950, is 72 today, so maybe an apology is in order for floating Gallagher’s faint praise to the fore. Sorry. Maybe can we focus on the championships? Bromley played on an Eastern League-winner with the Charlotte Checkers in the early 1970s, won a Calder Cup with the Cincinnati Swords in the AHL, and (in 1978) shared the Winnipeg Jets’ net with Joe Daley and Markus Mattson on the way (alongside Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson, and Anders Hedberg) to a WHA World Trophy.

It was in Charlotte that he picked up the nickname that stuck with him, Bones or Bonesy: his perceptive teammates noticed that he was lean. About his style of stopping the pucks that came his way? “I just kind of was nonchalant,” Bromley told Gallagher, “and tried to stop the puck that way.”

Bromley’s NHL career started with the Buffalo Sabres, then took a pause while he detoured to the WHA. In the spring of 1978, he signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks. The mask up above was the one he wore to begin with on the west coast. Over the course of the three years he spent in Vancouver, he was the starter for just the first year, backing up Glen Hanlon and Richard Brodeur after that.

His famous skull-mask, below, dates to 1980. “I think that mask has been way more important than me,” Bromley told Tony Gallagher in 2015.

Embed from Getty Images

 

(Top image, from 1978: Derik Murray)

dave kerr turns a blind eye

Born in Toronto on another Tuesday of today’s date, this one in 1910, Dave Kerr got his NHL start in 1930 with the Montreal Maroons. He played seven seasons with the New York Rangers, with whom he had a very good year in 1940, winning a Stanley Cup championship and a Vézina Trophy. In 1944, Wilf Cude rated his old friend Charlie Gardiner as the best goaltender he’d ever seen, with Frank Brimsek and Kerr tied for second in his estimation. The Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee discussed Kerr’s candidacy in 1969 and ’75, but he didn’t get the support he needed to be inducted, and I guess his time has passed. Kerr died in 1978 at the age of 68.

In the 1980s, Montreal Gazette columnist Dink Carroll recalled his keen eyesight and extraordinary reflexes. Nobody could score on him on a breakaway or a penalty. “Like Ted Williams,” Carroll said, “he went out of his way to protect his eyes, wearing sunglasses and refusing to refusing to look out a train window at the snow.”

I haven’t seen Kerr talking about that, but in 1935 he did have an answer when Harold Parrott of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle asked him how many of the shots coming at him he failed to see because his vision was blocked.

“Fully 50 per cent,” he volunteered. “The rubber will come out of a scuffle, out from behind somebody, and you have to grab in the dark for those kind. Then they yell at you from the stands that you’re blind.”

 

total prose, that’s what I’m here for

Crease Crouch: Born in Toronto on a Saturday of this date in 1945, Al Smith tended goals in the NHL for Leafs, Penguins, Red Wings, Sabres, Whalers, and Rockies in the 1960s, ’70s, and into the ’80s. Pictured here in the fall of 1978, he was also a star in the WHA with New England, and thereby an inaugural member of the league’s Hall of Fame. A busy writer, too, in his later years. Al Smith died at the age of 56 in 2002.