The goal came late, with four minutes left in the game.
With the visiting Rosebuds tied 1-1 with the hometown Montreal Canadiens, Portland winger Smokey Harris shot the puck, which Montreal goaltender Georges Vézina saved: that’s where things got started. Vézina cleared it to the corner, where Newsy Lalonde picked it up, the Canadiens centreman. He left it for a defenceman who then, well — Goldie Prodger skated through just about the entire Portland team, is what Goldie Prodger did.
It was a “rough journey,” the Montreal Gazette noted, but Prodger kept going. He beat Harris at centre ice, then barged into defenceman Del Irvine: “his weight toppled the Portland player over.” He evaded the second Portland defender, Moose Johnson, with some ease, and by then he only had the goaltender, Tom Murray, to hoodwink. He paused, to test Murray’s patience. “As the Portland goaltender came out to meet him,” the Gazette narrated, “Prodgers [sic] skated around him and lobbed the puck into the nets.”
And that was it: with Montreal leading 2-1, they fell back into defence to see out the decisive game of the Stanley Cup Finals, which they duly did on the penultimate day of March in 1916, to outlast the PCHL Rosebuds and take the series 3-2 at Montreal’s Westmount Arena.
It was, of course, Canadiens’ very first Stanley Cup championship, and 25-year-old Goldie Prodger, who was born on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1891, was the man who clinched it.
He was from London, Ontario, where he was christened George. Though his surname was often pluralized throughout his career (and continues to be, in many of the standard references, including at NHL.com), his birth registration and other vital documents confirm that it was, properly, Prodger.
Goldie? He owed that sobriquet, a press profile from 1912 helpfully explained, to “his sunny complexion.”
That was the same year Prodger won his first Cup, playing for the NHA Quebec Bulldogs, whose formidable line-up also featured Joe Malone, Joe Hall, and goaltender Paddy Moran.
In May of wartime 1916, Prodger flocked to his country’s colours, enlisting with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He was soon following Howard McNamara, his captain with the Canadiens, into the highly hockey-focussed 228th Battalion. Just how puck-minded was the 228th? Later that year, having recruited to the unit’s ranks some of hockey’s best talents, the 228th iced a team in the NHA alongside the Canadiens et al. (I’ve written about that whole fantastical finagle before, over here, if you’re interested.)
Prodger’s military career began with trip to the hospital: that August, probably while the battalion was in training at Camp Borden, north of Toronto, he broke an ankle playing baseball. That didn’t end up interfering with his skating: once hockey season got going in late December, he would play in all 12 of the 228th’s NHA games.
Along with many of his teammates, Prodger did eventually make it overseas, in 1917. The battalion was converted from an infantry to a railway construction unit; Prodger, for this part, was soon promoted corporal and then company sergeant-major. He took time to write home to remind friends just how vital hockey was, as the Ottawa Journal reported in a morale-boosting column:
Even if we are at war [Corporal Prodger rationalized] with an enemy that threatens our very existence, it is no reason why the great winter sport should be allowed to die. In fact, just such diversions are required at this time to keep the minds of those at home away from the horrors of war.
In 1918, as noted in the clipping from that October presented above, Prodger was added to the casualty list again, suffering a shrapnel wound in the back in (I think) France while attached to an Australian field artillery battery.
He recovered, again. Following his CEF discharge in 1919, Prodger headed back to the ice, though not before some dramas played out, both medical and contractual. Another baseball injury befell him that fall, and this one got complicated when he came down with blood poisoning and had to have a finger amputated.
Meanwhile, in the fledgling NHL, Prodger’s rights were owned by the Quebec Hockey Club. He wanted to play in Toronto, and for a while it seemed as though he would sit out the season rather than report to Quebec. In December, Quebec traded him to his old team, the Canadiens, in exchange for Eddie Carpenter. But Prodger didn’t want to play there, either, so he waited until mid-January when Montreal’s George Kennedy worked a deal to send him the Toronto St, Patricks for Harry Cameron.
After finishing the season with the St. Pats, a trade took him to Hamilton the following season, and it was there with the Tigers that he played the rest of his NHL career, five seasons, through to 1925.
Goldie Prodger died in October of 1935 at the age of 44.