Jan 19, 2013; Montreal, QC, CAN; On ice projection of the Canadiens logo during the warmup period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

A Look Back: Canadiens Center Elmer Lach

If you haven’t heard of the boy who found a Canadiens Stanley Cup ring replica in the river the other day, relax. I’m here to catch you up.

While you can read all about the actual finding of the replica (and the few days or hours, depending on when you picked up the story, where it seemed like it might be real) at Puck Daddy, the most interesting part of the story is whose ring the boy thought he had found.

The family thought the ring belonged to Elegant Elmer Lach.

 

 

Lach comprised one third of the famous Punch Line, not necessarily based on the forwards’ ability to tell a good joke, though I’m sure they knew a couple. He centered Maurice Richard (RW) and Toe Blake (LW). Together, the three of them found the back of the net more often than not, and were one of the most powerful lines in Canadiens history.

Lach is one of my favorite players in Canadiens history, and with good reason. He was a fast, adept skater, agile on the puck and was the first player to reach 50 assists in a season, just the year before the cup win portrayed on the replica ring.

He was known as a strategist, and if you’re lucky enough to catch some old footage of him, it’s evident in his play. Lach sent passes across the ice as straight as if the puck was magnetized; there always seems to be enough room for him to slip one around someone (or he would knock them around to create the room).

Lach used his physicality to create scoring opportunities for his lineys, sending Richard’s name into the Hall of Fame a few years before his own.

The video below has some short clips of Lach on the ice, embedded in a darn good profile the CBC did on Lach in 2009.

 

His tremendous amount of broken bones — jaw, arm, nose, head, and many other injuries — can attest to that. In a time when helmets weren’t seen on the ice, Lach was lucky he wasn’t more seriously harmed, though his injuries did earn him the nickname Unlucky Lach. His point totals and on-ice accomplishments are even more impressive when you learn that he missed an average of one game for every five he played, due to injury.

Before Lach arrived on the team, the Habs were a mess. After hiring Lach (and a new coach in Dick Irvin Sr., but I’m sure Lach was key here), Montreal was able to turn it around, winning the Stanley Cup three times during his career in the NHL. In fact, he was responsible for the Cup-winning goal in 1953 against Boston (in a celebration of which he immediately broke his nose against linemate Richard’s face).

Lach’s jersey number (16) was retired in 2009 at the 100th anniversary celebration. While we haven’t seen another Lach since, the current Canadiens roster has a player with Lachian potential in Galchenyuk. Another large, play-making center who creates scoring opportunities and doesn’t hesitate to assist, Galchenyuk has the makings of an NHL great. Maybe in 50 years we’ll see number 27 go up in the rafters along 16.

Tags: Elmer Lach Montreal Canadiens

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