Montreal Canadiens: The interesting tale of Dave Elenbaas

Canadian ice hockey player Michel Larocque ('Bunny'), goalkeeper for the the Montreal Canadiens, guards the net during a game, 1970s. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)
Canadian ice hockey player Michel Larocque ('Bunny'), goalkeeper for the the Montreal Canadiens, guards the net during a game, 1970s. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images) /

After David Ayres 8 save performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens have had their own experiences with emergency goalies.

For most Habs fans, the name Dave Elenbaas is one that will be met with a similar reaction.


And well, that’s rightly justified. I ran across his story a while ago on the blogger website, but eventually had it fazed from my memory.

That was until David Ayres stepped into the Carolina Hurricanes net.

The story needs no introduction, but Ayres 8 save performance last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs got me thinking about the Canadiens experiences with goalies like this. While none have dressed since the 1960s (where there are numerous tall tales to speak of) Elenbaas was the name that stuck out in my mind, mainly for how interesting his story is, and the obscure NHL record he holds. Between October 25th, 1975 and January 6th, 1977, Elenbaas dressed for 29 NHL games, yet never played a single minute, a record which still stands, and will most likely never be broken.

In a situation that would never happen today, Elenbaas had the misfortune of playing behind the Canadiens dynasty of the 1970s, where either Ken Dryden or Bunny Laroque took any and all starts, leaving Elenbaas on the outside looking in.

"“In 76-77 I was actually with the team through most of the first three months of the season as they could not get me through waivers which they needed to do to send me down. Then Larocque broke his hand early on, and I started dressing as the back-up, I think it was October 14, 1976 and did so until mid-December, around 20 games.” Elenbaas said in his interview with “Ken Dryden played every minute of every game, including one against the Rangers when teammate Jimmy Roberts came up to me before the game and said, ‘you’ll be playing tonight. I drove in with Kenny (Dryden) and we had to stop the car several times for him to throw-up.’  Needlesss to say, Scotty Bowman played Ken anyway.”"

A 4th round pick of the Habs out of Cornell University in 1972, Elenbaas had some solid years with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, the Canadiens AHL affiliate at the time, winning the Harry (Hap) Holmes as the AHL’s best goalie statistically 4 years in a row. However, aside from 1 more season with the Dallas Black Hawks of the CHL, that would be it for Elenbaas’s pro hockey career.

As a result of never seeing a minute of NHL action, Elenbaas’s name is nowhere to be seen in the online archives of the Canadiens history, having been apart of an era where the Canadiens minor league teams were greatly overshadowed and overlooked generally. Despite never seeing a minute of ice time, Elenbaas does have an NHL statistic to his name. A 5 minute major for fighting sustained during a bench clearing brawl.

"“I was first called up I believe on October 25, 1975 for a game against the Bruins at the Forum. What is most memorable about the game, was that there was a bench clearing brawl. Now, having played NCAA hockey where there was no fighting, and even in the AHL for two season by that point with the Voyageurs, I had not had a bench clearing brawl that I remember to date.” Elenbaas recalled in his interview with “I went looking for the Bruins back-up, who on this night happened to be Dave Reese who was predominately the Rochester goalie and against whom I had played several AHL games. While there was mayhem all around us, we kind of intentionally drifted to the centre ice area, hoping the cameras would catch us for all our friends to see. Little did I know that was going to be the extent of my career ‘on the ice during a game’ so to speak.”"

In many ways, Elenbaas is simply a victim of the obscure and unknown of hockey history, joining a select group of goalies who dressed for an NHL game without playing. Not emergency goalies in the sense, but career minor leaguers from the AHL and ECHL who are now tied to an obscure and interesting part of NHL history. Does Elenbaas regret never playing an NHL game, though?

"“wiser people than me clearly knew what they were doing!” Elenbaas told “the one regret is that because I did not play whatsoever, you cannot find me on the Habs’ website or history, notwithstanding the number of games I dressed for.”"

An obscure facet of NHL history, indeed.