Montreal Canadiens legend Doug Harvey had his number retired on this day in 1985.
The Montreal Canadiens have had many legendary players over the years. They have had terrific goal scorers like Guy Lafleur and Rocket Richard. Their list of fantastic goaltenders is far longer than any other team in the history of hockey.
When it comes to defensemen, most will recall the “Big Three” of Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe who patrolled the blue line together in the 1970’s and were a huge part of the best teams in NHL history.
However, as good as all three of those defenders were, the best blue liner in the history of Habs hockey could very well be Doug Harvey.
It took many years after he was retired for the team to agree, but they finally retired his number 2 and hung it in the rafters of the Montreal Forum on October 26, 1985. Harvey had not played in the NHL in close to 20 years, but the organization finally corrected its error and honoured the great Doug Harvey 35 years ago today.
Whether he was the best defenceman in Habs history or not could be up for debate. But there is no question he was the best defenceman in the NHL for a very long time.
While Bobby Orr and later Paul Coffey changed the game for defencemen by allowing blue liners to play a more offensive role and join the attack, it was Doug Harvey who paved the way for the next generation of great offensive defencemen.
Playing on a team stacked with talented forwards like Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Henri Richard and Dickie Moore, it was Harvey who would start the rush from his own end and get the puck up to the skilled forwards, or just lead them as he carried the puck up ice.
It was Harvey’s excellent power play abilities on the power play that led to the league changing its rules and allowing players to leave the penalty box after a goal is scored against his team during a minor penalty.
The Montreal native won his first Norris Trophy in 1955 and would win seven of eight between 1955 and 1962. The only time he didn’t win it in that span was in 1959 when his defence partner Tom Johnson won the award. Harvey played a total of 1113 career NHL games and had 540 points, during a time when not many defencemen were scoring points.
Harvey was a huge part of the Canadiens teams that won five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956-60. He won six in total with the Canadiens in his 14 seasons in Montreal.
He elevated himself far above his peers in the 1950’s and early 1960’s and was rightfully named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973. His jersey number was not retired by the Canadiens for 12 more years.
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But finally, on this day in 1985, the organization chose to retire the number of the best defenceman that ever played for the Montreal Canadiens.