This Week in Montreal Canadiens History: April 25th – May 1st

1974; Goalie Ken Dryden #29 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)
1974; Goalie Ken Dryden #29 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

April 30th

The Birth of the Hall Of Fame

On this day, the year of our Lord 1945, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced the first batch of players to be inducted into it. Those players were Howie Morenz, Georges Vezina, Hod Stuart, Harvey Pulford, Tommy Phillips, Frank McGee, Eddie Gerard, Chuck Gardiner, Hobey Baker, and Lord Stanley of Preston.

Hobey Baker is perhaps best known today as the namesake for the trophy given to the best US college player, but there is a lot more to him than that. He was the only member of this Hall of Fame class that was American and was an impactful two-sport player: hockey and football.

At school at Princeton, Baker played football without a helmet, and even returned 13 punts for 63 yards, which is a record that still stands. It was the growing corporatizing of hockey that caused Baker to fall out of love with the game, and sadly, Baker was killed in World War 1, where he served in the Air Force.

William Hodgson ‘Hod’ Stuart was another 2-sport athlete, playing football with the Ottawa Roughriders. In hockey, he was what was called at that point a cover point, which is now known as a defender. And Stuart was one of the best scoring cover points of his time.

In 1905, Stuart was suspended, according to the Pittsburgh Press, for “…having won too many championships and that he is too rough.” according to the Western teams. Which is ironic, because Stuart became disillusioned with the game due to the uptick in physicality and violence.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 1907 with the Montreal Wanderers, Stuart left the league to go into construction, and sadly, passed away young, like Baker. A few months after his death, an All Star game was held in 1908 to raise money for his wife and children. It was the first All Star Game ever played.

To keep up the theme, Ernest Harvey Pulford won championships in lacrosse, football, boxing, paddling, rowing and ice hockey, where he won 4 Stanley Cups, all with the Ottawa Hockey Club.

Tommy Phillips won 2 Stanley Cups, one with the Montreal Hockey Club, and was one of the best defensive forwards, and all around players of his time.

Frank McGee was known as ‘One-eyed’ McGee, which is because he was blinded as a child during a hockey game. McGee was a prolific scorer, including a 14 goal game in the Stanley Cup Final. McGee also tragically lost his life in World War 1.

Eddie Gerard also played football for the Ottawa Roughriders, and was the first player to win 4 straight Stanley Cups with the Ottawa Senators and Toronto St. Patricks. After retiring as a player, he had a long career as a coach and manager.

Chuck Gardiner played goaltender with one of the worst teams of all time, the 1926-27 Chicago Blackhawks, who scored just 33 goals in 44 games. However, the team would turn it around, and Gardiner would win the Vezina Trophy twice, and became the first goalie to captain his team to the Stanley Cup.

Frederick Arthur Stanley, Earl of Derby, was a huge sports fan, and two of his sons played hockey. Thanks to their love of hockey, Frederick donated a trophy to the burgeoning sport, one which is still given out to the best North American hockey team each year.

And finally, the Montreal Canadiens part of all this. Everyone knows the name of Georges Vezina, thanks to his trophy given to the goalie tandem with the lowest goals against average, until 1981, where the trophy is given to the goalie that is voted the best.

Between 1910 and 1925, Vezina was the only goalie to play for the Montreal Canadiens, winning two Stanley Cups. Vezina would not miss a game in his career until a sickness that would end his life forced him to miss a game.

Vezina was the first NHL goalie to record a shutout, a 9-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 18th, 1918, and was also the first goalie to record an assist.

And finally there is Howie Morenz, the Mitchell Meteor, the Stratford Streak. Morenz was one of the first offensive all stars in the young NHL, and won the Hart Trophy three times, behind just Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

If the trophies existed, Morenz would have won a Rocket Richard and two Art Ross trophies. After complications due to a broken leg suffered during a game, Morenz passed away, and had a grand funeral at The Forum, and his number was the first number retired in NHL history.