Elmer Lach, one of the National Hockey League’s all-time great playmakers, died Saturday at age 97.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion who for a time centered the great Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Toe Blake on the famed “Punch Line,” Lach was the oldest-living former player to have donned the blue, blanc et rouge of Les Habitants.
Lach led the league in scoring twice and was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1945, despite the fact that Richard set a league record by scoring 50 goals in 50 games.
The Saskatchewan native retired after 14 seasons as the league’s all-time leading scorer in 1954, with 215 goals, 408 assists and 616 total points in 664 games.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 and his No. 16 was retired in 2009 by the Canadiens.
Lach, who was easily recognized by his prominent nose, won his final Stanley Cup by scoring in overtime during the deciding game of the 1953 Cup Finals.
However, Lach’s nose was broken when he was struck by Richard’s stick during the on-ice celebration immediately afterward.
“I took the hardest check of my life when the Rocket jumped on top of me when the puck went in,” Lach later said.
(Top: Canadiens’ legend Elmer Lach, shown with Stanley Cup and the broken nose suffered after scoring winning goal in final game of 1953 Finals. Photo credit: CBC.)