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.)
Here a few words from the Montreal Gazette on the passing of Jean Béliveau, who, for all his skill and grace on the ice, was an even better person away from the rink:
He was an uncommon man with the common touch. A prince who walked among the people as though it were his job to clean up after the king’s horses.
He was at once regal and humble, magnificently talented and unfailingly generous, modest to a fault and fiercely proud of his team, and as gentle as a man could be in this most violent of sports.
He was Jean Béliveau — and his passing Tuesday night has left a void in the life of this city and this province that may never be filled. It’s conceivable that if they are very, very lucky, the Canadiens might one day draft another Rocket Richard. There will never be another Béliveau.
Le Gros Bill, as he was known, was 83. He will be missed, by fans of the Montreal Canadiens and all of hockeydom.
Drunk driving is anything but a laughing matter, but one has to wonder if the abuse Detroit Red Wings’ draft pick Riley Sheahan, who was arrested recently while driving intoxicated, will face from teammates, opponents and opposing fans will far outweigh any penalty handed down by the law.
Sheahan, the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2010 NHL draft, was wearing a purple Teletubbies costume (see above) when he was pulled over on a drunk driving charge in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late October, according to police.
Video taken by Grand Rapids Police Department dashboard camera shows Sheahan apparently wearing the costume of the purple Teletubby known as Tinky Winky when he was stopped.
According to a police report obtained by MLive.com, Sheahan blew a .30 at the police station after his arrest, almost four times the legal limit, and almost twice the limit needed to add a “super-drunk” charge to his current charge of driving under the influence.
Michigan’s “super-drunk” laws punish drivers charged for the first time with operating a vehicle under the influence who blow a .17 or higher — that’s more than twice the .08 limit deemed illegal for driving on Michigan roads, The Huffington Post reported.
So-called “Super-drunk” convictions carry a heavy price tag.
Twenty-plus-years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many hockey fans don’t realize how special it was when the USSR began allowing some of their top talent to come to North America to play in the National Hockey League.
Among the biggest names that came over in the late 1980s were members of the so-called “K-L-M Line”: Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. The trio formed one of the most potent offensive lines in hockey history.
Together, they won two Olympic gold medals and several world championships before leaving for the NHL.
Krutov, who tallied 288 goals and 215 assists in 438 games during 12 seasons in the USSR, never made it big in North America, lasting just one season before returning to Europe.
Sadly, he died last week from internal bleeding at the age of 52.
“We lost a great friend, someone with whom all of us would go to war, without any doubt,” said Vladislav Tretyak, the Hall of Fame goalie who is now the Russian ice hockey chief.
The National Hockey League draft still pales in comparison to its NFL and NBA counterparts in terms of popularity, but it gets considerably more attention than it did a generation ago.
Several thousand fans, for example, were on hand for the most recent draft, held this past Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Compare that to 1974, when the NHL draft was held in secrecy, part of the league’s efforts to hold off the upstart World Hockey Association.
How secret was the 1974 draft? As it neared its conclusion, Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach had become so bored with the long process of selecting players that he decided to have some fun and sent public relations director Paul Wieland off to find a relatively common Japanese name, according to the Buffalo News.
It’s not quite a man-bites-dog story, but an East Hartford, Conn., man was arrested after he allegedly tackled and punched “Pucky the Whale,” the mascot for the minor league Connecticut Whale hockey team, over the weekend.
Kevin O’Connell, 28, has been banned from the XL Center after he allegedly assaulted the mascot in the stands during an American Hockey League game Saturday night, according to the Hartford Courant.
O’Connell, said to have been intoxicated, told police he attacked Pucky over a bet. He was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree breach of peace. He was released on a promise to appear in Superior Court in Hartford.
Pucky was greeting young fans in the stands near section 105 Saturday night when O’Connell tackled and punched the whale, police said.
How dominating was National Hockey League legend Wayne Gretzky?
Since he retired in 1999, more than 13,000 NHL games have been played. Yet, only one of his 61 records has been broken.
Gretzky’s 2,857 career points are nearly 1,000 more than runner-up Mark Messier’s total; no one has come close to his 92-goal season in 20 years; and he scored more than 180 points seven different season. The only other player to break 180 was Mario Lemieux, who did it once.
Today, the Great One turns 50 and his influence is still felt throughout not just the NHL, but all of hockey.