Howie Morenz was a Canadian NHL player known for infamous forward rushes and ghosting past defenders. Morenz played for the Montréal Canadiens for most of his career, where he won many individual and team accolades for his starring role as a center throughout his 15-year career.
Howie Morenz was born in Mitchell, Ontario, in 1902, and he grew up playing pond hockey on the Thames River. Morenz’s two older brothers were already captivated by hockey, and Howie was determined to follow suit.
However, Morenz’s mother had other ideas; she wanted Howie to learn the piano instead of playing ice hockey. But, despite her intentions, she could not prevent Morenz from taking to the ice – he would hide his skates at a friend’s house, skip the piano lessons and play hockey instead.
Morenz played his first competitive game as a goaltender in 1916. He let in 21 goals and immediately swapped to rover position, where his blistering pace and skill on the ice became apparent. The move was beneficial; Morenz he helped his youth team, the Mitchell Juveniles, to win the Western Ontario Juvenile Championship in the 1916/17 season.
Morenz continued to flourish as a hockey player after his family moved to Stratford in 1917, and he broke into the Stratford Midgets senior team during his first season. Morenz continued to play for Stratford for the next five years. His impressive performances and reputation as a talented skater reached the Toronto St. Patricks, who offered Morenz a chance to play the final five games of the 1922/23 season for $1,000. Morenz was uninterested and turned them down to focus on his role in a local railroad machine store.
The professional teams would not take no for an answer. The Montréal Canadiens approached Morenz next, offering $2,500 a year to play the 1923/24 season. He turned the offer down again, not wanting to leave Stratford. Canadien’s general manager, Leo Dandurand, intervened and finally persuaded Morenz to sign for the team.
Morenz made his debut in the NHL in 1923 and went on to play 460 games for the Canadiens over 11 seasons before short spells with the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and a cameo return to Montreal in the twilight of his career.
Major achievements; including records, awards, etc
In his first season with the Canadiens, Morenz helped his team to win the Stanley Cup in the 1923/24 season with seven goals, three assists, and three match-winning goals in the six playoff matches. After a six-year fallow period without another Stanley Cup, two came in quick succession between 1929 and 1931 for Morenz and Montreal.
Morenz was one of the most exciting NHL players ever, which was reflected by many individual records and accolades. In the 1927/28 season, Morenz became the first-ever player to break the 50-point barrier in a single season, scoring 51. He also finished as the joint top assister (18) and scored 33 goals – earning him his first Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL top-scorer.
Two more Hart Memorial trophies came for Morenz during his career. He won his second in the 1929/30 season after scoring 40 goals and another in the following season for a 28-goal haul, helping Montreal to win another Stanley Cup by scoring the winning goal against the Boston Bruins.
Morenz’s career form dipped when he joined Chicago in 1934. He only scored 12 goals in 68 games for the Blackhawks, while a similar story occurred when he joined the Rangers in 1935, only playing 18 games and scoring twice.
However, fate brought Morenz back to Montreal for the 1936/37 season as he helped the Canadiens put together an impressive 17-9-3 streak for the season before a career-ending injury tragically ended Morenz’s career and life early.
In a game against the Blackhawks in January 1937, Morenz lost his footing and crashed into the boards, and got his foot stuck. Seconds later, Blackhawks defender, Earl Siebert, slid into Morenz’s leg and shattered the bone in four places. Morenz immediately went to Hôpital Saint-Luc to receive treatment for his injuries and, although the doctors stabilized his leg, he died six weeks later from a coronary embolism, aged just 34.
After his death, thousands turned out in Montreal for Morenz’s funeral, which, fittingly, was held at the Montreal Forum in 1937. Months later, the Canadiens retired his number seven jersey to honor his services to the team. In 1945, the NHL Hall of Fame inducted Morenz for his outstanding career in ice hockey.