Saturday, August 29, 2009

Aurele Joliat: A small forward with a huge heart to play.

Joliat_Aurele_01 Aurèle Joliat would be 108 years old today.

Fans of the Montreal Canadiens scratched their heads when they traded an aging star in Newsy Lalonde to Saskatoon for the rights to a 5’7” 136 lb winger in 1922.

They wouldn’t be scratching their heads long. In his rookie season (1922-23), the Ottawa-born Joliat scored 21 points in 24 games .

The following season, he was put on a line with Billy Boucher and a rookie centre named Howie Morenz. The The trio would lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup that season. It would be the first of three for Joliat in his sixteen year career with Montreal.

He led the NHL in scoring with 30 goals in 25 games in 1924-25 and in the 1933-34 season, Joliat would win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He was a first-team all-star once, and a second-team all-star three times.

175px-Aurel_Joliat Joliat could score, check and his speed allowed him to avoid the big checks. But when he was hit, he could take them like a 200 pound man.

Over time he earned the respect of many of the toughest players in the league due to his resiliency in on-ice confrontations.

The small black cap Joliat wore during games, to cover a bald spot, reminded players of his willingness to retaliate.

Taunting him by knocking his hat to the ice always brought a swift reaction. Joliat would either score, or whack an opponent across the ankles. Suffice to say, the cap stayed didn’t get knocked off often.

“To knock off his black cap was to start a battle,” noted Hall-of-Fame sportswriter Elmer Ferguson.

“It drove Joliat into a hysterical frenzy, from which he lashed out blindly with fists or stick, and he didn’t pick his opponents.”

He had his share of injuries(six shoulder separations, three broken ribs, and five nose fractures), but it seldom kept him off the ice for long.

aj_mug One of his greatest rivals on the ice was Bruins legend Eddie Shore, a player who Joliat deemed as the meanest and toughest player that he’d ever met.

In one game at the Forum, Shore clobbered the diminutive Joliat and separated his shoulder. After being led off the ice, he was quickly back on and caught his rival on a rush.

“I leaped over the boards and intercepted the big bugger. Hit him with a flyin' tackle,” he said. “Hit him so hard he was out cold on the ice. He had it comin' I'd say . . ."

After the tragic death of Morenz in March of 1937, Joliat was never the same, and it showed on the ice.

InductFact7 Aurele Joliat mourns the loss of teammate Howie Morenz

He would play his final game a year later, when a shoulder injury caused him to miss the balance of the regular season and the playoffs.

Joliat would retire after the season was over, although he later claimed the Canadiens let him go after the Montreal Maroons folded.

His 270 goals were a team record that only be surpassed by Maurice Richard.

He would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.

In 1984, at age 83, he was honored by the Canadiens as an honorary member of their 75th Anniversary Dream Team.

dream I’ve included the footage from his appearance at the Forum. He’d have a few slips on the ice and carpet that Joliat would attest to an old rival.

“The ghost of Eddie Shore must have put that damn rug in front of me.”

Aurèle Joliat passed away on June 2, 1986. The man who played in the Canadiens first game in the Montreal Forum was gone.

Elmer Ferguson tried to answer how such a small player had outlasted every player that was in the NHL when he started.

“The source from which he gets his strength, and the virility to play robust games, to out-drive sturdier opponents at golf, to outwit them at hockey, to carry on the testing, wracking game over a span of years far beyond average-that’s a mystery. Try and Solve it, I gave up long ago.”

Other Facts and stories on Aurèle Joliat

Just how tough was he? Joliat apparently fell off a roof as a teenager, 35 feet to the ground, and landed on his back, narrowly escaping any serious injuries.

He was going to be a kicker with the Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL), but a broken leg kept him from playing. He then focused on hockey.

Habs Eyes on the Prize offers a must-read story on Joliat from his pre-Canadiens Days.

Dennis Kane dug up this poem on Joliat.

The Hockey News ranked Joliat #65 in their list of 100 Greatest Hockey Players

From the Canadiens history site. A story on his 250th goal.


Anonymous said...

Hoe can you not view that video on Joliat without having a smile on your face and a tear in your eye. For the love of the game.

24 Cups

Yves said...

That video is awesome.

Those guys were from an era when you had to really love playin' the game.

Great article!

Dennis Kane said...

I drank beer with Joliat at the Prescott Hotel in Ottawa in the 1980's. It's something I'll never forget.