Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Canadiens first captain would be 130 years old today.


Jean-Baptiste “Jack” Laviolette was born in Belleville, ON on this day, in 1879.

Growing up in Valleyfield, QC, Laviolette was a two sport star athlete in both lacrosse and hockey and eventually gained stardom, in the International Hockey League, with the Michigan-Soo Indians before joining the Montreal Shamrocks in 1907.

laviolette1 Laviolette as a member of the Michigan-Soo Indians

In the the late fall of 1909, he was approached by J. Ambrose O’Brien, to not only play, but also captain, coach and assemble a new French-speaking pro hockey team in Montreal for the newly formed NHA.

He quickly worked to bring on long-time friend Didier Pitre and Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde to the new franchise.

As exciting a chance it appeared to be for Laviolette, the ambitious challenge soon turned to discomfort as the Canadiens finished dead last in their first season with a 2-12 record.

Laviolette turned the captaincy of the team over to Lalonde the following season, and brought in a goaltender by the name of Georges Vezina. The team improved to .500 that year, but failed to reach the playoffs.

Laviolette found himself captain again in 1911-12 when Lalonde left the Canadiens.

jack_laviolette The struggling start to the franchise would later become success as  the Canadiens won their first Stanley Cup championship in 1916. By that time, Laviolette was only with the team in a playing capacity.

The Canadiens claimed a second NHA title the following season, but they would lose to Seattle in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

In the 1917-18 season, the Canadiens were part of the newly formed NHL.  Montreal would take first place that season.

11laviolette His playing career ended in the spring of 1918 when he lost his right foot in a car crash. The Canadiens held a benefit game, for their first on and off-ice leader, in 1921 where Laviolette participated as a referee.

jacklaviolette_1910 Laviolette died in 1960, and would be inducted, as a lacrosse player, into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame later that same year.

He would become an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, posthumously, two years later.

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