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1953: An Unexpected Challenge From Cleveland

The year is 1953. Jacques Plante is the new goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, playing 4 playoff games after just 3 games of NHL experience.

Plante would play the two opening games of the Stanley Cup finals, going 1-1 against the Boston Bruins. That's when coach Dick Irvin returned to regular goalie Gerry McNeil, who was hobbled by a bad ankle. McNeil went 3-0 with 2 shutouts and GAA of 0.99 while leading Montreal back to championship status.

The goalies were not the only heroes for Montreal. Rocket Richard scored 4 goals and 5 points in the finals. Boom Boom Geoffrion had a monster of a semi-finals, scoring 5-4-9 in the 7 game showdown with Chicago.

A surprise challenge for the Stanley Cup came from, Jim Hendy, owner of the AHL Cleveland Barons. Hendy reckoned the trophy was originally a challenge trophy and he tried to get through any loophole he could. The challenge was dismissed for two reasons: The Barons had not yet won their own league championship, and AHL teams were considered to lesser teams than NHL teams. The original Stanley Cup challenge rules stated that any challenger must be of equal caliber.


Paul said…
I'd say there was a third reason for the league's rejection of Cleveland's challenge, Joe: because the NHL had recently taken control of the Stanley Cup (in 1947, I belive) and now had the power to decide for themselves. An independent board of trustees would've been a far less biased judge of the Barons' merits, not to mention future challenges from the Winnipeg Jets or Red Army. Equal caliber or not, there was no way the League was going to allow an outside challenge.

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