July 13, 2013

Goldie Prodgers

A strapping red head named Goldie Prodgers was one of the most compelling and most physical players back in the 1910s and 1920s. A hired gun in pursuit of championships, he was also one of the most travelled. It worked both in 1912 and 1916 when he led his team to the Stanley Cup championship!

Prodgers turned pro at 19 with Waterloo of the Trolley League in 1910-11 and played forward. The NHA Quebec Bulldogs were 4-12-0 cellar dwellers that season on merit. Prodgers' speed, size, and physicality drew Quebec's interest, and they signed him the next season to play defence. Prodgers was the only significant addition to the roster, yet the team improved to 10-8-0 and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Prodgers jumped to Victoria of the PCHA for 1912-13. The club had finished last at 7-9-0 the year before, but with Prodgers on board, promptly cut their defence by a goal and a half per game and improved to a league-best 10-5-0. In a post-season three-game exhibition series against his former Quebec teammates, Prodgers' Victorias prevailed two games to one.

Prodgers returned to Quebec for the 1913-14 season, and moved on to Montreal Wanderers the year after that. Wanderers had gone a dismal 7-13-0 in '13-14, surrendering a league-worst 125 goals. With Prodgers the only significant change in their line-up (other than a continuing rollover of unimpressive goaltenders), '14-15 Wanderers improved 25% on the attack, cut their goals-against by a full third, and shared the NHA's best record at 14-6-0.

Prodgers moved on again the next year, but stayed in Montreal. Now a member of Canadiens, the NHA's worst in '14-15 at 6-14-0, Prodgers was part of wholesale personnel upgrades that saw Habs complete the greatest single-season turnaround in major-league hockey history. Keying the Montreal defence, Prodgers set the tone as the Canadiens won their first league crown, going 16-7-1. They then took their first Stanley Cup as Prodgers scored the Cup-winning goal in a 2-1 Game 5 victory over PCHA champion Portland.

Moving on yet again, Prodgers enlisted in the military and played for 228th Battalion in the NHA in 1916-17. Now playing forward again, he was challenging the great Eddie Oatman for the club and league lead in points when the 228th was called into action overseas. Prodgers did his military service faithfully, losing two and a half seasons from the prime of his hockey career.

Prodgers did not resume playing until the 1919-20 campaign, joining a Toronto team that had gone an NHL-worst 5-13-0 the year before with the league's worst defence. Aided by Prodgers, the St Pats cut a goal a game off their goals-against and improved to a respectable 12-12-0.

Continuing his travels, Prodgers was sold to Hamilton (formerly Quebec).  He would actually put up some roots in Hamilton, playing there for the next five seasons.

Goldie Prodgers was a welcome hockey vagabond wherever he went. His offensive numbers are not as spectacular as some of his era, but his immediate impact on pretty much every team he joined speaks volumes. He was a leader, a tough and physical player who excelled on defense. His offensive numbers lagged because he played on the back end as much as he did, but that just goes to show how valuable he was. When he did move up front he was an exciting scorer.

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