September 23, 2013

Howard "Rip" Riopelle Passes Away

Howard "Rip" Riopelle has passed away. He played in the NHL in the 1940s and was a prominent senior league player bother in Montreal and Ottawa. He was also a World War II veteran and a prominent businessman.

Howard came from a large, hockey crazed family. Born in Ottawa, Howard started playing hockey at a very early age. There was so many kids that the Riopelles even had their own hockey team at one time. He was the youngest of 15 children!

When he was in elementary school he played for the St.Malachi's where he won the Joe Miller Trophy, donated to the elementary schools by the great athlete himself. Howard later said that winning the Joe Miller Trophy was one of his biggest thrills in his career. He won it as a 14-year old in 1936.

He also played in the city league of Ottawa together with his brothers (Ottawa Lasalle and Ottawa St. Pats) When Howard was with the St. Pats he was coached by the legendary goalie Alex Connell. Connell taught Howard a lot and they became very close friends later on. Connell even gave Howard his 1927 Stanley Cup ring shortly before he died. Howard eventually gave it to Connell's grandson but it showed the great friendship between the two

When Howard finished his junior career he joined the service and went into the air force. While there he was coached by another NHL great. Joe Primeau was coaching the Toronto Air Force team and guided Howard and the rest of the guys to an Allan-Cup semifinal in 1943 where they lost to the powerhouse Ottawa Commandoes featuring the explosive line of Mac Colville - Alex Shibicky - Neil Colville who had starred for the NY Rangers earlier on.

Directly after the war Howard had two NHL offers. One was from Joe Primeau who wanted him in Toronto and the other one was from Tom Gorman who wanted him in Montreal. Howard chose to go to Montreal. Unfortunately he was the last player cut during that 1945 training camp, not bad considering the fact that he hadn't been on skates for almost two years. He ended up playing for the Montreal Royals (QSHL) for the next two seasons doing very well there, winning the prestigious Allan-Cup in 1947. During his two years with the Royals he had 70 points (30 goals plus 40 assists) in 70 regular season games plus 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists) in 22 playoff games. This opened up the doors for him to finally become a pro. He made his debut in the NHL with Montreal Canadiens during the 1947-48 season as a left wing.

He played three seasons for Montreal, scoring 43 points  (27 goals) in 169 games until a back injury forced him out of the NHL. He spent most of the summer in 1950 under Dr. Penfield's supervision. He wanted to operate but the club wouldn't go for it because they didn't want anybody to have a disc removed.

Howard tried to attend Montreal's training camp the next season but gave up his efforts. He didn't play for the entire 1950-51 season but decided to give hockey one more try. He ended up playing another four seasons for the Ottawa Senators in the QSHL. He even led the league in assists and points during the 1953-54 season when he picked up 60 assists and 91 points. He totalled 196 points (73 goals, 123 assists) in 206 QSHL / QHL games between 1951-55.

Howard started a successful fabric store in Ottawa in 1955, deciding to hang up his skates for good.

Riopelle was 91 years old when he passed away. He had suffered from dementia for several years.

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