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April 08, 2014

Joe Benoit: The Man Who Was Replaced By Rocket Richard

This trio formed one of the greatest lines in the history of hockey. Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and the incomparable Rocket Richard were dubbed "The Punch Line" for all the offense they provided.

But did you know that moniker Punch Line existed before the Rocket was added to the line? Richard was in just his second season, and his rookie season was mired with injuries. But top-liners Blake and Lach teamed with a right winger named Joe Benoit in what was first known as "The Punch Line."

Here's an article from January 31st, 1943 proving it:

So the question probably jumping to your mind right now is who the heck was Joe Benoit?

Benoit was a highly thought of goal scorer. He turned down a chance to turn pro with the New York Americans in 1938-39 as he chose to tour Europe and win the World Hockey Championship with the amateur Trail Smoke Eaters.

He then joined the Montreal Canadiens and connected nicely with Blake and Lach. As a rookie in 1940-41 he scored 16 goals in the 48 game schedule. The following season he nicely upped his total to 20 goals. In 1942-43 Benoit was on the edge of hockey stardom himself. In 49 games he scored a very impressive 30 goals.

And then he all but disappeared. Benoit left the National Hockey League in 1943-44 to join Canada's military efforts in World War II. He was based out of Calgary, and he continued to play amateur hockey. But after his two year stint was done in the military, Benoit returned to Montreal knowing fully well that his Rocket Richard kid who replaced him was now an untouchable superstar.

Benoit played one more season with the Montreal Canadiens, but it was in a far greater diminished role. He scored just 9 goals in 39 games. He was playing through a painful back injury, however. It was bad enough to force him off the ice for good soon thereafter.

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