April 24, 2015

Wildor Larochelle

From 1925 through 1934 Wildor Larochelle was a mainstay with the Montreal Canadiens. He played in 11 straight seasons - a real streak of longevity in any era but especially back then.

Described as "tough and strong despite his 5 foot 8 inch frame," Larochelle was a productive right winger during his long career. Including two seasons with Chicago late in his career, Larochelle played in 474 games, scoring 92 goals and 166 points.

The Sorel, Quebec native cracked the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup for the first time in 1925-26. He was only 19 years old when he first put on the Habs jersey.

Like many young players Wildor had to bide his time for the first few seasons, but by 1929 he emerged as a confident and physical presence who could be counted on to score, as well. Playing along side Pit Lepine and Georges Mantha, Larochelle helped Montreal win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1930.

Larochelle and the Canadiens repeated as Stanley Cup champions in 1931, with Larochelle scoring a key overtime goal to close the oppening series against Boston.

"The entire Canadiens team jumped to the ice and almost smothered Larochelle," wrote L.S.B Shapiro in the morning paper. "After a few seconds of wild struggling he was lifted to the shoulders of his exhausted teammates and carried to the dressing room . . . It was a stirring finish and took place to the roar of a capacity crowd."

That goal advanced Montreal to the final against Chicago. They would narrowly defeat the Hawks three games to two.

"It was called the "One million dollar goal," recalled Larochelle's nephew Yvan Joly, referring to the hefty pay raise Larochelle got that summer - from $2000 a year to $3500. "He often had me the story of that goal. He also told me of the time he got broken collarbone and nose when he was dumped by Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins. These are memories that remain to me always like when players of the caliber of Howie Morenz and Newsy Lalonde came home in Sorel."

Larochelle, now flanking Lepine and Armand Mondou, scored a career-high 18 goals in 1931-32 and finished 1933-34 with 27 points, second best on the team only to the legendary  Howie Morenz.

Thirteen games into the 1935-36 campaign, Larochelle was sold off to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he wound down his NHL career. He opted to retired in 1937 rather than report to the minor leagues.

Wildor Larochelle worked in the hotel business with his father until 1951. He then contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to a convalescent home for the last 13 years of his life. He died in 1964, though it was cancer that claimed him. He was just 58 years old.

Though he left us nearly half a century earlier, the city of Sorel still honoured him and other local hockey heroes in 2013.

"He was a very affable man with a big heart who loved children, especially his nieces and nephews. He had no children, so he spoiled us in droves. It was he who kept us when my parents left. And it was a hockey player!" recalled his nephew Yvan Joly.

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