October 08, 2015

Harvey Bennett, Sr.


 Harvey Bennett played 13 seasons in the American Hockey League and was one of the league’s most successful goaltenders of his era. Synonymous with hockey in Rhode Island both during and after his playing career, Bennett is a AHL Hall of Famer.

During the 1944-45 season Harvey Bennett was called upon by the Boston Bruins to help out with their goaltending duties as starting goalie Chuck Rayner was serving his WWII military duty.

Straight out of junior hockey where he was a top puckstopper in the OHA with the Oshawa Generals, the young rookie at times looked brilliant and at other times he struggled. He ended up allowing 103 goals in 24 games for a less than impressive 4.20 goals against average. His played caught some attention though, particularly his spread-eagle split saves which reminded some of the great Dave Kerr.

Rayner returned to the Bruins for the 1945-46 season and Bennett was demoted to the minor leagues, never to return. He enjoyed 14 years in the minor leagues, most of which was spent with the AHL's Providence Reds. Despite some strong seasons in the minors - including 4 consecutive years leading his league in wins - he never got another shot at the NHL.

Bennett was of course made famous by Maurice "Rocket" Richard on March 18, 1945. Late in that game, the final game of the season, Rocket managed to get a puck past Bennett. The goal was historic as Richard became the first player to ever break the magical 50 goal plateau!

Bennett, who relieved Paul Bibeault in the Bruins nets during the game, however contests the goal should never have been allowed.

"It was kicked in" says Bennett many years later, though in a bit of a sarcastic matter. At the time Bennett protested with the referee so obviously he felt it wasn't a good goal. He never pleaded his case in public because of the historic nature of the goal, though his three NHL playing sons all say he has always claimed the goal was actually kicked in.

No one seems to remember the goal too well. Richard of course said it was good. Elmer Lach, who set up the goal, says he doesn't remember it nowadays. Canadiens defenseman Butch Bouchard says likewise, though offers "It was called by the referee, so it was a goal."

As mentioned, Harvey had three sons who all played more games in the National Hockey League than he did - Curt, Harvey Jr. and Bill.

Curt was the most successful. He enjoyed 580 NHL games and played in two NHL All Star competitions, as well as two World Championships and the 1976 Canada Cup for Team USA. Although he was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, he was an American and spent all but 3 months of his first 20 years in Rhode Island. So when he scored 31 goals in 1975-75 he became the first American player ever to score 30 goals.

Harvey Jr. bounced around with Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Minnesota and St. Louis for a total of 268 NHL games without a whole lot of fuss. He too played in the 1976 Canada Cup for Team USA and the 1978 World Hockey Championships.

Bill was the little brother in terms of age, but certainly not size. At 6'5" and 235 pounds he was the biggest in the family. He however had the shortest NHL career - just 31 games over two seasons with Boston and Hartford in the late 1970s.

Two other brothers - Jim and John- never made it to the NHL, but he did professional hockey. Jim spent one year between the old IHL and CHL, while John played one year with the WHA Philadelphia Blazers. Both were stars at Brown University as well.

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