July 22, 2016

Murph Chamberlain

Murph Chamberlain always worked hard, whether it was on the ice or on his farm.

Erwin "Murph" Chamberlain was a ferocious backchecker and excellent penalty killer. "Old Hardrock" was a regular on the NHL scene from 1937 through to 1949.

But Chamberlain also had a reputation as wild hothead.

He, as Dick Irvin more than once called him, as "a real stirrer-upper." He was an incessant talker. One reporter described him as "a man of a 1000 words without much provocation." Those constant arguments came back to haunt him from time to time. He recalled one story where he was waiting in a hospital with a nasty skate to his foot while some of the staff kept buys by arguing among themselves if he was the dirtiest player in the game.

He was also tough as nails, but sometimes his temper got the best of him. He was once suspended for throwing his stick at a linesman. Another time he actually fought a PA announcer. He earned a hefty $50 for that shenanigan.

After a successful amateur career which included an Allan Cup victory with Sudbury in 1937, Chamberlain broke in with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1937-38. Though he proved to be a very capable contributor, his temper and antics did not sit well with Leafs boss Conn Smythe. Smythe moved him to Montreal in 1940.

Though he would have brief appearances with Boston and Brooklyn, Chamberlain would be best known as a Montreal Canadiens player. He would have strong playoffs in 1944 and 1946. Montreal won the Stanley Cup both times.

Chamberlain once explained his role on the Habs star checking line.

"Getliffe (Ray), Watson (Phil) and myself always took the other team's best line. That left you and Elmer (Lach) and the Rocket to score the goals and take the bows."

A broken leg really slowed Chamberlain and eventually forced him out of the game by 1949. He would turn to coaching. He would guide the Chatham Maroons to an Allan Cup championship in 1959-60.

Chamberlain maintained a farm south of Beachville, Ontario and a paper distribution business in London, Ontario. He was said to have worked 12 hour days every day right up until his death on the farm in 1986. A heart attack claimed Chamberlain at the age of 72.

In 510 career NHL games Murph Chamberlain scored 100 goals and 275 points.  He will forever go down as one of the most underrated players in Montreal Canadiens history.

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