December 16, 2023

Howie Morenz Played For The Boston Bruins?

As unthinkable as it may seem, did you know that Howie Morenz played at least one game with the Boston Bruins?

And he played a game with the New York Americans the same week!

In case you don't know, Howie Morenz was arguably the Montreal Canadiens first true superstar. He was an electrifying skater - nicknamed The Mitchell Meteor and the Stratford Streak which referenced where he was from with his out-of-this-world speed. He won three Stanley Cups, three Hart Trophies as league MVP, and in 1950 was named by the Canadian Press as the best hockey player in the first half century.

Morenz did have brief stops with the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers, but will always be remembered as a Montreal Canadiens star.

So how did it come to be that Morenz played a game with the Bruins and with the New York Americans even though there is no statistical record of him ever doing so?

Back in the 1920s it was not uncommon for teams and players to go on what they called "Barnstorming Tours" once the NHL season was done. It was a way for both the team and for participating players to make some extra money. 

Given it was the early days of the fledgling NHL, it was not exactly uncommon. These were not NHL sanctioned games, so results and player statistics were never included. It sure would be interesting if someone could unearth a complete statistical database of such games and results.

Take Morenz for example. In March of 1926 he and the Canadiens were already out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the team and many of its players played on, albeit unofficially.

Montreal and Toronto met in Windsor, Ontario on March 18 and 20th. Morenz scored twice and led Montreal to victories in both games. 

Two days later Morenz played with the New York Americans in an exhibition against the WHL's Portland Rosebuds. The New York Times raved about Morenz being the faster player on the ice.

The very next night Morenz was back wearing his familiar Canadiens garb as the Habs outscored the Bruins 4-2 in Boston. And the night after that the two teams played in a heated game in Providence, Rhode Island. Tempers flared after Billy Coutu of the Canadiens knocked the Bruins Carson Cooper out cold.

The Bruins might have been hopping mad at the Montrealers, but finding themselves short a couple of players for a game against Portland Rosebuds 48 hours later they secured the services of two Montreal players to join the Bruins for a night. Imagine that! Morenz and Billy Boucher both skated for the Bruins in a 2-1 loss.

There was some suggestion in the media that Morenz and Boucher didn't play too well in their Bruins one-off because they were saving themselves for the following night, March 27, as the Canadiens were scheduled to play Providence. However it seems that game was never played as that was the day that Canadiens superstar goaltender Georges Vezina died. Vezina was forced into retirement about a year earlier because of a nasty bout with tuberculosis that eventually claimed his life.

The Canadiens may have mourned their fallen teammate, but got right back to work with three scheduled exhibition games against the Saskatoon Sheiks.

That's just a quick dig. But in nine games with three different teams Morenz scored nine goals. Who knows how many he scored throughout his career in these exhibition games. It would be interesting to find out such totals for every player. And not just the old barnstorming days either. A compilation of statistics of pre-season games or exhibitions against travelling Soviet teams would be fascinating too.

No comments: