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Watch this and shed a tear…

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79 years ago today…

Howard William Morenz (September 21, 1902 – March 8, 1937) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player. He played centre for three National Hockey League (NHL) teams: the Montreal Canadiens (in two stints), the Chicago Black Hawks, and the New York Rangers. Before joining the NHL, Morenz excelled in the junior Ontario Hockey Association, where his team played for the Memorial Cup, the championship for junior ice hockey in Canada. In the NHL, he was one of the most dominant players in the league and set several league scoring records. A strong skater, Morenz was referred to as the “Stratford Streak” and “Mitchell Meteor” in reference to his speed on the ice.

Considered one of the first stars of the NHL, Morenz played 14 seasons in the league. He was a member of a Stanley Cup–winning team three times, all with the Canadiens. During his NHL career he placed in the top 10 leading scorers ten times. For seven straight seasons, Morenz led the Canadiens in both goals scored and points. Three times in his career he was named the most valuable player of the league, and he led the league once in goals scored and twice in points scored. He was named to the NHL All-Star Team three times.

Morenz died from complications of a broken leg, an injury he suffered in a game. After his death, the Canadiens retired his jersey number, the first time the team had done so for any player. When the Hockey Hall of Fame opened in 1945, Morenz was one of the original nine inductees. In 1950, the Canadian Press named him the best ice hockey player of the first half of the 20th century.

The Case for Number 7

John Kreiser – NHL.com Columnist
Who’s the best player to wear No. 1? 4? 9? NHL.com takes a look at hockey’s greatest players by the numbers they wore.

Seven has always been a special number (Lucky 7; seventh son, etc.) to a lot of people. That’s been as true in hockey as anywhere else.

Some of the game’s greatest stars, going all the way back to players like Howie MorenzFrank Boucherand Nels Stewart in the NHL’s early years, have been honored by being given No. 7. Most of those wearing No. 7 have been forwards, though Tim Horton (in Toronto), Paul Coffey (in Edmonton) and Chris Chelios (in Chicago) have been defensemen. Hall of Famer Ray Bourque also wore No. 7 for his first nine seasons with Boston before switching to No. 77).

More than a dozen players in the Hockey Hall of Fame (and Chelios, who figures to join them in the near future) wore No. 7, as have dozens of players who’ve had excellent careers that were not quite Hall-worthy. Nine of the NHL’s 30 teams have retired No. 7 (Toronto lists it as an “honored number,” as it does with several others), cutting down on the number of future greats who’ll get to wear it.

Here are some of the players who’ve made No. 7 so special:

Howie Morenz (wore No. 7 with Montreal) — Morenz was one of the NHL’s first great stars, with a resume that included seven 20-goal seasons, 40 goals in 44 games in 1929-30, three MVP awards, two scoring titles and the title of Canada’s Outstanding Hockey Player of the Half Century. He died on March 8, 1937, about six weeks after breaking his leg during a game. More than 10,000 people turned out for his funeral and thousands more lined the streets to pay their respects. His No. 7 jersey was the first to be retired by any team, and he was one of the first 12 players selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Frank Boucher (wore No. 7 with the New York Rangers) — After Lester Patrick, who built the franchise, there are few more important names in Ranger history than Boucher, who centered for the Cook brothers on “The Bread Line,” one of the most potent trios the NHL had ever seen. Boucher scored seven times in the Rangers’ first Cup victory in 1928 (including both goals in the series-clinching victory), was a three-time First Team All-Star and won the Lady Byng Trophy so often (seven times in eight years) that the NHL finally gave him the trophy and another one was struck. He later coached the Rangers to the 1940 Cup, their last for 54 years.

Tim Horton (wore No. 7 with Toronto) — He was listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but for much of the 1960s, Horton was regarded as the strongest man in the NHL — and was a big contributor to the Leafs’ dynasty in the early 1960s. He was a First-Team All-Star three times in a six-year span in the 1960s — the last time in 1968-69 at age 39. Horton was still an effective player for Buffalo at age 44 when he died in an auto accident on Feb. 21, 1974. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later. The Leafs list his No. 7 as one of their honored numbers; the Sabres, for whom he played only two seasons, have retired No. 2, the number he wore in Buffalo.

Phil Esposito (wore No. 7 with Chicago and Boston) — Esposito was a big, talented center who was just coming into his own with Chicago when the Blackhawks traded him to Boston in what turned out to be one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history. He went from 61 points in his last season with the Hawks to 84 in his debut in Boston, set a League record with 126 points the following season and shattered scoring marks with 76 goals and 152 points in 1970-71, the first of five consecutive seasons in which he had at least 55 goals and 127 points. He finished his career with six seasons in New York after a November 1975 trade to the Rangers, ending with 717 goals and 1,590 points. Bourque wore his No. 7 until December 1987, when he famously peeled it off and handed it to Esposito while opting for No. 77.

Paul Coffey (wore No. 7 with Edmonton) — Coffey wore No. 7 for all seven of his seasons in Edmonton, during which he became the game’s most feared scorer among defensemen and was part of three Stanley Cup winners. His 48 goals in 1985-86 are still the most by defenseman, and his 138 points that season are one shy of Bobby Orr‘s single-season mark. He wore No. 77 after being dealt to Pittsburgh in 1987 and kept it for most of his career, which included stops in eight more cities and a fourth Cup (with Pittsburgh in 1991), but his biggest seasons came while he wore No. 7 in blue and orange. Coffey donned No. 74 as a member of the Bruins.

NEW FEATURE!!

Canadian Collector Creates Website Dedicated To Howie Morenz–click for Web version

Canadian Collector Creates Website Dedicated To Howie Morenz

 

Growing up in New Brunswick, Ron Vender naturally gravitated toward hockey and the Montreal Canadiens. His favorite player was Habs goalie Ken Dryden, “an educated guy” who fit his ideal as a hockey idol, since Vender didn’t have time to play the game.

“I was too busy studying,” he said.

But after reading “Howie Morenz: Hockey’s First Superstar,” Dean Robinson’s 1982 biography of the Canadiens’ legend, Vender found a new hero — and a collecting obsession.

Ron Vender

Howie Morenz:  The Man, The Memorabilia

This month, Vender, who has lived in Ontario for the last 25 years, created a website dedicated to his collection of Howie Morenz memorabilia. Vender, a 55-year-old who works in the medical field, began collecting items of the “Stratford Streak” on September 21, 1994. He owns 131 different Morenz items, including 40 graded, hard-to-find cards. And that number is expected to rise soon, as Vender has negotiated a deal to buy a 1926 “Anonymous” card that has the hockey star’s name misspelled as “Morentz.”

Those who spVersion 2ell Morenz’s name properly also refer to him as the Babe Ruth of hockey. He was a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1945, and in 1950 was named the greatest player of the half century by Canadian Press. In the regular season, the 5-foot-9 center scored 271 goals and had 201 assists in a career — and life — that was tragically cut short after a freakish on-ice injury in 1937.

Those numbers may not seem impressive, except that for much of Morenz’s 14-year career, forward morenz_uniformpassing was illegal. End-to-end rushes were an offensive staple, and Morenz used his speed and puck-handling ability to lead the NHL in points twice. He led the league in three categories in 1927-28, with his 1927-28 season (33 goals, 18 assists and 51 points). He was a three-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and played on three Stanley Cup championship teams in Montreal.

He was box office for the Canadiens and for the NHL. For businesses, too.  An advertisement in the December 18, 1926, edition of the Montreal Gazette sported an ad by the Bancroft Co., “the store for sporting equipment.” Patrons could purchase “The Famous Howie Morenz Skate” for $7.50 (Canadian), complete with hockey boots and ankle straps.

The Website

Vender’s website — with logos created by his 20-year-old son, Reid — is certainly a shrine to Morenz. Vender’s site includes links to his collection, which includes graded cardsgraded autographsbuttons and ribbonsbooks, magazines and guidesmini-sticksnewspaper clippingsphotographspuckscut signatures; and family items — plus, items he is seeking.

“I like to have a challenge, and Morenz being the Babe Ruth of hockey makes the challenge even greater,” Vender said. “The (Robinson) book really spring boarded me.

“Having a short life span intrigued me. He was so powerful and important in the yVersion 2ears he played.”

The fact that Morenz also played golf in the offseason was a source of bonding for Vender.

“There’s sort of that connection,” he said.

The circumstances surrounding Morenz’s death were odd. On January 28, 1937, against the Chicago Blackhawks, Morenz was tripped in the corner of the rink and the blade of his skate became lodged into the boards. Chicago defenseman Earl Seibert accidentally fell over Morenz, fracturing his leg in four places. That effectively ended Morenz’s career.

“He was heartbroken that he couldn’t play,” Vender said.

It was Morenz’s first major injury on the ice. But on May 24, 1932, he was cut and bruised when hit over the head with the butt of a revolver while grappling with a man who invaded his mother-in-law’s home.

The leg injury proved to be much more deadly. Morenz died less than six weeks after the collision with Seibert after a blood clot formed in his leg and mVersion 2oved to his lungs. He was 34. His funeral at the Montreal Forum attracted thousands of grieving fans; an Associated Press obituary referred to him as “the idol of every French-Canadian hockey fan.” The Canadiens would retire his No. 7 jersey eight months later.

Vender said finding Morenz items are difficult, but he does have some interesting pieces in his collection.

“He didn’t endorse a lot of items, so there’s not a lot out there,” Vender said.

Howie Morenz signed 1933 World Wide GumOne of Vender’s favorite items is a PSA/DNA authenticated 1933 World Wide Gum card with Morenz’s signature.

“It’s a very, very tough piece,” he said. “It was signed in pencil.”

Another interesting piece of Morenz memorabilia is a hockey mini-stick, which measured 15 inches in length and was sponsored by Vicker’s London Dry Gin, which was distilled in the United Kingdom. Vender also owns a 1923 Patterson V-145 rookie card of Morenz. This card comes from a 40-card set put out by a chocolate company.

“They came one to a pack,” Vender said. “If you sent in the whole set, you got a pair of skates.

“They would stamp the back of the cards as canceled and return them along with the skates.”Version 2

Since Vender has been able to work a deal for the 1924 “Morentz” card, he would love to obtain the 1932 advertising card from the Stoodleigh Restaurant, a Toronto establishment that opened in 1904 and closed in the 1970s. But then again, “a game-used hockey stick would be amazing,” he said.

Morenz’s pedigree extended several decades after his death. His daughter Marlene married another famous Canadiens player — Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, whose No. 5 was retired next to Morenz’s on the day that “the inventor of the slap shot” died. It also was 69 years to the day after Morenz’s funeral was held at the Montreal Forum.

Geoffrion’s son — and Morenz’s grandson — Danny Geoffrion, played four years in the WHA and NHL, as a winger for the Quebec Nordiques (WHA) and the Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets (NHL).Version 2

Morenz’s son, Howie Jr., played some junior hockey but never achieved his father’s success. When he died last October at age 88, Morenz Jr.’s obituary noted that he served as an ambassador and surrogate for his late father. Morenz’s grandson, Howie Morenz III, is still alive.

“I would like to meet him,” Vender said.

If they do get together, the youngest Howie is sure to be impressed by Vender’s collection, which might be the best group of Morenz collectibles around.

“I think so. It’s certainly documented the most,” Vender said.

In addition to his son Reid, Vender said his younger son, 18-year-old Ross, collects Montreal Canadiens pucks. Some are signed, some aren’t. “He has a thousand different pucks,” Vender said.

Sounds like another Vender website in the making.

 

About Bob D’Angelo

Bob has been a sportswriter and copy editor for more than 35 years and a blogger for a decade. He is celebrating his 50th year of card collecting, and still counts his 1965 Topps Mickey Mantle as his favorite. You can reach him at bobd@sportscollectorsdaily.com.