Charlie Conacher

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Charlie Conacher
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1961
Charlie Conacher Red wings.jpg
Born (1909-12-20)December 20, 1909
Toronto, ON, CAN
Died December 30, 1967(1967-12-30) (aged 58)
Toronto, ON, CAN
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 195 lb (88 kg; 13 st 13 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shot Right
Played for Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings
New York Americans
Playing career 1929–1941

Charles William "The Big Bomber" Conacher, Sr. (December 20, 1909 – December 30, 1967) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and New York Americans in the National Hockey League. An early power forward, Conacher was nicknamed "The Big Bomber," for his size, powerful shot and goal scoring. He led the NHL five times in goals, and twice led in overall scoring. Over five seasons from 1931-32 to 1935-36 Conacher was named to three NHL First All-Star Teams and two NHL Second All-Star Teams. He is an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Junior career[edit]

Conacher played three years of junior hockey, most notably with the Toronto Marlboros. Playing with future Maple Leafs teammate Harvey "Busher" Jackson, he achieved staggering scoring numbers, leading the Marlboros to the Memorial Cup playoffs in 1928 and 1929.[1] In 28 playoff games with the Marlies in those two seasons, Conacher scored 50 goals, including 28 goals in the 1929 playoffs to lead his team to a Memorial Cup championship, its first of six eventual titles.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Signed the next season by the Maple Leafs with Jackson, Toronto manager Conn Smythe paired the two with former farmhand Joe Primeau. [3] The trio, nicknamed the "Kid Line" for their inexperience - Primeau was 23, Conacher and Jackson both 18 - became an immediate sensation in Toronto, as Conacher scored his first NHL goal in Toronto's opening 2-2 tie with the Chicago Black Hawks on November 14. [4] Although he missed six games at the end of the season with an infected hand, [5] he finished the season with 20 goals.

The following season, Conacher broke into the elite of the league, despite missing a number of games due to a reinjured hand. [6] He scored 31 goals - the first of five times he led the league in goal scoring - and finishing third overall in points to Howie Morenz and Ebbie Goodfellow. [5] Primeau finished 6th in league scoring as well, and Jackson 15th.

The 1932 season saw the team move into the new Maple Leaf Gardens. In return for Black Hawk Johnny Gottselig, whom Smythe coveted, Chicago asked for Conacher and star defenceman King Clancy for compensation, to which Smythe reportedly cabled that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole, not in Maple Leaf Gardens. [7] Once again, Conacher missed time with a broken hand, during which a curious incident took place. League rules stated that a player receiving a third major penalty in the season would receive a one-game suspension. Conacher had two at the time of his injury, but he was dressed by coach Irvin. According to another league rule, any player jumping on the ice while his team was at full strength received a major penalty, and Irvin had Conacher do so, thus triggering his automatic suspension for a game in which he could not play anyway. [8] With Dick Irvin the new coach of the Leafs, the Kid Line shone, leading Toronto to a Stanley Cup championship. Jackson led the league in scoring, Primeau was second and Conacher - used sparingly after his return from his injury - fourth, while once again leading the league in goals and being named to the Second All-Star Team, his best game coming in an 11-3 romp over the New York Americans in which he scored five goals. [9]

A broken collarbone sidelined Conacher for weeks in the 1933 season [10] - the only one in a six year stretch in which he failed to lead the league in goals - but he was once again named to the Second All-Star Team at right wing.

three young men stand side by side.  Each has short, dark hair parted in the middle and are wearing identical team jackets with a stylized maple leaf logo on the left breast.
The Kid Line of Conacher, Primeau and Jackson

The next three seasons saw Conacher cemented among the top players in the game, as he regained his form and led the league in goal scoring all three seasons and in points in 1934 and 1935, being named First Team All-Star all three seasons, years in which the Leafs finished as runner-up in the Stanley Cup finals. Things would change in 1937; Primeau and Clancy retired, while Conacher broke a wrist in training camp, an injury initially thought not serious. [11] However, Conacher would only play 15 games that season and 19 the next after suffering a dislocated shoulder, as chronic injuries caught up to him, and he never again regained his form. [12]

The Detroit Red Wings, seeking to improve their team, purchased Conacher in the fall of 1939 for a sum reported to be $16,000, and contingent on him remaining in good health. [13] While he finished fourth on the Wings in scoring with 23 points, his days as a superstar were over. He was optioned the following season to the New York Americans, where he played his final two seasons paired on defence with former Montreal Maroons star Hooley Smith. [14] The Amerks, who had loaded up with once-great players like Conacher, Smith, Busher Jackson, Eddie Shore and Nels Stewart, were notably slow [15] and finished in last place both seasons, although Conacher played credibly, finished 3rd and 5th respectively in team scoring and serving as the Americans' captain both years. Only 30, Conacher retired after the 1941 season.

Retirement and legacy[edit]

After his retirement, Conacher went into coaching, meeting with remarkable success: he led the junior league Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey Association to four straight OHA Championships between 1941 and 1944, as well as three straight Eastern Canada amateur championships in 1942, 1943 and 1944, and the Memorial Cup Championship in 1944. The Generals finished in second place in both 1946 and 1947 - coincidentally, losing in both seasons to the St. Michael's College Majors, coached by his old linemate Joe Primeau.

After resigning from his coaching post in Oshawa, Conacher was named to replace Johnny Gottselig as coach of the Chicago Black Hawks 28 games into the 1949 season. As a coach, Conacher was involved in a notable altercation when Detroit Times writer Lew Walter tried to interview him after the Red Wings defeated Chicago 9–2 on February 8, 1950. Conacher, who exploded in anger, criticized Walter's past stories and punched Walter, knocking him down to the floor. Walter announced that he would seek a warrant for Conacher's arrest. NHL president Clarence Campbell took a dim view of Conacher's actions and fined him $200. Conacher then phoned Walter and apologized, saying he regretted what had taken place. Over his three seasons at the helm, Conacher coached the Black Hawks - a team on which his younger brother Roy played - to 6th, 5th and 6th place finishes respectively, after which he was fired in favor of Ebbie Goodfellow.

Conacher had nine siblings, including Hockey Hall of Famers Lionel Conacher and Roy Conacher. He was also the father of retired NHL forward Pete Conacher. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 and, later, to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. In 1998, he was ranked number 36 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

Conacher died in 1967 of throat cancer, and was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

The Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award was an award named after Conacher. It was given out to the NHL player who best exhibited outstanding humanitarian and public services contributions, and was awarded from 1968 to 1984.

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1929–30 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 38 20 9 29 48
1930–31 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 37 31 12 43 78 2 0 1 1 0
1931–32 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 44 34 14 48 66 7 6 2 8 6
1932–33 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 40 14 19 33 64 9 1 1 2 10
1933–34 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 42 32 20 52 38 5 3 2 5 0
1934–35 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 47 36 21 57 24 7 1 4 5 6
1935–36 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 44 23 15 38 74 9 3 2 5 12
1936–37 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 15 3 5 8 13 2 0 0 0 5
1937–38 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 19 7 9 16 6
1938–39 Detroit Red Wings NHL 40 8 15 23 39 5 2 5 7 2
1939–40 New York Americans NHL 47 10 18 28 41 3 1 1 2 8
1940–41 New York Americans NHL 46 7 16 23 32
NHL totals 459 225 173 398 523 49 17 18 35 49

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Division rank Result
CHI 1947–48 32 13 15 4 30 6th in NHL DNQ
CHI 1948–49 60 21 31 8 50 5th in NHL DNQ
CHI 1949–50 70 22 38 10 54 6th in NHL DNQ
Total 162 56 84 22 134

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Coleman, Charles L. (1969), Trail of the Stanley Cup, Vol II., Sherbrooke, Quebec: National Hockey League, OCLC 7485243 
  • McFarlane, Brian (1969), 50 Years of Hockey, Winnipeg, Manitoba: Greenwood Publishing Ltd, OCLC 7485243 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Legends - Charlie Conacher biography". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  2. ^ "The Legends - Charlie Conacher statistics". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  3. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 84.
  4. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 85.
  5. ^ a b Coleman 1969, p. 91.
  6. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 631.
  7. ^ McFarlane 1969, p. 42.
  8. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 147.
  9. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 145.
  10. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 157.
  11. ^ McFarlane 1969, p. 53.
  12. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 286.
  13. ^ McFarlane 1969, p. 57.
  14. ^ McFarlane 1969, p. 63.
  15. ^ Coleman 1969, p. 373.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Hap Day
Toronto Maple Leafs captain
1937–38
Succeeded by
Red Horner
Preceded by
Bill Cook
NHL Scoring Champion
1934, 1935
Succeeded by
Dave Schriner
Preceded by
Sweeney Schriner
New York Americans captain
193941
Succeeded by
Tommy Anderson
Preceded by
Johnny Gottselig
Head coach of the Chicago Black Hawks
1948-50
Succeeded by
Ebbie Goodfellow