Hap Emms

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Hap Emms
Born (1905-01-12)January 12, 1905
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Died October 23, 1988(1988-10-23) (aged 83)
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)
Position Left Wing/Defence
Shot Left
Played for Montreal Maroons
New York Americans
Detroit Falcons
Detroit Red Wings
Boston Bruins
Playing career 1926–1938

Leighton Alfred Emms (January 12, 1905 – October 23, 1988) was a Canadian ice hockey player, coach, team owner, and general manager, during nearly 60 years in hockey. Emms played 17 seasons of professional hockey as a left winger and a defenceman, including 10 seasons and 320 games in the National Hockey League. After playing, Emms had a 33 year presence in the Ontario Hockey Association, as the owner of the Barrie Flyers, Niagara Falls Flyers, and St. Catharines Black Hawks between 1945 and 1978. Teams that Emms coached or owned appeared in eight Memorial Cup tournaments, winning four Memorial Cups. He was nicknamed "Happy Emms" due to the sour look on his face, which was later shortened to "Hap Emms."[1]

Playing career[edit]

Emms started his career as a left winger playing junior ice hockey from 1921 to 1925. He signed as a free agent with the Montreal Maroons on November 10, 1926.[2] He spent the next two seasons splitting time between the Maroons and the Stratford Nationals of the Canadian Professional Hockey League. Emms then moved to the Windsor Bulldogs in the International Hockey League, for two seasons, and scored 21 goals both seasons.[3]

Emms was traded to New York Americans on May 14, 1930.[2] In 1930-31, Emms played his first full NHL season at the age of 25, in 44 games with the New York Americans.[4] He started the 1931–32 season with Americans, was traded to the Detroit Falcons on December 29, 1931,[2] then played briefly with New Haven Eagles in the Canadian–American Hockey League, before being called back up to the NHL. He played three seasons in Detroit, but was not happy, and asked Jack Adams to release him.[1]

Emms signed as a free agent by Boston Bruins on, October 28, 1934,[2] and switched to playing defence. He played only 11 games with the Bruins, and was traded to New York Americans on December 14, 1934.[2] He played three more seasons in New York, and was traded to Detroit on February 13, 1938, ending his NHL career.[2] Emms played on Detroit's farm team, the Pittsburgh Hornets in the IAHL for two seasons.[4]

Player / coach[edit]

Emms joined the Omaha Knights in the American Hockey Association, as a player / coach. Emms scored 19 goals in the 1939–40 season, and led his team to the AHA finals.[3] Emms broke his leg part way through the 1941–42 season.[1] He remained on the team as coach, and led the Knights to the AHA championship. After a couple years off from hockey, Emms returned to coach the St. Louis Flyers of the American Hockey League in the 1944–45 season, and played the final two games of his career. Six games into the 1945–46 season, Emms left St. Louis to return home.

Barrie Flyers[edit]

Emms founded the Barrie Flyers in his hometown of Barrie, in the Ontario Hockey Association. From 1945 to 1960, Emms was head coach and owner of the Flyers, and the team was sponsored by the Boston Bruins. Barrie won its first J. Ross Robertson Cup in the third season of play, defeating the original Windsor Spitfires in the finals. In the Eastern Canada finals, the Flyers won the George Richardson Memorial Trophy versus the Montreal Nationales. The Flyers played in the 1948 Memorial Cup, losing to the Port Arthur West End Bruins. Barrie repeated as OHA champions the following season, defeating the Toronto Marlboros for the J. Ross Robertson Cup. In the Eastern Canada finals, Barrie lost to the Montreal Royals. Emms rebuilt the team in 1950, and then finished first place in the OHA in 1951. The Flyers returned to the OHA finals, beating the Toronto Marlboros. The Flyers won the Eastern Canada title versus the Quebec Citadels, and won the 1951 Memorial Cup versus the Winnipeg Monarchs.

The Flyers finished first place in the OHA in 1953. Emms was involved in controversy during the OHA playoffs in 1953, when he refused to play a Sunday playoff game for religious reasons, and when he had a goal judge handcuffed and removed from Barrie Arena.[5] Despite the incidents, Emms' Flyers won its fourth J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1953, defeating the Toronto St. Michael's Majors, and then won its third George Richardson Memorial Trophy as Eastern Canada champions versus the Quebec Citadels. Barrie won its second national title, defeating the St. Boniface Canadiens in the 1953 Memorial Cup. Emms next seven seasons were not as successful, but his team did reach the 1956 OHA finals.

Some notable players Emms coached on the Barrie Flyers included brothers Dick Cherry and Don Cherry, Real Chevrefils, Marv Edwards, Ray Gariepy, Howie Glover, Leo Labine, Wayne Maxner, Gilles Mayer, Don McKenney, Paul Meger, Doug Mohns, Jim Morrison, Ron Stewart, Orval Tessier, Jerry Toppazzini, and Ed Westfall.

Niagara Falls Flyers[edit]

Emms moved the Flyers from Barrie, and operated the franchise from Niagara Falls, Ontario from 1960 to 1972. Emms slowly relinquished coaching duties to others, but continued as team owner, and general manager. The Niagara Falls Flyers were still sponsored by the Bruins until the direct NHL sponsorship of junior clubs halted in 1967. In the Flyers third season, the team finished first place in the OHA, winning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy with 69 points. Niagara Falls defeated the Toronto Neil McNeil Maroons in the OHA finals to win its first J. Ross Robertson Cup in its new city, and the fifth for Emms. The Flyers defeated the Espanola Eagles in the Eastern Canada finals, to advance to the 1963 Memorial Cup played in Edmonton, but lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings in six games. Two seasons later, Emms led the Flyers to another first place finish with 81 points, and a second Hamilton Spectator Trophy. Niagara Falls defeated the Toronto Marlboros in the OHA finals, and advanced to a rematch with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 1965 Memorial Cup, also played in Edmonton. Emms won his third Memorial Cup as his Flyers prevailed in five games.

Three season later, Emms had another championship team. The Flyers finished fourth place in the OHA, but marched through the playoffs to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup versus the Kitchener Rangers, the seventh for Emms. Niagara won the Eastern Canada final versus the Verdun Maple Leafs. Four of the five games in the 1968 Memorial Cup were played at Emms' home rink, the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena. The Flyers won all four games on home ice for their second Memorial Cup title, and the fourth for Emms. After 1968, many of the players graduated to higher leagues, and the Flyers struggled for the next four seasons, missing the playoffs twice, and winning only one playoff series. In 1972, Emms sold the Flyers, and the team was relocated to become the Sudbury Wolves.

Notable Niagara Falls Flyers players are: Don Awrey, Jim Lorentz, Rick Ley, Don Marcotte, Barry Wilkins, Rosaire Paiement, Steve Atkinson, Bill Goldsworthy, Jean Pronovost, John Arbour, Gilles Marotte, Bernie Parent, Doug Favell, Derek Sanderson, Brad Selwood, Phil Roberto, Tom Webster, and Phil Myre.

Boston Bruins[edit]

During the 1965–66 and 1966–67 seasons Emms was the general manager of both the NHL Bruins, and the Niagara Falls Flyers. Emms succeeded Lynn Patrick as only the third GM in the team's 41-year history to that point.[6] Emms brought in such players as Bernie Parent, Pit Martin, John "Pie" McKenzie, Gerry Cheevers, Gilles Marotte and Gary Doak to the Bruins. He also promoted Harry Sinden to coach in 1966, and was the general manager during Bobby Orr's first season in the National Hockey League. The Bruins were in the midst of an eight-year slump, and failed to make the playoffs during Emms' two seasons. Emms and the Bruins mutually ended his management, and he returned to the Niagara Fall Flyers.[6] Emms was replaced by his assistant, Milt Schmidt.

St. Catharines Blackhawks[edit]

Emms purchased the St. Catharines Black Hawks immediately after selling the Flyers in 1972. In his first season with the new club, Emms was suspended by the league for an incident involving the Toronto Marlboros' Mark Napier, who had signed a professional contract to play for the Toronto Toros. The World Hockey Association contract was not to take effect until after Napier's junior season was complete, but Emms felt it was wrong to have what he deemed a professional playing in junior hockey. During a game against Toronto, Emms ordered his players to wear their jerseys backwards and play with their sticks upside down in protest. The Toronto Marlboros won 14–0, Emms was fined $1,000, and suspended for one year.[7]

By the 1973–74 season, Emms had built the Black Hawks into a championship team. They finished second place in the regular season, then went undefeated in all three OHA playoff rounds to capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup versus the Peterborough Petes. It was Emms' eighth and final OHA title as a general manager. In the 1974 Memorial Cup played in Calgary at the Stampede Corral, the Black Hawks faced the Regina Pats, and the Quebec Remparts. Emm's team won its first game 4–1 over Quebec, then lost to Regina 4–0. In the semifinal game, St. Catharines was defeated 11–3 by Quebec. He led the Black Hawks for two more seasons in St. Catharines, missing the playoffs both times. Emms' time in St. Catharines produced several NHL players including, Wilf Paiement, Gary McAdam, Rick Hampton, Ken Breitenbach, Garry Lariviere, Rick Adduono, and Dave Gorman

Emms relocated the team to Niagara Falls at the end of the 1975–76 season, becoming the second incarnation of the Niagara Falls Flyers. In two his last two seasons, his team missed the playoffs twice, but did develop future Hall of Famer Mike Gartner. In his final draft as a general manager in 1977, Emms had the opportunity to draft Wayne Gretzky with the second overall pick, but chose Steve Peters instead.[7] Emms sold the Flyers to Reg Quinn in 1978, and retired from hockey.

Personal life[edit]

Emms coached his son Paul Emms, and nephew Don Emms on the Barrie Flyers.[4] Paul Emms later coached the Niagara Falls Flyers while his father managed. Emms was known for smoking a pipe, being frugal with money, and fined players for cursing.[7] He suffered a stroke in 1983, which left him unable to walk or talk.[1] He died of heart failure on October 22, 1988 in Niagara Falls.[1] Emms was interred at Barrie Union Cemetery.[8]


The Emms Family Award was donated in 1973 by Emms, as an annual award to recognize the OHL Rookie of the Year. The Hap Emms Memorial Trophy was created in 1975, to recognize the outstanding goaltender at the Memorial Cup tournament. From the 1975–76 OMJHL season until the 1993–94 OHL season, the more westerly of the league's two divisions was named the Emms Division in his memory. Likewise, the Emms Trophy for winning the same division, was created at the same time. Since the 1994–95 OHL season, it is awarded to the team winning the central division.

Playing statistics[edit]

    Regular Season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1921–22 Barrie Colts OHA-Jr.
1922–23 Barrie Colts OHA-Jr.
1923–24 Barrie Colts OHA-Jr.
1924–25 Midland Hockey Club OHA-Jr.
1925–26 Brantford Seniors OHA-Sr.
1926–27 Montreal Maroons NHL 8 0 0 0 0
1926–27 Stratford Nationals Can-Pro 25 10 5 15 59 2 0 0 0 2
1927–28 Montreal Maroons NHL 10 0 1 1 10
1927–28 Stratford Nationals Can-Pro 29 8 5 13 56 5 1 0 1 20
1928–29 Windsor Bulldogs Can-Pro 42 21 5 26 104 8 6 3 9 30
1929–30 Windsor Bulldogs IHL 38 21 16 37 107
1930–31 New York Americans NHL 44 5 4 9 56
1931–32 New York Americans NHL 13 1 0 1 11
1931–32 New Haven Eagles Can-Am 5 0 0 0 8
1931–32 Detroit Falcons NHL 20 5 9 14 27 2 0 0 0 2
1932–33 Detroit Red Wings NHL 43 9 13 22 63 4 0 0 0 8
1933–34 Detroit Red Wings NHL 45 7 7 14 51 8 0 0 0 2
1934–35 Boston Bruins NHL 11 1 1 2 8
1934–35 New York Americans NHL 28 2 2 4 19
1935–36 New York Americans NHL 32 1 5 6 12
1936–37 New York Americans NHL 46 4 8 12 48
1937–38 New York Americans NHL 20 1 3 4 6
1937–38 Pittsburgh Hornets IAHL 26 5 13 18 39 2 1 1 2 0
1938–39 Pittsburgh Hornets IAHL 55 9 26 35 62
1939–40 Omaha Knights AHA 48 18 15 33 93 9 0 4 4 0
1940–41 Omaha Knights AHA 27 7 11 18 31
1941–42 Omaha Knights AHA 26 2 5 7 40
1944–45 St. Louis Flyers AHL 2 0 0 0 0
NHL Totals 320 36 53 89 311 14 0 0 0 12
Can-Pro Totals 96 39 15 54 219 15 7 3 10 52
IAHL / AHL Totals 83 14 39 53 101 2 1 1 2 0
AHA Totals 101 27 31 58 164 9 0 4 4 0

Coaching statistics[edit]

Season Team League Regular season Playoffs
G W L T Pts Finish Result
1939–40 Omaha Knights AHA 48 25 23 0 50 4th, AHA Lost in AHA finals
1940–41 Omaha Knights AHA 48 24 24 0 48 5th, AHA Out of playoffs
1941–42 Omaha Knights AHA 50 24 20 6 54 3rd, North AHA champions
1944–45 St. Louis Flyers AHL 60 14 38 8 36 4th, Western Out of playoffs
1945–46 St. Louis Flyers AHL 5 1 4 0 2 (4th, Western) (resigned)
1945–46 Barrie Flyers OHA 28 8 18 2 18 7th, OHA
1946–47 Barrie Flyers OHA 35 17 16 2 36 6th, OHA
1947–48 Barrie Flyers OHA 36 23 13 0 46 3rd, OHA OHA champions
Lost Memorial Cup finals
1948–49 Barrie Flyers OHA 48 28 16 4 60 2nd, OHA OHA champions
Lost Eastern Canada final
1949–50 Barrie Flyers OHA 48 21 24 3 45 5th, OHA
1950–51 Barrie Flyers OHA 54 38 14 2 78 1st, OHA OHA champions
Memorial Cup champions
1951–52 Barrie Flyers OHA 53 22 30 1 47 7th, OHA
1952–53 Barrie Flyers OHA 56 37 17 2 76 1st, OHA OHA champions
Memorial Cup champions
1953–54 Barrie Flyers OHA 59 25 33 1 51 7th, OHA
1954–55 Barrie Flyers OHA 49 18 31 0 36 7th, OHA
1955–56 Barrie Flyers OHA 48 20 25 3 43 6th, OHA Lost in OHA finals
1956–57 Barrie Flyers OHA 52 13 37 2 28 6th, OHA
1957–58 Barrie Flyers OHA 51 18 29 4 40 6th, OHA
1958–59 Barrie Flyers OHA 54 21 27 6 48 5th, OHA
1959–60 Barrie Flyers OHA 48 24 18 6 54 3rd, OHA
TOTALS AHA 146 73 67 6 152 1 AHA championship
TOTALS AHL 65 15 42 8 38
TOTALS OHA 719 333 348 38 704 2 x 1st place 4 OHA championships
1 OHA finalist


  1. ^ a b c d e "Happy Emms". Detroit Red Wings Legends. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Hap Emms". Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  3. ^ a b "Leighton 'Happy' Emms hockey statistics and profile". hockeydb.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  4. ^ a b c "Hap Emms". Eliteprospects.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  5. ^ Young, Scott (1989). 100 Years of Dropping the Puck. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Inc. pp. 215–216. ISBN 0-7710-9093-5. 
  6. ^ a b Cole, Rick (2015-04-06). "50 Years Ago in Hockey - Bruins Happy With Emms". The Hockey Writers. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  7. ^ a b c Ludzik, Steve (2013-11-08). "Hap Emms will never be forgotten". Niagara Falls Review. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  8. ^ "Leighton Alfred "Hap" Emms (1905-1988)". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Lynn Patrick
General Manager of the Boston Bruins
Succeeded by
Milt Schmidt