Toe Blake

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Toe Blake
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1966
Toe Blake.png
Born (1912-08-21)August 21, 1912
Victoria Mines, ON, CAN
Died May 17, 1995(1995-05-17) (aged 82)
Montreal, QC, CAN
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 162 lb (73 kg; 11 st 8 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Maroons
Playing career 1934–1948

Joseph Hector "Toe" Blake, CM (August 21, 1912 – May 17, 1995) was a Canadian ice hockey player and coach in the National Hockey League (NHL).[1] He is best known for his three-decade association with the Montreal Canadiens, with whom he won ten Stanley Cups as a player or coach.

Hockey career[edit]

The Punch line: Maurice Richard (bottom left), Elmer Lach (centre), and Toe Blake (bottom right)

Born in what is now the ghost town of Victoria Mines, he was raised playing outdoor hockey in the town of Coniston near the city of Sudbury in Northern Ontario. Blake played junior and senior hockey in the Sudbury area and was part of the 1932 Memorial Cup champions, the Sudbury Cub Wolves. He played for the Hamilton Tigers of the Ontario Hockey Association during the 1934–35 season before he signed with the Montreal Maroons of the National Hockey League on February 22, 1935; he made his NHL debut two days later on February 24, against the Chicago Black Hawks.[2] Blake played eight games with the Maroons in the 1934–35 season, but was held scoreless; he did not play in any of the team's playoff games, but when the Maroons won the Stanley Cup, Blake's name was added to the trophy. Blake then played for the Canadiens until his retirement in 1948. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player in 1938–39; that same year he was also the league scoring champion with 47 points. For the last eight seasons, he was team captain, and led the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1944 and 1946. In the latter year, in which he incurred only one minor penalty, he became the first Canadien ever to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship, which only Mats Näslund has replicated since as of 2015 (in 1987–88).

While playing with the Canadiens, he was part of a trio called the "Punch Line," with Elmer Lach at centre and Maurice Richard at right wing. He scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in the 1944 Stanley Cup Finals at 9:12 of the first overtime of game four, helping the Canadiens complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. The following season, the Punch Line became the second set of linemates ever to finish first, second, and third in NHL scoring in one season (Lach had 80 points, Richard 73, and Blake 67). They followed the Boston Bruins' Kraut Line of 1939–40, and would be followed by the Detroit Red Wings' Production Line in 1949–50.

During a loss to the New York Rangers on January 11, 1948,[3][4] Blake collided with Rangers' skater Bill Juzda, awkwardly hit the boards and suffered a double fracture of his ankle, ending his NHL career.[1][4] In 1998, he was ranked number 66 on The Hockey News’ list of the NHL's 100 greatest players of all time to date.

After eight years coaching several of the Canadiens' minor-league affiliates, he was named head coach of the Canadiens in 1955–56, replacing Dick Irvin. Blake was fluent in French (his mother was a Franco-Ontarian), and Canadiens management also felt that Blake was better suited to control Richard's explosive temper (which had led to a riot the past spring).

Blake coached the Canadiens for thirteen years, winning eight Stanley Cups — the most titles for any coach in the team's history[5] and second-most league-wide, after Scotty Bowman, who won five Cups with the Canadiens, one with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and three with the Detroit Red Wings.[6] As of 2015, no coach has equalled his 500 regular-season wins with the Canadiens.[5] He was known for his tough, but fair coaching style; his players always knew he was on their side.[citation needed] He retired after the Habs clinched the Cup in game four of the 1968 Finals, ending 33 consecutive years at ice level with the Canadiens organization.

Blake turned down Jacques Plante's request to wear a mask during games for fear that it would impair his vision. However, after a shot from Rangers player Andy Bathgate broke Plante's nose in a game on November 1, 1959, Blake finally relented.[1]

Personal life[edit]

His nickname came from a childhood experience: his younger sister had difficulty pronouncing his name, rendering it as something like "Hec-toe". Thus, the nickname "Toe" arose, and ultimately replaced the nickname he had been given as a scorer, the Old Lamplighter, because he often activated the light behind the goal.[1]

After retiring from the Canadiens, Blake and his family resided permanently in Montreal. In 1952, he opened Toe Blake's Tavern, at the corner of Guy Street and Saint Catherine Street in Montreal, just a few blocks from the Montreal Forum.[1][7] The tavern closed in 1983.[7]

Blake suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his final years.[8] When respected writer Red Fisher visited him in the nursing home in 1989, Toe could not recognize his old friend. Toe Blake died of pneumonia,[citation needed] typical of Alzheimer's patients, on May 17, 1995,[8] at the age of 82.

Legacy[edit]

Blake was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 in the player category, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982.[4] A park located next to his Montreal West home is named in his honor.

In 2011, the community centre in Blake's hometown of Coniston, Ontario, was renamed the "Toe Blake Memorial Arena" in his honour.[9]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1929–30 Cochrane Dunlops NOJHA 7 3 0 3 4
1930–31 Sudbury Cub Wolves NOJHA 6 3 1 4 12 2 0 0 0 6
1930–31 Sudbury Industries NOHA 8 7 1 8 10 3 1 1 2 4
1930–31 Sudbury Cub Wolves M-Cup 5 4 1 5 6
1930–31 Sudbury Wolves Al-Cup 3 3 1 4 0
1931–32 Sudbury Cub Wolves NOJHA 3 5 0 5 4
1931–32 Falconbridge Falcons NOHA 10 8 1 9 18 2 1 0 1 2
1932–33 Hamilton Tigers OHA-Sr. 22 9 4 13 26 2 0 0 0 2
1933–34 Hamilton Tigers OHA-Sr. 23 19 14 33 28 3 4 3 7 4
1933–34 Hamilton Tigers Al-Cup 8 5 2 7 4
1934–35 Hamilton Tigers OHA-Sr. 18 15 11 26 48
1934–35 Montreal Maroons NHL 8 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
1935–36 Providence Reds CAHL 33 12 11 23 65 7 2 3 5 2
1935–36 Montreal Canadiens NHL 11 1 2 3 28
1936–37 Montreal Canadiens NHL 43 10 12 22 12 5 1 0 1 0
1937–38 Montreal Canadiens NHL 43 17 16 33 33 3 3 1 4 2
1938–39 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 24 23 47 10 3 1 1 2 2
1939–40 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 17 19 36 48
1940–41 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 12 20 32 49 3 0 3 3 5
1941–42 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 17 28 45 19 3 0 3 3 2
1942–43 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 23 36 59 26 5 4 3 7 0
1943–44 Montreal Canadiens NHL 41 26 33 59 10 9 7 11 18 2
1944–45 Montreal Canadiens NHL 49 29 38 67 25 6 0 2 2 5
1945–46 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 29 21 50 2 9 7 6 13 5
1946–47 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 21 29 50 6 11 2 7 9 0
1947–48 Montreal Canadiens NHL 32 9 15 24 4
1948–49 Buffalo Bisons AHL 18 1 3 4 0
1949–50 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 43 12 15 27 15 3 0 1 1 0
1950–51 Valleyfield Braves ALX-Cup 1 0 0 0 0
NHL totals 577 235 292 527 282 57 25 37 62 23

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Finish Result
Montreal Canadiens 1955–56 70 45 15 10 100 1st in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1956–57 70 35 23 12 82 2nd in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1957–58 70 43 17 10 96 1st in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1958–59 70 39 18 13 91 1st in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1959–60 70 40 18 12 92 1st in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1960–61 70 41 19 10 92 1st in NHL Lost in Semi-Finals
Montreal Canadiens 1961–62 70 42 14 14 98 1st in NHL Lost in Semi-Finals
Montreal Canadiens 1962–63 70 28 19 23 79 3rd in NHL Lost in Semi-Finals
Montreal Canadiens 1963–64 70 36 21 13 85 1st in NHL Lost in Semi-Finals
Montreal Canadiens 1964–65 70 36 23 11 83 2nd in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1965–66 70 41 21 8 90 1st in NHL Won Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1966–67 70 32 25 13 77 2nd in NHL Lost in Cup Final
Montreal Canadiens 1967–68 74 42 22 10 94 1st in East Won Stanley Cup
Total 914 500 255 159

Awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Christie, James (May 18, 1995). "Canadiens taskmaster won on skates and in a fedora". The Globe & Mail. p. E6. 
  2. ^ Coleman, Charles L. (1969). The Trail of the Stanley Cup, Vol 2: 1927 – 1946 Inc. Sherbrooke, Quebec: Progressive Publications Incorporated. p. 238. 
  3. ^ "Our History 1947-1948". Montreal Canadiens. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Spotlight: One on one with Toe Blake". Hockey Hall of Fame. January 2, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Top 10s - Coaches". Montreal Canadiens. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Once around Scotty Bowman's home, in what is normally...". August 29, 2002. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Faubourg Building". Concordia University. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Thomas, Jr., Robert McG (May 18, 1995). "Hector (Toe) Blake, 82, Is Dead; Coach of Canadiens Title Teams". New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  9. ^ Punch, Rachel (September 13, 2011). "Toe Blake honour long overdue". Sudbury Star. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gordie Drillon
NHL Scoring Champion
1939
Succeeded by
Milt Schmidt
Preceded by
Eddie Shore
Winner of the Hart Trophy
1939
Succeeded by
Ebbie Goodfellow
Preceded by
Walter Buswell
Montreal Canadiens captain
194048
Succeeded by
Bill Durnan
Preceded by
Bill Mosienko
Winner of the Lady Byng Trophy
1946
Succeeded by
Bobby Bauer
Preceded by
Dick Irvin
Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
195568
Succeeded by
Claude Ruel