Toe Blake

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Toe Blake
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1966
ToeBlakeChex.jpg
Blake in the 1960s
Born(1912-08-21)August 21, 1912
Victoria Mines, Ontario, Canada
Died May 17, 1995(1995-05-17) (aged 82)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 162 lb (73 kg; 11 st 8 lb)
Position Left wing
Shot Left
Played for Montreal Maroons
Montreal Canadiens
Playing career 19341951

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). Blake played in the NHL from 1935 to 1948 with the Montreal Maroons and Montreal Canadiens. He led the NHL in scoring in 1939, while also winning the Hart Trophy for most valuable player, and served as captain of the Canadiens from 1940 to his retirement. He won the Stanley Cup three times as a player: in 1935 with the Maroons, and in 1944 and 1946 with the Canadiens. While with the Canadiens Blake played on a line with Elmer Lach and Maurice Richard which was dubbed the Punch line, as all three were highly-skilled players. In 2017 Blake was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history. He was also known as "The Old Lamplighter" [1] due to his skill for putting the puck in the net.

Contents

Blake retired as a player in 1951, and soon after turned to coaching. After several years in lower leagues he was named the Canadiens' coach in 1955, and would remain in that role until his retirement in 1968. As coach of the Canadiens he won the Stanley Cup a further eight times, and helped Montreal become one of the most dominant teams in NHL history.

Early life

Blake was one of 13 children to Wilmer and Arzélie Blake (11 survived childhood). [2] Wilmer (born 1874) was originally from Massachusetts and had moved to Canada around 1896, and was of English and Irish ancestry. [3] Arzélie was born in Buckingham, Quebec in 1877; her family, the Filions, had arrived in Quebec in the 17th century. [4] Wilmer and Arzélie married in 1898, and shortly after moved to Sudbury, Ontario for work. [5] Soon after Blake's birth the family moved to Coniston, as the mine Wilmer had been working at was slowly closing. [6]

Playing career

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

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. [7] 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 2022 (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.

Toe Blake Toe Blake.png
Toe Blake

During a loss to the New York Rangers on January 11, 1948, [8] [9] Blake collided with Rangers' skater Bill Juzda, awkwardly hit the boards and suffered a double fracture of his ankle, ending his NHL career. [10] [9] In 1998, he was ranked number 66 on The Hockey News ’ list of the NHL's 100 greatest players of all time to date. [11] At the time of his retirement from the NHL Blake was second all-time in career scoring with 527 points, 21 points behind Bill Cowley for the all-time record. He had the all-time record for career points in the playoffs with 62 points in 58 games. [12]

Coaching career

After eight years coaching several of the Canadiens' minor-league affiliates, he was named head coach of the Canadiens on June 8, 1955, replacing Dick Irvin. [13] Blake was fluent in French (his mother was a Franco-Ontarian), and Canadiens management also felt that Richard's former linemate was better suited to control the star's explosive temper (which had led to a riot the past spring).

Blake coached the Canadiens for thirteen years, winning the Stanley Cup eight times — the most titles for any coach in the team's history, the most with one team, [14] and second-most league-wide behind Scotty Bowman, who won nine Stanley Cups in total (five Cups with the Canadiens, one with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and three with the Detroit Red Wings.) [15] His 500 regular-season wins are still the most in Canadiens history. [14] Notably, he won championships in each of his first five seasons as a head coach, this streak being an NHL record that stands to this day. The only other person to have performed a similar feat in his first five seasons as a coach or manager of any particular team in North American professional sports is Casey Stengel of the New York Yankees, although unlike Blake's case the Yankees were not the first team Stengel managed.

Blake 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. [10]

Personal life

Born in what is now the ghost town of Victoria Mines, Blake was raised playing outdoor hockey in the town of Coniston near the city of Sudbury in Northern Ontario.

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. [10]

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. [10] [16] The tavern closed in 1983. [16]

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

He was the uncle of Mike Blake.

Legacy

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. [9] 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. [18]

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season TeamLeagueGP G A Pts PIM GPGAPtsPIM
1929–30Cochrane Dunlops NOJHA 73034
1930–31 Sudbury Cub Wolves NOJHA63141220006
1930–31Sudbury Industries NOHA 87181031124
1930–31 Sudbury Cub Wolves M-Cup 54156
1930–31 Sudbury Wolves Al-Cup 33140
1931–32Sudbury Cub WolvesNOJHA35054
1931–32Falconbridge FalconsNOHA108191821012
1932–33 Hamilton Tigers OHA Sr 2294132620002
1933–34Hamilton TigersOHA Sr231914332834374
1933–34 Hamilton TigersAl-Cup85274
1934–35Hamilton TigersOHA Sr1815112648
1934–35 Montreal Maroons NHL 8000010000
1935–36 Providence Reds Can-Am 331211236572352
1935–36 Montreal Canadiens NHL1112328
1936–37 Montreal CanadiensNHL431012221251010
1937–38 Montreal CanadiensNHL431716333333142
1938–39 Montreal CanadiensNHL482423471031122
1939–40 Montreal CanadiensNHL4817193648
1940–41 Montreal CanadiensNHL481220324930335
1941–42 Montreal CanadiensNHL481728451930332
1942–43 Montreal CanadiensNHL482336592654370
1943–44 Montreal CanadiensNHL41263359109711182
1944–45 Montreal CanadiensNHL492938672560225
1945–46 Montreal CanadiensNHL502921502976135
1946–47 Montreal CanadiensNHL602129506112790
1947–48 Montreal CanadiensNHL32915244
1948–49 Buffalo Bisons AHL 181340
1949–50 Valleyfield Braves QSHL 431215271530110
1950–51Valleyfield BravesQSHL10000
NHL totals5772352925272825725376223

Coaching record

TeamYear Regular season Playoffs
GWLTPtsFinishResult
Montreal Canadiens 1955–56 704515101001st in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1956–57 70352312822nd in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1957–58 70431710961st in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1958–59 70391813911st in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1959–60 70401812921st in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1960–61 70411910921st in NHLLost in semi-finals
Montreal Canadiens 1961–62 70421414981st in NHLLost in semi-finals
Montreal Canadiens 1962–63 70281923793rd in NHLLost in semi-finals
Montreal Canadiens 1963–64 70362113851st in NHLLost in semi-finals
Montreal Canadiens 1964–65 70362311832nd in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1965–66 7041218901st in NHLWon Stanley Cup
Montreal Canadiens 1966–67 70322513772nd in NHLLost in Cup Final
Montreal Canadiens 1967–68 74422210941st in EastWon Stanley Cup
Total9145002551591,15913 playoff appearances
8 Stanley Cup Wins

Awards

See also

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References

  1. "Toe Blake".
  2. Logothetis 2020 , p. 10
  3. Logothetis 2020 , p. 13
  4. Logothetis 2020 , p. 14
  5. Logothetis 2020 , p. 11
  6. Logothetis 2020 , p. 12
  7. Coleman 1969 , p. 238
  8. "Our History 1947-1948". Montreal Canadiens. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 "Spotlight: One on one with Toe Blake". Hockey Hall of Fame. January 2, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Christie 1995 , p. E6
  11. Dryden 1997 , p. 139
  12. 1 2 Hackel 2017
  13. Logothetis 2020 , p. 126
  14. 1 2 "Top 10s - Coaches". Montreal Canadiens. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  15. "Once around Scotty Bowman's home, in what is normally..." August 29, 2002. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  16. 1 2 "Faubourg Building". Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  17. 1 2 Thomas Jr., Robert McG (May 18, 1995). "Hector (Toe) Blake, 82, Is Dead; Coach of Canadiens Title Teams". The New York Times . Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  18. Punch, Rachel (September 13, 2011). "Toe Blake honour long overdue". Sudbury Star. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  19. Diamond 2002 , p. 660

Bibliography

Preceded by NHL Scoring Champion
1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Hart Trophy
1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by Montreal Canadiens captain
194048
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Lady Byng Trophy
1946
Succeeded by
Preceded by Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
195568
Succeeded by