By the mid 1940's, the farm team system being set up by Canadiens GM Tommy Gorman was beginning to spread its tentacles both north and south of the border. Associations with several pro and semi - pro teams, as well as the placement of players on its junior teams, were starting to bring dividends to the Montreal club.
While these arrangements were just getting underway, players began to trickle up to the big club. Frank Selke Sr. would take the idea even further in the next decade as the Canadiens would soon own franchises outright, eventually purchasing an entire league to groom its prospects.
Several goalies, many more than the Canadiens or a six team NHL could employ in the day, began their associations with the Habs between 1944 and 1952.
Tracking players and identifying which team owned their rights in this era is rather difficult. There were likely hundreds of players signed to C - Forms by the Canadiens with little documentation to ascertain the details. To find the goaltenders that belonged in one way or another to Montreal, I literally had to scan the records of every viable league imaginable, pro, semi, and junior, to first find them, and then determine that they were in fact Montreal property.
In doing this, I must have read bio lines and career stats of over 200 goaltenders this past June and July. When I finally reached 1962, where doubt became clearer due to the first NHL Entry Draft, it was like a breath of fresh air. In that time, I happened across many puckstoppers that seemed to be playing on Canadiens sponsored teams for a short spell, and could not include them in this series due to the guesswork involved.
Player affiliations in the era's before agents and lawyers were completely different to what we know today. Certain contracts could be terminated at any time, and players signed deals for single seasons at best. Other contracts may have ranged from 3 game tryouts to whatever was left of a season. A player may appear in one game as a Canadiens sponsored minor leaguer, get injured, and then have his contract terminated.
Still, with my research, I wanted to accomplish bringing together as big a picture of Habs goaltending history as I could. It was here that I started to realize what a task I'd taken on. The complete story, would unfortunately remain out of reach.
In the coming weeks, there will be dozens of goalies featured here that you have likely never heard of, or did not realize belonged to Montreal. That's kind of the idea I had in mind - a Habs goalie treasure hunt.
There were six goaltenders in the Canadiens system between 1944 and 1952 that never suited up for the Habs for NHL games. From 1945 to 1960, the three Canadiens mainstays between the pipes had names such as Durnan, McNeil, and Plante. The ones you might not have heard of, were Jack Gelineau, Jean Marois, Al Millar, Phil McAtee, Jean Renaud, and Gilles Boisvert.
While all were considered decent prospects at one point or another, only Gelineau and Millar would reach NHL heights.
Jack Gelineau - In The System 1944 - 1951
Goaltender Jack Gelineau spent parts of four seasons in the NHL during the 1940s and 1950s. He was a fine puck stopper in university and the minors in addition to his solid work in 143 games as a big leaguer. He was twice a member of Montreal Canadiens sponsored teams starting in 1944 as a junior and again 1951 in the QSHL.
Edward (Jack) Gelineau, was born in Toronto on Nov. 11, 1924 and attended Catholic High School in Montreal. During the war he played for the RCAF hockey team and was awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry after surviving a 1944 plane crash and rescuing an injured crewman from the burning plane that was loaded with ammunition.
Gelineau played with the city's Young Rangers before suiting up for the Montreal RCAF during the latter stages of World War II. Gelineau suited up briefly for the Montreal Royals, and with the Junior Canadiens in 1944-45, entered McGill in the spring of 1945 and graduated with a bachelor of commerce in 1949. The last McGill goalie to be named team captain, Gelineau backstopped the Redmen to the 1946 Queen's Cup championship. He was the first recipient of the Forbes Trophy as McGill's male athlete of the year in 1948.
He starred between the pipes at McGill for four seasons racking up a 48-21-2 over-all record with a 3.39 goals against average. He also played intermediate basketball, football and varsity baseball which resulted in a tryout with the Boston Red Sox.
Late in the 1948-49 season he impressed during a four game trial with the Boston Bruins. Over the next two years he replaced the departed Frank Brimsek as the club's first string netminder and posted consecutive 22 win seasons along with seven shutouts. Upon his call up to the Bruins, he became the first goalie in 30 years to play in the NHL while still attending university (two decades later, Ken Dryden duplicated this feat while studying law at McGill and playing for the Canadiens).
His bright start in 1949-50 allowed him to edge teammate Phil Maloney in the Calder Trophy voting. In 1951 Gelineau lost his spot to Sugar Jim Henry and played most of the next four seasons with the QSHL's Quebec Aces. Despite his successful debut, he was unable to get a raise out of stingy Bruins owner Weston Adams and eventually forced a trade to the Chicago Blackhawks. He played two games for the Blackhawks in 1953-54, then retired 11 games into the next season.
In an era when there were only six goalies in the NHL, Gelineau played four seasons and posted a 3.13 goals against average. He earned seven shutouts, ending up with 46 wins and 33 ties (!) in 143 NHL games. Fed up with the way owners took advantage of players, he traded in his NHL career for a job in the business world in 1954.
Gelineau, who served as honourary president of the Redmen hockey team, retired in 1996 after decades as manager of the Montreal golden age home "Le Manoir Westmount". He was inducted to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and passed away after a bout with cancer on Nov. 12, 1998, at the age of 74.
Jean Marois - In The System 1945 - 1955
Netminder Jean Marois was a depth goaltender in the Canadiens system, a veteran with an NHL stint to his credit, who played for the Quebec Aces from 1945 to 1955.
The Quebec City native was a solid junior with the St. Michael's Majors of the OHA. While still a junior with St. Mike's, he was recalled to make one start for the Maple Leafs on November 18, 1943 and acquitted himself well in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
1945 began a string of nine seasons in the QSHL, mostly with the Aces. During this period he topped 30 wins twice. In 1953, Marois signed as a free agent in Chicago. He lost both NHL starts in 1953-54, also playing in the AHL and QSHL that year. He retired in 1955 after playing for the Aces and the Providence Reds.
Al Millar - In The System 1945 - 1967
Al Miller was a well travelled Canadiens prospect who drifted in and out of Habs run organizations several times over his career. In a 23 year span, Millar would tend goal in no less than 22 different destinations, including 6 separate runs with the Quebec Aces in both the QHL and AHL.
His resume could qualify him as a Rand-McNally road map advisor!
Millar grew up playing minor hockey in Winnipeg and starring with the Winnipeg Canadians of the MJHL at the age of 18 where he went 10-4-2 with a 3.80 GAA. He then played one year of major junior hockey in the QJHL with the St. Hyacinthe Flyers and the Montreal Nationale.
After playing semi-pro hockey with Quebec in the QSHL, where he was a Second Team All-Star in 1949-50, goalie Al Millar signed his first professional contract with the New Haven Ramblers of the AHL on September 17, 1950. Just three months later he inked a deal with the Kansas City Royals of the USHL. Just one month later he was dealt to the Portland Eagles of the PCHL for Wally Bak.
After a season with Shawinigan Falls of the QSHL and the Charlottetown Islanders of the Maritime League, Millar began a three-year stint with the Quebec Aces. In 1957-58 he was called up to the NHL by the Boston Bruins where he played in six games. He also played 25 games with the Quebec Aces and Springfield-Buffalo of the AHL.
Millar never returned to play again in the NHL but he did continue to play professionally in the minors for another 12 years with an assortment of teams including the Seattle Totems and Victoria Maple Leafs of the WHL and finally the Rochester Americans in 1969-70. Millar played a total of 20 professional seasons in goal including the six games in goal for the Boston Bruins where he had a 1-4-1 record with a 4.17 GAA.
Gilles Boisvert - In The System 1949 - 1955
Gilles Boisvert was a goaltender in the Montreal Canadiens junior system from 1949 to 1955. Playing for the Trois Rivieres Reds and the Cap De La Madeleine Caps of the QJHL-B league from 1950 to 1952, Boiverst moved on pro hockey in 1953-54, tending goal for both the Amherst Meteors of the NBSHL and the Sydney Millionaires of the old MMHL on the east coast. His rights were still held by the Canadiens when he was claimed by Boston (Hershey-AHL) from the Montreal Royals (QHL) in the Inter-League Draft, June 1, 1955.
Boisvert stood just 5' 8" and weighed no more than 160 pounds, but in an era when goaltenders played without masks or helmets, his bright red hair certainly stood out. "Red" as he was nicknamed by his teammates, had very quick reflexes and had a great glove hand. He played his minor hockey in his hometown of Trois Rivieres and only briefly left home in 1952-53 to suit up for the Barrie-Kitchener Canucks of the OHA.
Boisvert played in the minor leagues with several teams in different leagues before getting his one and only shot at playing in the NHL in 1959-60 with the Detroit Red Wings. He had been part of a huge trade more than four years earlier which saw Boisvert and four others traded to Detroit by the Boston Bruins in exchange for four players including star netminder Terry Sawchuk, who was said to have been devastated by the trade. Boisvert played three games in goal for Detroit, coming out on the losing end of all three games.
Boisvert was soon back in the minors but he loved the game so much he continued to play for another ten years, the last seven of which were with the AHL's Baltimore Clippers. He retired after playing three games in 1969-70.
It seems that Boisvert and his family finally settled in Baltimore, MA. On March 13, 2006, Boisvert made this entry into Bernie Geoffrion's Guestbook at a Montreal Gazette site set up upon the Boomer's death in 2006. Boisvert's note reads:
"I remember Boom Boom when he was with the National Jrs A. Traveling with the Canadien for almost a month as a spare goalie and practicing with a great bunch of the best players. Boomer would always play tricks on the rookies. Him and Dicky and Jean Beliveau were great teamates. But I remember in the Juniors they were fierce compitators. He was great to be around and had a good words for everybody he met. We sure going to miss him. My deapest sympathy to Marlene and the children and also to Hartland. Boomer will be in our prayers."
Gilles Boisvert, Baltimore Md
Phil McAtee In The System 1951 -1953
Phil McAtee was a goaltender with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL in the 1951-52 season. He appeared in 31 games for the Bisons, registering a 3.77 GAA. He shared net duties that season with Jacques Plante, who played in 33 games. The Bisons finished last (7th place) with a record of 22-39-3, allowing 236 goals while scoring only 160.
McAtee spent part of the 52-53 season tending goal with the Montreal Royals of the QSHL.
In 1951-52, McAtee played 15 games for the Bisons.
During his 12 year career, McAtee also played for the Hershey Bears (1940-41) and the Springfield Indians of the AHL in four different stints between 1941 and 1951.
Along the way, he made stops with the Seattle Ironmen (PCHL) in 1946-47, the Fort Worth Rangers (USHL) from 1946-48, and with the Vancouver Canucks (PCHL) in 1951-52.
McAtee was born in Stratford, Ontario on May 13, 1918.
Jean Renaud - In The System 1952 - 1954
Jean Renaud played goal for parts of two seasons with Montreal Canadiens affiliated teams.
In 1952-53, he managed 8 games with the Montreal Royals of the QSHL, and appeared in 5 games the following season with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL. Three of those five games came in the 1954 AHL playoffs.