Was Habs' Great Newsy Lalonde Hockey's First 500 Goal Scorer?

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Hockey legend and Hall of Famer Edouard "Newsy" Lalonde might just be the great lost icon of Canadian Sport. Also a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and named the greatest lacrosse player of the first half century in 1950, Lalonde's achievements as a hockey player have gone greatly unrecognized and underappreciated in modern times. That is likely due to the fact that his more than twenty year career was spread across a time of constant flux and evolution, both of the game of hockey and how it became professionalized in the early 1900's.

Cornwall, Ontario's greatest claim to athletic fame, by consequence, has also gone somewhat unrecognized in his own hometown. History should never be a revisionsist intent in the hands of the latest historian, but oftentimes it is necessary to return in time, in order to correct, clarify, and attempt to set records straight.

I have been studying the career of Newsy Lalonde for over two years now, tripping back in time through numerous newpaper accounts of forgotten details, from the actual published pages of papers going all the way back to 1903. I have read local, regional and national accounts of his exploits on paper from microfilm libraries and government archives.

There is definitely a case to be made that when it comes to Newsy Lalonde, something momumental has been missed out on.

Exactly whose record did the Rocket Break?

In the annals of Montreal Canadiens history, and that of the NHL and professional hockey itself, it is often noted that Maurice "Rocket" Richard broke Nels Stewart's longstanding career goal total of 324 on November 8, 1952.

Hockey history has also noted that on October 19, 1957, Richard became hockey's first 500 goal scorer. But somewhere between these two touchstone achievements of the Rocket, the career exploits of original Montreal Canadien Newsy Lalonde rarely warrant notice in the qualification of firsts and records broken.

For general assumption purposes, it has long been esteemed that Lalonde scored 414 goals as a professional hockey player, and that the Rocket passed that mark sometime in early 1955.

For clarification, Nels Stewart scored every one of his 324 goals while a member of NHL teams. His mark, professionally at least, never reached Lalonde's total of 414. Therefore, when Rocket surpassed Stewart, he was only breaking a variance of the record, and had not neccessarily surpassed the true total.

What counts, and why.

The trouble is that deciding Lalonde's ultimate goal total is no easy task. Because he played his career across a number of leagues, of which a few were not openly professional at the time, it makes seeing the big picture a bit of a discriminating proposition.

Newsy Lalonde scored the first ever Canadiens goal on January 5, 1910. He set many other club records and career benchmarks but due to the archaic tracking of hockey happenings and match summaries in the game's early history, much of what Newsy managed to accomplish over the whole of his career has been relegated to some sort of statistical oblivion. That is likely due to the fact that National Hockey Association (NHA) evolved into the National Hockey League (NHL) almost halfway through Lalonde's career, and that since 1917, the latter refuses to recognize the former in terms of continuity.

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The NHA began in 1910, then bureaucratically manifested itself into the NHL by the 1917-18 season. At that point, Newsy had seven NHA seasons under his belt, with a further five NHL seasons to go. When the NHA became the NHL, nary a rule was changed in the process. The game as it was played continued is a seemless evolving flow.

From 1910 to 1922, Newsy played 12 seasons for the Canadiens, except for 5 games in 1910 when he joined Renfrew and the entire 1911-12 season when he suited up for the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey League. He then returned to the Canadiens fold for 1912-13.

For all intents, Newsy Lalonde was a Canadiens player from 1909-10 to 1921-22, twelve hockey seasons in which he scored 141 goals in 109 NHA games in a Montreal uniform, and another 124 goals in 98 NHL games, for a full Habs' total of 265 goals in 207 games.

In this same time span, Newsy collected

22 goals in 5 games with the Renfrew Creamery Kings in 1910, after being released by the Canadiens, bringing his NHA / NHL totals to 287 goals in 212 combined NHA / NHL games. Lured by a ridiculous contract offer of over $2000 for the 1911-12 season, Newsy jumped to the PCHL Millionaires, where he won the scoring race with 27 goals in 15 games.

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Added up, Lalonde has now accounted for 314 goals in 227 professional hockey games, in twelve seasons, NHA, NHL and PCHL included.

But Newsy played pro hockey both before and after these twelve highlighted seasons, including four seasons as a paid pro prior to joining Montreal another four after he was traded in 1922..

While not intrinsically considered a professional league, Senior Ontario Hockey Association teams in 1906 did cover player expenditures. Senior hockey in the day preceded the pro game in Canada, and was considered the highest level of hockey played, on par with the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association, from which teams competed for the Stanley Cup. In 1906, an eighteen year old Newsy began what was essentially his pro career for all intents, scoring 8 goals in 7 games with the Woodstock Seniors.

He began as an official pro player in 1906-07 with the Canadian Soo Algonquins of the openly professional International Hockey League (IHL). The club was based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and in 18 games, Lalonde counted for 29 goals.

His goal scoring prowess in high demand, he was lured to the OPHL Toronto Pros, as they were called, and in his first season, 1907-08, netted 32 goals in 9 games to lead the league in scoring. Newsy returned to Toronto in 1908-09, counting 29 markers in 11 games for that season.

Lalonde, in four pro campaigns prior to becoming a Montreal Canadien, had scored 98 goals in 45 games with Toronto, Canadian Soo and the Woodstock Seniors.

After his trade from the Canadiens in 1922, Lalonde played for the Saskatoon Shieks. Faring extremely well in his initial season, he scored 30 goals in 29 games to win the WCHL scoring title. Age then caught up to the 37 year old Lalonde. In his final three seasons with Saskatoon, he would tally 18 goals in 43 games.

Splitting Hairs

Not generally acounted for in Newsy Lalonde's career totals are goals scored in All-Star games or exhibition challenges with the Montreal Nationals in 1909, the Millionaires in 1911-12 and Saskatoon in 1922-23.

In five games of the like, Lalonde tallied 13 goals.

There are mitigating factors for why such contests are excluded from consideration in terms of career totals. On one hand, the All-Star games were just that, with Newsy not playing as a member of a club team. In a three game set that pitted PCHA All-Stars of the western league against NHA opponents in 1911-12, Newsy accounted for five goals in three games.

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The goal of these matches was to prove that PCHA teams were worthy aspirants as challengers for the Stanley Cup, and they accomplished exactly that. The Vancouver Millionaires would go on to win the Stanley Cup in 1915, two seasons after Lalonde helped their initial cause.

The exhibition games were different scenarios, with Newsy netting five goals as a member of the National playing against the Cup champion Wanderers in 1909 and registering a hat trick against the Canadiens themselves in 1922 in his first game as a new member of the Saskatoon club.

To be discriminating, what to include and what to omit becomes blurred, although eight of these 13 goals scored by Newsy in these games appear to have been hard earned while playing for actual member teams of legitimate leagues. These contests mattered in one sense or another, as they either sought to promote the game of hockey where it was less acquainted to a region or helped determine whether one league was worthy of competing against another.

Other disregarded totals prior to Newsy joining the Canadiens include games as a hired gun for Cobalt and Haileybury of the Timiskaming pro league in 1907 and 1908. The Society for International Hockey Research website notes only that Newsy scored three times as a Haileybury ringer in 1908, but does not include the reputed five goals Lalonde scored in 2 games when paid a good sum to suit up for Cobalt in 1907.

So to split hairs, Newsy Lalonde scored 8 goals as a Haileybury and Cobalt hired gun / ringer in 1907 and 1908. He also netted 8 goals in what were essentially All-Star games, important promotions which balanced various outcomes. Lalonde scored another 8 goals in exhibitions that are on record.

Off record and not widely known, and never accounted for with actual newspaper recounted game summaries, is that Newsy participated in exhibitions matches to promote the game of hockey as early as 1910 in New York City, as a Renfrew club member, and in 1912 with the Canadiens, in a game that helped bring the Toronto into the profesional NHA loop. There were numerous other games of this variety that were played and lost to time.

Whichever way it is chosen to be perceived, 8 scored goals - one way or another - should count in the Lalonde career goal total, whether it be the 8 goals netted in the ringer games, the 8 markers credited to Newsy in All-Star tie-in matches or the equal number of tallies attributed to him in exhibition games.

Of those 24 goals, hockey historians ought to agree on which of those 8 goals scored are the most important.

In this author's take, the weight of importance can only be removed from the All-Star game goals, as the ringer and exibition game goals scored were professionally paid for, and of primordial importance to their particular circumstance. For my money, I'll conclude for arguments sake that the 8 goals scored by Newsy as a hired gun be added to his legitimate career marks.

Let's get out the calculators

All added up, the pro career of the great Newsy Lalonde reads as follows:

In top level senior or pro hockey he scored 98 goals in 45 games with Woodstock (SOHA), Toronto (OPHL) and Canadian Soo (IHL).

He then went on to score 163 goals in 108 games with Montreal and Renfrew (NHA) between 1910 and 1917.

His west coast excursion netted him 27 goals in 15 games with Vancouver (PCHL) in 1911-12.

From the beginning of the NHL's formation in 1917 until his trade to Saskatoon in 1922, Lalonde scored 124 goals in 98 games with Montreal.

With Saskatoon (WCHL), he scored 48 goals in 72 games over a little more than three seasons.

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The Math

In sum, in six professional leagues and one senior league, Newsy scored a grand total of 460 goals in 338 regular season contests.

In playoff games throughout his career and Stanley Cup matches with Toronto (1908) and Montreal (1916, 1917, 1919), Lalonde scored 31 goals in 27 games, giving him a grand total of 491 goals scored in 365 games.

Added to those 491 career goals scored, take your pick of either of the 8 goals Lalonde scored in matches played as a hired ringer, goals tallied in important exhibitions, or his All-Star games markers when pitted against the best of the best.

In either count, the 8 goals added to the 491 total, bring Newsy Lalonde to a career total of 499 goals scored.

Did he or did he not score 500?

A case could be made as to whether Newsy Lalonde, did in fact, score 500 or more goals in his entire professional hockey career.

It could be argued that Newsy scored as many as 523 goals in his time, or with mitigating factors, that he only reached a minimum total of 499 career goals scored.

A deciding factor just might be the first official game ever played in Montreal Canadiens history - one of primordial importance to the game the hockey club played against Cobalt on January 5, 1910 - that would be wiped from statistical reference mere weeks later.

Newsy scored two goals in that game, including the first goal scored in Canadiens history, but ultimately the contest would not count in the revised 1910 NHA schedule. When the rival Canadian Hockey Association folded a mere two weeks into their season, they merged with the NHA, which added the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Shamrocks to the fold. With the revised schedule, the Canadiens game against Cobalt was wiped from the record and their season begun anew. Le Canadien went on to a 2-10 record, and Newsy's two goal performance never added to his first season total of 38.

What could be more important than the first goal in the first game in Montreal Canadiens history? The game, abolished as it was, was nonetheless competed for professionally. The team's went at it at hard, with Lalonde getting hurt and missing the second half. The Habs, as they were not yet called, went on to a 7-6 overtime victory.

In hindsight, with respect to that very first contest, could any mitigating factors still carry any weight over one hundred years later, that the goals scored in that very first game should not count in Lalonde's career numbers?

I do not believe so.

Newsy Lalonde scored 501 goals in professional hockey in seven different leagues across games played in the regular season, playoffs, showdowns and showcases.

Anyway you slice it, he was hockey's first 500 goal scorer.

 

Photos top to bottom, left to right: 1- Toronto 1908, Le National 1909, Canadiens December 1909; 2 - Canadiens promo shot 1909, Renfrew 1910, Montreal 1911; 3 - Vancouver 1912, Canadiens 1913, Montreal 1916; 4 - Canadiens 1919, Saskatoon 1923, New York Americans 1927

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