After a season in which three of its teams were in financial troubles, the NHL slowly began to find firmer ground. Having sat out the 1931-32 season due to monetary troubles brought on by the Depression, the Ottawa Senators rejoined the league and fared respectively at first before tailing off towards the end of the season. The Detroit Falcons were propped up by new owner James Norris and renamed the Red Wings. The Pittsburgh franchise, however, was still not fit to resume, and it's future was again put off for another season.
It was a busy off season prior to the start of the 1932-33 campaign for the NHL and president Frank Calder. Seeing of the league's teams needed some financial restraint on player salaries, each club was capped off at $70,000 per team while individual player renumerations were dropped down to $7,500 maximum per player.
This adjustment caused a revolt of sorts around the league and several star players were threaterning to refuse to play. In Boston, stalwart defenseman Eddie Shore, who had made $12,000 in 1932, declared that he would play for no less than $10,000 per season. The New York Rangers' Frank Boucher and Earl Siebert, the Maroons' Ollie Smith and Archie Wilcox, the Maple Leafs' Lorne Chabot and Harry Cotton, and Reg Noble of the Red Wings also took a stand.
On the Canadiens, Johnny Gagnon and Aurele Joliat refused the team's offer initially, only to fall in line within days.
Calder threatened to suspend all holdouts but later revised his position by asking each team to submit their trouble cases to him for individual consideration. Once the NHL's Board Of Governors reviewed the contract demands, all issues were eventually smoothed out.
The league was also busy fine tuning the rules of the game after much off - season complaining from several sources. A captain or alternate was now designated to be on the ice at all times to better suit communication between the teams and game officials. Several teams followed the Canadiens lead and named their goaltenders as captains. On the Habs, George Hainsworth took over the captaincy from Sylvio Mantha, a distraction he hardly appreciated that he felt took away from his goaltending focus.
With injuries mounting from players being kicked, the league began imposing five minute major penalties for such infractions. Players found guilty were suspended from contests, and their teams only allowed substitutions after the full five minutes were served.
Former Canadiens player Billy Coutu, who was expelled from the NHL for life in 1927, was inexplicably reinstated to the NHL. Coutu, who pursued his career in the minors was now 40 years old and too far removed from the NHL to ever return.
Frank Calder also brought forth a trophy in his own name to honour the NHL's best first year player. Known as the Calder Trophy, the first winner would be Carl Voss, who first began in the Maple Leafs organization, playing 12 games in the 1926-27 season. He had drifted back and forth in the minors, and made a brief appearance with the Rangers before netting 6 goals and 14 assists with the 1932-33 Red Wings.
The Canadiens underwent major changes in 1932-33, starting with the replacement of coach Cecil Hart behind the bench. Former player, captain and coach, Newsy Lalonde, fresh from a successful stint with the Providence Reds, was brought back to lead the team once more. Lalonde had accumulated a wealth of experience behind the bench since leaving Montreal, such as a season with the New York Americans in 1927, and with the Ottawa Senators in 1930 and 1931.
When the Senators suspended play for a year, Lalonde patched up his differences with Canadiens owner Leo Dandurand and was given the post of coaching the Reds, delivering a championship season. He was a natural choice to replace Hart, who found the expanding season schedule to be too grueling to encompass his growing outside interests.
As Lalonde had left the Canadiens in the trade for Aurele Joliat eleven seasons earlier, there were no present Canadiens players acquainted with his temperment from that era. They would soon learn the demanding Lalonde was a difficult to please taskmaster.
While the core of the team remained a group of savvy and experienced veterans that included Morenz, Lepine, Aurele Joliat, George Hainsworth, Sylvio Mantha, Albert Leduc, Wildor Larochelle, George Mantha, and Johnny Gagnon, the 1932-33 Canadiens employed an astounding 24 players in this season, with 9 players making their first appearance in a Habs sweater, and another 5 returning from previous seasons with the club.
Gerry Carson had played 35 games with the Canadiens in 1929-30 before returning to Providence for three full seasons. He made the Canadiens out of training camp and played all 48 games with the Habs in 1932-33.
Walter McCartney, a member of the Weyburn Beavers Allen Cup team in 1932 was brought in for a two game tryout before being returned to the Quebec Castors.
Leo Murray and Hugo Harrington were traded to Montreal by Providence for Léo Gaudreault and Armand Mondou, with both teams holding right to recall, in January of 1933. Murray dressed six times for Montreal, while Harrington played the final 24 games. Gaudreault had been a part time player with the Canadiens from 1927 to 1929. After playing Providence for four seasons, he was signed by Montreal and had appeared in 24 games by the time of the trade.
Gizzy Hart was recalled from Providence in January, to make good on Dandurand's threats. He dressed for 18 games in the second half of the season. He had appeared in 44 games for the Canadiens in the 1927-28 season.
Len Grosvenor was signed as a free agent by Montreal on January 7 and appeared in four games for the team. A veteran of five NHL seasons with the Senators and Americans, Grosvenor wound down his hockey career with this short stint.
Arthur Giroux had been acquired by the Canadiens back on February 13, 1930, from San Francisco of the Cal-Pro league for $5,000. After two years in Providence, he was called up to Montreal eight games into the current season.
Paul Raymond, a much ballyhooed local product, was signed as a free agent by Montreal on October 28. He appeared in 16 games for the Canadiens and disappointed, finishing the campaign with Providence.
Art Alexandre was traded to Montreal by Providence for cash on February 6. He had appeared in 10 games for the team a season earlier, but would only suit up for one game in 1933. Bob Trapp, a defenseman, was also loaned to Montreal for one game on the same date.
Harold Starr was acquired from Ottawa with Leo Bourgeault for Marty Burke and future considerations on February 14. Six weeks later, Montreal completed the deal by sending Nick Wasnie, who had been on loan to the New York Americans, to Ottawa. Starr played in six games for the Canadiens and Bourgeault appeared in 15.
With all the constant changes, comings and goings of players, and inner team turmoil, the Canadiens hardly resembled themselves all season long. Coach Lalonde had his growing pains, but he was given slack by management who felt he could not be faulted for inheriting an aging team.
Sputtering out of the gate did not help the new coach and players build confidence in one another. In dropping games to such lowly foes as the Red Wings, Senators and Americans. Throught the first 15 contests, the Canadiens won but once on the road - in it's own building versus the rival Maroons. By the 20 game mark, the club had yet to post consecutive wins while enduring streaks of three and four losses.
It was then that Lalonde blew a fuse. Getting off to a disastrous 2-8 start after ten games initially brought out what was felt was Newsy's foulest mood, but it turned out to be tempest in a teapot compared to what would come later. Very early on, it had become quite obvious that the players didn't appreciate his coaching methods. While Lalonde was careful not to not to slam players in the press, his frustrations were privately mounting, as more than one team veteran spoke aloud of their wish for Hart's return.
The unamed source was assumed to be Pit Lepine, and the two came to loggerheads in the first week of December when Lalonde felt it necessary to suspend the veteran forward for two games for uninspired play. Lalonde then accused other players, strongly hinting without revealing their identity, for showing up to play at the Forum, while displaying a general disinterest during road games.
Lalonde tried a shakeup of his own by inserting the uninspired Lepine between Joliat and Gagnon on the top line and dropping Howie Morenz down to second line pivot. When these motivational tactics failed to light a fire, Dandurand slammed on the brakes and started making roster moves.
By midseason, the Canadiens were dead last in the Canadian Division and manager Dandurand stepped in to rattle some cages. He threatened with demotions, the call ups several rookies and minor league journeymen from Providence, and followed through, replacing several veterans with fresher players.
As the season progressed, local papers were filled with speculation concerning the club's younger talent in Providence and around Quebec senior and junior leagues. It seemed a week rarely passed without the exploits of players such as Raymond, Paul Arcand, Jean Pusie, Phil Watson, and newly signed Joffre Desilets being bandied about as solutions to the team's skid.
At the mid season point, the Canadiens were 8-14-2, having just won back to backs for the first time - home and away against Toronto - and things slowly began to turn. Lalonde publicly displayed confidence in the team's post season chances - slim as they were becoming.
A 5-2 win over the Bruins at the Forum on January 21 seemed the signify a turning point of sorts. In the season's second half, the club would lose consecutive game on only two occasions. In an 11 game stretch from Valentine's Day to March 4, the Canadiens looked to have finally replaced themselves by posting a 7-3-1 record. However, one loss in that sequencer - a 10-0 drubbing in the Boston Gardens, may have been more telltale than the wins.
Over the final seven games, the Canadiens managed but two wins, stumbling tail backwards into the playoffs.The Canadiens' improved second half (10-11-3) allowed them to surge past a free falling Ottawa club into fourth place in the Canadian Division. A tie on the second last game of the season against Boston, gave the Habs 41 points, 4 more than the Americans, who had but two games left on their schedule. In the end, the Americans won both games, but lost the third place tie breaker with the Canadiens, having less wins banked.
On March 23, the Canadiens played their final regular season match against their future first round opponents - the New York Rangers - and lost 4-2. The game would prove to be an omen of bad things to come, as the contest was delayed for a good length as goalie Hainsworth was patched up after taking a puck under the eye.
Starting the playoffs, little hope was held for the Canadiens chances of recapturing the Stanley Cup. The top three teams in the American Division were strong, and owned as many or more points than the best club in the Canadian Division - the defending Cup champion Maple Leafs.
Montreal were lined up against the third place Rangers, who, with 54 points, were 13 points better on the season. The Rangers made painless surgery of the Canadiens in the two game total goals series with a 5-2 win at Madison Square followed by a 3-3 tie at the Forum. In the aftermath, Lalonde vowed that with some strong youngsters on the horizon, next season would not be a repeat.
The Canadiens scored an uncharacteristicly low 92 goals in 1932-33, 36 less than the season before. It was troubling that only three teams scored less. While allowing 115 goals against, the sputtering offense was of no help to goalie Hainsworth, who had his worst season since joining the Canadiens in 1926. The general impression on Hainsworth was that he had passed his prime. The goalie later complained that having been named captain affected his concentration in games.
The club still held some offensive weapons. The top line of Morenz (14-21-35), Joliat (18-21-39), and Gagnon (12-23-35) were still capable of decent numbers, but the team as a whole faltered when it came to secondary scoring from the remainder of the lineup. The top trio ranked sixth, tenth, and eleventh in scoring respectively, but what the team needed most was an injection of younger talents to bolster the lineup.
For the greater stars of the team - Morenz, Joliat, and Hainsworth - it was a bittersweet time as they achieved career benchmarks while the twilights of their careers were at a crossroads. Hainsworth recorded his 75th career shutout before the season was up, having surpassed the Senators Alex Connell as the NHL's all time leader. With an assist on a Pit Lepine goal on January 12 against the Blackhawks at the Forum, Joliat became the second Canadiens player after Morenz to reach the 300 point plateau. Joliat also became the first Canadiens player to appear in 400 games. Morenz would finish the season with 245 career goals, only three off the career mark owned by Cy Denneny. With 354 career points in 10 NHL seasons, Morenz maintained his hold as the league's all time leading scorer, and was named to the center position on the league's second All Star team.
The Red Wings and Bruins tied with identical records for the leagues best overall total of 58 points apiece, but Boston were awarded first overall due to a better head to head record. Boston met Toronto in a battle of division leaders that went the five game distance, and the Leafs proved to be well armed to defend the Cup a second year running, taking the semi - final series in five games.
In the other quarter final, the Red Wings outscored the Maroons 5-2 in total goals and went on to face the Rangers, who eclipsed them 6-3 in a two game semi - final. The Maple Leafs proved to be no match for the Rangers as New York won its second Stanley Cup in six seasons by defeating Toronto 3 games to 1.
The Canadiens found little consolation in having lost to the eventual champs. The summer of 1933 would be a curious one for the Canadiens and their faithful. It was apparent that the time had come to make serious changes to a team that time seemed to be passing by.
As if such concerns weren't enough as the Depression raged on, it was becoming clear that that two hockey teams would have trouble surviving together in Montreal. Although there was a perception that the Maroons and Canadiens were successful business operations up until this point, the Canadiens had lost $40,000 dollars in this season. The club was far from being on the verge of bankruptcy however, but the monetary losses surely could not continue to mount.
Of the Canadiens owners, Dandurand was the more prominant of the two. The man known about town as "Monsieur Leo" about town was a wealthy and respected entrepreneur, but for him the Canadiens were truly a five month per year endeavor. An increasing amount of his time, interest and investment focus were dedicated away from the hockey scene, primarily with his many racetracks and horses, which were for him, a year round consumption.
While Dandurand kept a watchful eye on the team, and became involved when he needed to be, it was primarily former coach and jack of all trades Cecil Hart, who had oversaw the team's operation and reported back to owners. Additionally, both Hart and co - owner Jos Cattarinich were involved with Dandurand in business. While the world was busy losing money, they were all busy trying to make more in any way possible.
Hart's removal of himself from the club hindered the team both on and off the ice. As it played out, Lalonde might have been the wrong coach at the wrong time. The team's situation would improve slightly the following season, before taking dead aim at obscurity as the Depression would leave the Canadiens organization a shadow of what it once was.
It is quite feasable to assume that the success of the Canadiens in recent seasons allowed for the group to become distracted while focusing their efforts elsewhere. Whatever the reasons, Dandurand and company allowed the Canadiens to begin a downward skid that would become a dark period for the team.
Fortunately for Canadiens fans for generations to come, Dandurand made one grand business miscalculation that helped seal the team's fate.
At the beginning of the season, prior to the club's fortunes waning, the owner turned down an American offer of $300,000 for the team. Succinctly stated - Monsieur Leo thought it was worth much more, by season's end, that opinion needed reassessment. Dandurand would pay dearly for his hold on the club, but his err was Montreal's boon. The offer from U.S. interests rumoured to be inclined to moving the club south, did not return.
In coming seasons, the topic among hockey fans in Montreal would revolve around the speculation of which team - the Canadiens or Maroons - would survive the 1930's. History tells that it came perilously close to being the Canadiens who would be sacrificed.
Here is the 1932-33 season as captured by Le Petit Journal. Page articles are in chronological order and can be enlarged by clicking on each photo.
|1931-32 NHL season||1932-33 NHL season|