1938–39 NHL season

1938–39 NHL season
League National Hockey League
Sport Ice hockey
Duration November 3, 1938 – April 16, 1939
Number of games 48
Number of teams 7
Regular season
Season champions Boston Bruins
Season MVP Toe Blake (Canadiens)
Top scorer Toe Blake (Canadiens)
Stanley Cup
Champions Boston Bruins
  Runners-up Toronto Maple Leafs
NHL seasons
←  1937–38
1939–40 →

The 1938–39 NHL season was the 22nd season of the National Hockey League (NHL). Seven teams each played 48 games. The Boston Bruins were the Stanley Cup winners as they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs four games to one in the final series.

League business

Just prior to the start of the 1938–39 season, the league held a meeting to decide the fate of the Montreal Maroons. The team had requested a shift to St. Louis, but this was rejected after considerable discussion, resulting in the Maroons suspending operations for the season. They sold most of their players to the Canadiens, and it was evident that the Maroons were through for good. With only seven teams left, the NHL decided to go back to the one division format.

The Stanley Cup finals would be expanded to a best-of-seven format.

NHL president Frank Calder reached a new professional-amateur agreement with Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) and its president W. G. Hardy in August 1938. The CAHA agreed not to allow international transfers for players on NHL reserve lists, and the NHL agreed not to sign any junior players without permission. It limited the number of amateur players which could be signed to contracts, and stipulated that both organizations use the same playing rules and recognize each other's suspensions.[1]

Regular season

Prior to the start of the season, the Boston Bruins sold their star goaltender, Tiny Thompson, who had just won a record fourth Vezina Trophy, to the Detroit Red Wings The fans thought Art Ross was crazy, but soon they were applauding rookie Frank Brimsek, would go on to back-stop the Bruins to a first overall finish and a Stanley Cup victory. He wiped out Thompson's shutout sequence record with three consecutive shutouts. He nearly equalled his new record with three more. He ended the season with 10 shutouts, and earned the nickname "Mr. Zero". He also became the first goaltender to win both the Vezina Trophy and Calder Memorial Trophy in the same season.

Joseph Cattarinich died on December 7 of a heart attack following an eye operation. Cattarinich was the original goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens when they were formed in 1909 and later a part-owner of the team. He was 57.

The Montreal Canadiens eroded to the point where Jules Dugal replaced Cecil Hart as manager and coach. Dugal was not much better and the Canadiens finished sixth. One bright note was that Toe Blake won the scoring title, however, despite the poor showing of the team.

Chicago, after its Stanley Cup win the previous season, began floundering at mid-season and owner Frederic McLaughlin was displeased. Accordingly, he fired coach Bill Stewart and hired left wing Paul Thompson in his place. But the Black Hawks continued to lose and finished last.

The New York Americans, up in third place at mid-season, proceeded to fall into a big slump in the second half and though they finished fourth, they were below .500 and had the worst defence in the league. Part of the problem was the retirements of Ching Johnson and Hap Day on defence. Al Murray was also out of action for quite a time. Still, goaltender Earl Robertson found himself on the second all-star team.

Final standings

National Hockey League
Boston Bruins 48 36 10 2 156 76 74
New York Rangers 48 26 16 6 149 105 58
Toronto Maple Leafs 48 19 20 9 114 107 47
New York Americans 48 17 21 10 119 157 44
Detroit Red Wings 48 18 24 6 107 128 42
Montreal Canadiens 48 15 24 9 115 146 39
Chicago Black Hawks 48 12 28 8 91 132 32


Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
       Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.


Playoff bracket

  Quarterfinals Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
  1 Boston 4  
    2 NY Rangers 3  
    1 Boston 4
  3 Toronto 1
  3 Toronto 2  
4 NY Americans 0  
3 Toronto 2
    5 Detroit 1  
5 Detroit 2
  6 Montreal 1  


Toronto won series 2–0

Detroit won series 2–1


This series was the first to need seven games in NHL history; additionally, the Rangers were the first team in NHL history to force a Game seven after losing the first three games of a series. Mel Hill, a right wing for the Bruins, scored a record three overtime goals in a single series.[3]

Boston won series 4–3

Toronto won series 2–1

Stanley Cup Finals

Boston won series 4–1


Award winners
Calder Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins
Hart Trophy:
(Most valuable player)
Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Clint Smith, New York Rangers
O'Brien Cup:
(Stanley Cup Runner-up)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular Season Champion)
Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy:
(Fewest goals allowed)
Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

Player Team GP G A PTS PIM
Toe Blake Montreal Canadiens 48 24 23 47 10
Sweeney Schriner New York Americans 48 13 31 44 20
Bill Cowley Boston Bruins 34 8 34 42 2
Clint Smith New York Rangers 48 21 20 41 2
Marty Barry Detroit Red Wings 48 13 28 41 4
Syl Apps Toronto Maple Leafs 44 15 25 40 4
Tommy Anderson New York Americans 48 13 27 40 14
Johnny Gottselig Chicago Black Hawks 48 16 23 39 15
Paul Haynes Montreal Canadiens 47 5 33 38 27
Roy Conacher Boston Bruins 47 26 11 37 12


Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, PTS = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Leading goaltenders



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1938–39 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1938–39 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley; Hughes, Morgan; Romain, Joseph; Duplacey, James (2003). The Hockey Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of the National Hockey League. Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
  • McFarlane, Brian (1973). The Story of the National Hockey League. New York, NY: Pagurian Press. ISBN 0-684-13424-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  1. ^ "C.A.H.A.-N.H.L. Agreement Is Again Effected". Lethbridge Herald. Lethbridge, Alberta. August 15, 1938. p. 11.Free to read
  2. ^ a b Standings: NHL Public Relations Department (2008). Dave McCarthy; et al. (eds.). THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE Official Guide & Record Book/2009. National Hockey League. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-894801-14-0.
  3. ^ http://www.legendsofhockey.net/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/SearchPlayer.jsp?player=12944

External links