1943–44 NHL season

1943–44 NHL season
League National Hockey League
Sport Ice hockey
Duration October 30, 1943 – April 13, 1944
Number of games 50
Number of teams 6
Regular season
Season champion Montreal Canadiens
Season MVP Babe Pratt (Maple Leafs)
Top scorer Herb Cain (Bruins)
Stanley Cup
Champions Montreal Canadiens
  Runners-up Chicago Black Hawks
NHL seasons

The 1943–44 NHL season was the 27th season of the National Hockey League. Six teams played 50 games each. The Montreal Canadiens were the top team of the regular season and followed it up with the team's fifth Stanley Cup championship.

League business

In memory of Frank Calder, the former NHL President who died in 1943, the league's Board of Governors donated the Calder Memorial Trophy to be awarded to the NHL's top rookie.[citation needed]

Due to World War II, 75 per cent of the amateurs signed by the NHL ended up in the armed services.[1] In April 1943, Canadian Amateur Hockey Association past-president George Dudley recommended that payments from the NHL for signing amateurs be deferred until players lost due to the wartime enlistments return to professional hockey.[2] The NHL negotiated with W. G. Hardy and the International Ice Hockey Association to sign more junior-aged players than usual, due to World War II travel restrictions.[3] The Canadian Press reported that Hardy was rumored to be appointed president of the NHL, to replace Red Dutton who had been acting president since the death of Calder.[4]

Rule changes

Diagram of a hockey rink
The centre red line was introduced to the ice hockey rink during the 1943–44 season.

NHL rules committee chairman Frank Boucher and Ottawa District Hockey Association executive Cecil Duncan collaborated to experiment with then introduce the centre ice red line to the hockey rink, in an effort to open up the game and allow the defending team to pass the puck out of their own zone and counter-attack quicker.[5]

"This rule is considered to mark the beginning of the modern era in the NHL," according to the NHL's Guide and Record Book. In 2005, 62 years later, the two-line pass would be legalized for similar reasons.[citation needed]

Regular season

The Montreal Canadiens had turned the corner and now Tommy Gorman and Dick Irvin had a team to make the fans happy. Bill Durnan solved the goaltending woes, but not before Gorman had all kinds of problems signing him. Durnan knew his worth, and wanted a handsome sum. Just before the first game, Gorman agreed to his contract demands. He was worth every penny, as he ran away with the Vezina Trophy and the Canadiens lost only five games all year, finishing first by a wide margin. The new and more familiar "Punch line" of Elmer Lach, Toe Blake, and Maurice Richard dominated the offence and Richard had 32 goals. He replaced Joe Benoit, who did his duty to his country by joining the armed forces. Richard, in fact, was dubbed by teammate Ray Getliffe the nickname that would be his legend "The Rocket".

When Paul Bibeault came back from the Army, he found his job lost to the best goaltender in the NHL, Bill Durnan. Montreal agreed to loan him to Toronto, where he played very well, leading the Leafs to third place and leading the NHL with five shutouts. Gus Bodnar, a crack centre, was the top rookie, and for the first time, a team produced Calder Memorial Trophy winners in consecutive years. In fact, Bodnar scored the fastest goal by a rookie in his very first game. It took him only 15 seconds to score on Ken McAuley, Ranger goaltender, in a 5–2 win over the war-weakened Rangers.

The Rangers had plunged to last place the previous year and Lester Patrick was so discouraged that he wanted to suspend operations for the year. This year the Rangers lost Clint Smith, Lynn Patrick, Phil Watson, and Alf Pike. The most unbelievably inept team iced for the Rangers this year. Things were so desperate that coach Frank Boucher had to come out of retirement to play some. But the Rangers set a modern-day record of 6.20 goals against, giving up 310 goals in 50 games. One night when Lester Patrick went behind the bench to coach the team with Frank Boucher attending a brother's funeral, the Rangers were demolished 15–0 by Detroit as the Red Wings set a modern-day record of most goals by a team in a single game. It was a horrifying experience for Patrick. Only a week later Syd Howe set a modern-day record of 6 goals in a game in a 12–2 conquest of the hapless Rangers. The Rangers won only 6 games all year and finished a distant last, 26 points behind fifth-place Boston.

Chicago started with sub-par goaltending, but then president and general manager Bill Tobin decided to bring back Mike Karakas, who had been demoted to the minors in 1939–40 for his lackluster play. Karakas was just what the Black Hawks needed, as he played well and recorded three shutouts and got the team into the playoffs.

In Boston, the Bruins lost star forward Bill Cowley to injury after the first 36 games. At that point in the season Cowley was on pace to set a new standard in scoring for the NHL. After the first 36 games he had scored 30 goals – 41 assists – 71 points before going down to injury. However, the scoring title would still eventually end up in Boston as linemate Herb Cain picked up the slack, scoring 82 points over the course of the 50-game schedule and setting a new record for points in the regular season.

Final standings

National Hockey League [6]
1 Montreal Canadiens 50 38 5 7 234 109 +125 83
2 Detroit Red Wings 50 26 18 6 214 177 +37 58
3 Toronto Maple Leafs 50 23 23 4 214 174 +40 50
4 Chicago Black Hawks 50 22 23 5 178 187 −9 49
5 Boston Bruins 50 19 26 5 223 268 −45 43
6 New York Rangers 50 6 39 5 162 310 −148 17


Playoff bracket

Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
1 Montreal 4
3 Toronto 1
1 Montreal 4
4 Chicago 0
2 Detroit 1
4 Chicago 4


The Montreal Canadiens finished first in the league with 83 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished third in the league with 50 points. This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams with the teams splitting the two previous series. They last met in the 1925 NHL Championship where Montreal won a two-game total goals series 5–2. Montreal won this year's ten game regular season series earning fifteen of twenty points. Maurice "Rocket" Richard was named first, second, and third Star of the game after scoring all 5 Montreal goals in game two, the first player to have this honour.

Montreal won series 4–1

The Detroit Red Wings finished second in the league with 58 points. The Chicago Black Hawks finished fourth with 49 points. This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams with the teams splitting the two previous series. They last met in the 1941 Stanley Cup Semifinals where Detroit won in two games. The teams split this year's ten-game regular season series.

Chicago won series 4–1

Stanley Cup Finals

This was the sixth playoff meeting between these two teams with Chicago winning three of the five previous series. They last met in the 1941 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals where Chicago won in three games. Montreal won this year's ten game regular season series earning eighteen of twenty points.

Montreal won series 4–0


Award winners
O'Brien Cup:
(Stanley Cup runner-up)
Chicago Black Hawks
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular season champion)
Montreal Canadiens
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
Gus Bodnar, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hart Trophy:
(Most valuable player)
Babe Pratt, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lady Byng Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Clint Smith, Chicago Black Hawks
Vezina Trophy:
(Fewest goals allowed)
Bill Durnan, Montreal Canadiens

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

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

Player Team GP G A PTS PIM
Herb Cain Boston Bruins 48 36 46 82 4
Doug Bentley Chicago Black Hawks 50 38 39 77 22
Lorne Carr Toronto Maple Leafs 50 36 38 74 9
Carl Liscombe Detroit Red Wings 50 36 37 73 17
Elmer Lach Montreal Canadiens 48 24 48 72 23
Clint Smith Chicago Black Hawks 50 23 49 72 4
Bill Cowley Boston Bruins 36 30 41 71 12
Bill Mosienko Chicago Black Hawks 50 32 38 70 10
Art Jackson Boston Bruins 49 28 41 69 8
Gus Bodnar Toronto Maple Leafs 50 22 40 62 18

Source: NHL[7]

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Mins – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP Mins GA GAA W L T SO
Bill Durnan Montreal Canadiens 50 3000 109 2.18 32 5 7 2
Paul Bibeault Toronto Maple Leafs 29 1740 87 3.00 13 14 2 5
Mike Karakas Chicago Black Hawks 26 1560 79 3.04 12 9 5 3
Connie Dion Detroit Red Wings 26 1560 80 3.08 17 7 2 1
Jimmy Franks Detroit Red Wings 17 1020 69 4.06 6 8 3 1
Benny Grant Toronto Maple Leafs 20 1200 83 4.15 9 9 2 0
Hec Highton Chicago Black Hawks 24 1440 108 4.50 10 14 0 0
Bert Gardiner Boston Bruins 46 2460 212 5.17 17 19 5 1
Ken McAuley New York Rangers 50 2980 310 6.24 6 39 5 0



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1943–44 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note who played their last game in the NHL in 1943–44 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (1994). Years of glory, 1942–1967: the National Hockey League's official book of the six-team era. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-2817-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • 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. Toronto, ON: 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. Lincolnwood, IL: 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. ^ Young, Scott (1989). 100 Years of Dropping the Puck. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Inc. pp. 198–199. ISBN 0-7710-9093-5.
  2. ^ "$38,000 Profit In Puck Series". Winnipeg Tribune. Winnipeg, Manitoba. April 26, 1943. p. 16.Free to read
  3. ^ "Halt Concessions To Major League". Winnipeg Tribune. Winnipeg, Manitoba. October 29, 1943. p. 16.Free to read
  4. ^ "Rumor Hardy To Boss N.H.L." Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg, Manitoba. April 24, 1943. p. 19.Free to read
  5. ^ Shea, Kevin (2011-11-19). "Spotlight – One on One with Frank Boucher". Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  6. ^ "Standings: 1943–1944". National Hockey League. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  7. ^ Dinger 2011, p. 148.

External links