The 1938-39 NHL season was the 22nd season of the National Hockey League. 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.
Just prior to the start of the 1937-38 season, the league held a meeting to decide the fate of the Maroons. They requested a shift to St. Louis, but this was rejected after considerable discussion. And so, the Montreal Maroons dropped out of the league. 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.
Also prior to the start of the season, the Boston Bruins sold their star goaltender, Tiny Thompson, who had just won a record 4th 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 Trophy in the same season.
A sad event took place December 7, as Joseph Cattarinich died of a heart attack following an eye operation. Cattarinich was the original goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens when they were formed in 1909. He was 57.
The Montreal Canadiens eroded to the point where Jules Dugal replaced Cecil Hart as manager and coach. Dugal wasn't much better and the Canadiens finished 6th. 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 4th, 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.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Note: Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold
|National Hockey League||GP||W||L||T||Pts||GF||GA||PIM|
|New York Rangers||48||26||16||6||58||149||105||393|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||48||19||20||9||47||114||107||370|
|New York Americans||48||17||21||10||44||119||157||276|
|Detroit Red Wings||48||18||24||6||42||107||128||240|
|Chicago Black Hawks||48||12||28||8||32||91||132||367|
Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, PTS = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|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|
Stanley Cup PlayoffsEdit
|2||New York Rangers||3|
|3||Toronto Maple Leafs||1|
|3||Toronto Maple Leafs||2|
|4||New York Americans||0|
|3||Toronto Maple Leafs||2|
|5||Detroit Red Wings||1|
|5||Detroit Red Wings||2|
<tr> <td height="14"> </td> <td align=center bgcolor="#f2f2f2" style="border:1px solid #aaa;"> 6</td> <td style="border:1px solid #aaa;" bgcolor=#f9f9f9> Montreal Canadiens</td> <td align=center style="border:1px solid #aaa;" bgcolor=#f9f9f9>1</td> <td style="border-width:2px 0 0 0; border-style:solid;border-color:black;"> </td></tr>
Boston Bruins 4, New York Rangers 3 Edit
This series is best remembered for Mel Hill scoring three OT goals, still an NHL record for OT goals in a series. Game 4 was one of the most violent in NHL history with six major penalties, stick swinging and a battered and concussed Eddie Shore insisting on playing and returning to game action with a broken nose.
Game 1 opened at Madison Square Garden in New York. A clean, hard-checking game in which goalies Dave Kerr and Frank Brimsek dominated, the Rangers Alex Shibicky broke the ice late in the second period. Bill Cowley responded at the 4:40 mark of the third, sending the game in overtime. In the third OT, Cowley drifted into the left corner by the Rangers net and zipped a pass out front to Hill who whacked it in for a 2-1 win for the Bruins.
Game 2 moved to the Boston Garden, where another clean, hard-fought game ensued. The Rangers received bad news that their goalie Dave Kerr was out for the series with a separated shoulder. Bert Gardiner manned the net for the Rangers. The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on late first period goals by Conacher and Cowley. Shibicky cut the lead to 2-1 in the second before Dutch Hiller tied it up with less than four minutes left in the game. Hill scored his second overtime goal at the 8:24 mark of the first OT, on a drop pass by Cowley. Hill's 40 foot shot beat Gardiner and the Bruins were up in the series 2-0.
Game 3 in Boston saw the Rangers keep Cowley's line off the scoresheet but the Bruins depth was too much. Gord Pettinger scored in the first and the first playoff goal for Milt Schmidt early in the second had the Bruins up 2-0. Babe Pratt cut the lead to 2-1 in the second before Schmidt got his second of the game halfway through the third. Cowley potted a goal two minutes later as the Bruins cruised to a 4-1 win and a 3-0 series lead.
Game 4 at MSG saw the Rangers facing elimination which looked likely after Milt Schmidt scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs less than a minute into the game. Mac Colville tied it up at 8:58 but the game got progressively chippy. Phil Watson when charging after Jack Portland behind the Bruins net, resulting in some high sticking. Bryan Hextall jumped Portland from behind resulting in Eddie Shore wading in after Hextall. Rangers defensemen Muzz Patrick went after Shore and a brawl ensued. Patrick, who'd been a Canadian boxing champion and outweighed Shore by 30 pounds, broke Shore's nose during a fight with him. Shore left the game for repairs but came back in the second period and played with plaster over his broken nose. The Rangers Dutch Hiller, Babe Pratt, Patrick and Watson received major penalties as did the Bruins Jack Crawford, Gord Pettinger, Shore and Portland. Referee Mickey Ion handled out 60 minutes in penalties during the game. Having served his penalty time, in the second period, Muzz Patrick scored a Shorthanded goal at the 10:02 mark which proved to be the game winner. The series shifted back to Boston with the Bruins leading 3-1.
Game 5 was in Boston and was a much cleaner affair than Game 4. Art Coulter put the Rangers up 1-0 in the first but a little over a minute later, Bobby Bauer scored his first playoff goal to knot the score. The score stayed 1-1 through regulation, requiring the third overtime game of the series. The Rangers Clint Smith was the hero, beating Brimsek with a long shot at the 17:19 mark of the first OT. The Rangers were back in the series, trailing 3-2.
Game 6 was in New York and saw no goals in the first period. The Bruins took the lead on Mel Hill's 3rd of the playoffs before Phil Watson tied it up in the second. Bruins penalties in the third would be costly as Bill Carse and Alex Shibicky capitalized to lead the Rangers to a 3-1 win and tie the series.
Game 7 in Boston was a tense affair with the Bruins close to becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead. After a scoreless first, Ray Getliffe put the Bruins up only to see the Rangers Muzz Patrick tie it up less than two minutes later. The third period solved nothing and the series headed into its fourth overtime game. Bobby Bauer came close to ending the series in the 1st OT with a backhander that beat Gardiner but hit the post. In the 3rd OT, Mel Hill and Muzz Patrick took matching minor penalties at the 5:00 mark. Exiting the box, Hill rushed into the Rangers zone. Conacher took a heavy shot on Gardiner who steered it behind the net. Cowley beat the Rangers' defensemen to the puck, slid it out front to Hill who potted the series winner. "Sudden Death" Hill was born with all three of his record goals assisted by Bill Cowley.
|1||March 21||Boston Bruins||2–1 (3OT)||New York Rangers||1–0|
|2||March 23||New York Rangers||2–3 (OT)||Boston Bruins||2–0|
|3||March 26||New York Rangers||1–4||Boston Bruins||3–0|
|4||March 28||Boston Bruins||1–2||New York Rangers||3–1|
|5||March 30||New York Rangers||2–1 (OT)||Boston Bruins||3–2|
|6||April 1||Boston Bruins||1–3||New York Rangers||3–3|
|7||April 2||New York Rangers||1–2 (3OT)||Boston Bruins||4–3|
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):
- Roy Conacher, Boston Bruins
- Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins
- Ab DeMarco, Chicago Black Hawks
- Don Grosso, Detroit Red Wings
- Sid Abel, Detroit Red Wings
- Jack Stewart, Detroit Red Wings
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):
- Russ Blinco, Chicago Black Hawks
- Paul Thompson, Chicago Black Hawks
- Baldy Northcott, Chicago Black Hawks
- Alex Levinsky, Chicago Black Hawks
- Bob Gracie, Chicago Black Hawks
- Larry Aurie, Detroit Red Wings
- Herbie Lewis, Detroit Red Wings
- Dave Trottier, Detroit Red Wings
- Babe Siebert, Montreal Canadiens
- Jimmy Ward, Montreal Canadiens
A minute worth of footage from the Americans home opener on November 13, 1938 in which they defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1. The Americans goals by #9 Lorne Carr and #10 Eddie Wiseman are shown. Both teams play in white jerseys making it a challenge to distinguish between them at times. The end of the clip shows Milt Schmidt setting up Bobby Bauer who nearly scores. Schmidt then bodychecks an American player and appears hurt.
|National Hockey League|
|1938–39 NHL season by team|
|Teams||Boston • Chicago • Detroit • Montreal Canadiens • NY Americans • NY Rangers • Toronto|
|See also||1939 Stanley Cup Finals|