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The 1943-44 NHL season was the 27th season of the National Hockey League. Six teams played 50 games each.

Regular Season[]

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.

Bill Cowley's 1.97 points per game in 1943-44 was a record for nearly 40 years.

Bill Cowley had a huge lead in the scoring race and was scoring at a 2 points a game clip heading into Christmas. The press began to talk of a 100 point season until his shoulder was separated on a hit by Jack McLean of the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 8, 1944. He missed 11 games, returned briefly, then missed 3 more to a knee injury. He picked up his torrid scoring pace for the remainder of the season but limited to 36 (of 50) games, he finished 7th in league scoring with 71 points. His 1.97 points per game was an NHL record until broken by Wayne Gretzky in 1980-81.

The Art Ross Trophy was taken by teammate Herb Cain whose 82 points was, at the time, a league record. Art Jackson also finished in the top 10 of league scoring with 69 points. The loss of Frank Brimsek to war service saw the Bruins acquire Bert Gardiner to tend the net. Gardiner would struggle mightily and have the worst goal against average of any starting goalie in Bruins history, 5.17. He retired from pro hockey after the season ended. Gardiner did record an assist on February 29, 1944 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Herb Cain won the scoring title in 1943-44 with a record 82 points.

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 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 his 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, 23 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.

Rule Changes[]

For the start of this season, the NHL added the centre red line, which meant players could no longer make two-line passes out of their own end. This was done to try to add more offence to the game as scoring was down and fans were turning away. Oddly enough, 62 years later, the red line was removed for the exact same reasons it was added. Both times critics said, "You are going to kill the game."

Final Standings[]

National Hockey League
Montreal Canadiens 50 38 5 7 83 234 109 557
Detroit Red Wings 50 26 18 6 58 214 177 374
Toronto Maple Leafs 50 23 23 4 50 214 174 303
Chicago Black Hawks 50 22 23 5 49 178 187 240
Boston Bruins 50 19 26 5 43 223 268 207
New York Rangers 50 6 39 5 17 162 310 253

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.

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

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

Stanley Cup Playoffs[]

Playoff Bracket[]

Semifinals Finals
1 Montreal Canadiens 4
3 Toronto Maple Leafs 1
1 Montreal Canadiens 4
4 Chicago Black Hawks 0
2 Detroit Red Wings 1
4 Chicago Black Hawks 4


Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
March 21 Toronto 3 Montreal 1
March 23 Toronto 1 Montreal 5
March 25 Montreal 2 Toronto 1
March 28 Montreal 4 Toronto 1
March 30 Toronto 0 Montreal 11

Maurice "Rocket" Richard named First, Second and Third Star of the game.

Montreal wins best-of-seven series 4 games to 1

Chicago Black Hawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
March 21 Chicago 2 Detroit 1
March 23 Chicago 1 Detroit 4
March 26 Detroit 0 Chicago 2
March 28 Detroit 1 Chicago 7
March 30 Chicago 5 Detroit 2

Chicago wins best-of-seven series 4 games to 1


see 1944 Stanley Cup Finals

Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Black Hawks

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 4 Chicago 1 Montreal 5
April 6 Montreal 3 Chicago 1
April 9 Montreal 3 Chicago 2
April 13 Chicago 4 Montreal 5 OT

Montreal wins best-of-seven series 4 games to 0

NHL Awards[]

O'Brien Trophy: Chicago Black Hawks
Prince of Wales Trophy Montreal Canadiens
Calder Memorial Trophy: August 'Gus' Bodnar, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hart Memorial Trophy: Babe Pratt, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Clint Smith, Chicago Black Hawks
Vezina Trophy: Bill Durnan, Montreal Canadiens

All-Star Teams[]

First Team   Position   Second Team
Bill Durnan, Montreal Canadiens G Paul Bibeault, Toronto Maple Leafs
Earl Seibert, Chicago Black Hawks D Butch Bouchard, Montreal Canadiens
Babe Pratt, Toronto Maple Leafs D Dit Clapper, Boston Bruins
Bill Cowley, Boston Bruins C Elmer Lach, Montreal Canadiens
Lorne Carr, Toronto Maple Leafs RW Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens
Doug Bentley, Chicago Black Hawks LW Herb Cain, Boston Bruins
Dick Irvin, Montreal Canadiens Coach Hap Day, Toronto Maple Leafs


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 that played their last game in the NHL in 1943-44 (listed with their last team):


See Also[]


NHL Seasons

1939-40 | 1940-41 | 1941-42 | 1942-43 | 1943-44 | 1944-45 | 1945-46 | 1946-47 | 1947-48