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The 1952-53 NHL season was the 36th season of the National Hockey League. Six teams each played 70 games. The Montreal Canadiens were the Stanley Cup winners as they beat the Boston Bruins four games to one in the final series.

League Business[]

The NHL almost had a seventh team, as the Cleveland Barons applied for a franchise. They were accepted with the proviso that they deposit $425,000 to show good faith, and prove they had sufficient working capital to consort with the other NHL teams. They could not come up with the working capital and transfer of applicants stock to Cleveland residents. As a result, Cleveland was told to apply at a later date.

A big deal was made between Toronto and Chicago as the Maple Leafs shipped Al Rollins, Gus Mortson and Cal Gardner for goaltender Harry Lumley.

Sid Abel was signed by Chicago to be player-coach.

What was rumour became fact in September when Arthur M. Wirtz and James D. Norris became the new owners of the near bankrupt Chicago Black Hawks.

James E. Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings since 1932 and father of James D. Norris, Chicago owner, died of a heart attack December 4, 1952, and his daughter Marguerite became the first female owner of an NHL franchise since Ida Querrie owned the Toronto St. Patricks in 1923 when her husband Charlie transferred his stock in the team to her to avoid paying Eddie Livingstone any money in Livingstone's lawsuit against him.

Regular Season[]

For the fifth straight season the Detroit Red Wings lead the league in points. Gordie Howe won the Hart Trophy over Al Rollins, but on the strength of Rollins' goaltending, Chicago made the playoffs for the first time since 1946.

Bob Hassard scores on Jim Henry, November 1, 1952.

The first NHL game broadcast in Canada on television occurred on October 9, 1952. It was played between the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings with the Canadiens winning 2-1. The French language telecast was produced by 24 year old Gerald Renaud.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had the first English game broadcast on November 1, 1952 versus the Boston Bruins with Foster Hewitt calling the action. Conn Smythe, the Leaf's managing director, sold the Leaf's television rights for a paltry $100 a game.


Gump Worsley made his NHL debut October 9, 1952 in goal for the New York Rangers at the Detroit Olympia and lost 5-3, as Ted Lindsay scored on a tip-in on the power play for Worsley's first goal against him. The Production line scored 3 goals that night as Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe also had goals. Marty Pavelich scored what proved to be the winning goal.

On November 8, 14,562 fans were in attendance at the Montreal Forum when the Canadiens beat Chicago Black Hawks 6-4. Elmer Lach scored his 200th career goal. Fifty seconds later, after Butch Bouchard fed him the puck, Rocket Richard rifled a puck past Al Rollins for his 325th goal, breaking Nels Stewart's unbeatable-record for career goals. "Old Poison" sent the following telegram: "Congratulations on breaking record. Hope you will hold it for many seasons. Best of luck to you and rest of team."

When Terry Sawchuk was injured in practice, the Red Wings brought up Glenn Hall and he made his NHL debut December 27 and played well in a 2-2 tie with the Montreal Canadiens. He then picked up his first career shutout January 7, blanking Boston 4-0.

On January 1, 1953, the Boston Bruins Dave Creighton scored two goals versus the Toronto Maple Leafs but then broke his leg in a tussle with Fern Flaman. Creighton missed 25 games and George Sullivan was recalled from the minors. During the same game, in a fight with Milt Schmidt, Leafs captain Ted Kennedy fell and suffered a broken collarbone and torn shoulder ligaments. Kennedy would miss the remainder of the season and the Leafs would miss out on a playoff berth by 2 points.

Red Wings General Manager Jack Adams got into trouble January 18 when, after a 3-2 loss to Montreal, he entered the officials room and argued with referee Red Storey. Dick Irvin, coach of Montreal, was very upset about this and NHL president Clarence Campbell agreed, fining Adams $500.

Gump Worsley had his first career shutout January 11 in a rare Ranger pounding of his hometown Habs, 7-0.

Butch Bouchard Night was held February 28 and he was presented with a car and a TV set. Detroit spoiled the night with a 4-3 victory.

There was consternation in Toronto when Max Bentley suddenly vanished and was reported back at his home in Delisle, Saskatchewan. Conn Smythe convinced him to return and he did, playing the remaining games of the schedule.

Ted Lindsay scored 4 goals on March 2, 1953 as Detroit pummelled Boston 10-2.

Real Chevrefils scores on Harry Lumley, February 21, 1953.

Boston and Chicago both played well down the stretch and a Bruins 2-1 victory over the Black Hawks on March 8, 1953 was critical for Boston. Despite Toronto winning their last four games of the season, including beating the Bruins on closing night, the Maple Leafs missed the last playoff spot by 2 points. Much of this was attributed to the absence of Ted Kennedy since the New Years Day game against Boston when he was injured. Boston and Chicago ended up tied with 69 points but the Bruins won the tie breaker, by virtue of having one more win than the Black Hawks. The Bruins finished third in the league, setting up the defending 1952 Stanley Cup champions Detroit Red Wings as their Semi-finals opponent.

Final Standings[]

National Hockey League
Detroit Red Wings 70 36 16 18 90 222 133
Montreal Canadiens 70 28 23 19 75 155 148
Boston Bruins 70 28 29 13 69 152 172
Chicago Black Hawks 70 27 28 15 69 169 175
Toronto Maple Leafs 70 27 30 13 67 156 167
New York Rangers 70 17 37 16 50 152 211

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
Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings 70 49 46 95 57
Ted Lindsay Detroit Red Wings 70 32 39 71 111
Maurice Richard Montreal Canadiens 70 28 33 61 112
Wally Hergesheimer New York Rangers 70 30 29 59 10
Alex Delvecchio Detroit Red Wings 70 16 43 59 28
Paul Ronty New York Rangers 70 16 38 54 20

Leading Goaltenders[]

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

Player Team GP MIN GA GAA W L T SO
Terry Sawchuk Detroit Red Wings 63 3780 120 1.90 32 15 16 9
Gerry McNeil Montreal Canadiens 66 3960 140 2.12 25 23 18 10
Harry Lumley Toronto Maple Leafs 70 4200 167 2.39 27 30 13 10
Jim Henry Boston Bruins 70 4200 142 2.46 28 29 13 7
Al Rollins Chicago Black Hawks 70 4200 175 2.50 27 28 15 6
Chuck Rayner New York Rangers 20 1200 58 2.90 4 8 8 1
Gump Worsley New York Rangers 50 3000 153 3.06 13 29 8 2

Stanley Cup Playoffs[]

Playoff Bracket[]

Semifinals Finals
1 Detroit Red Wings 2
3 Boston Bruins 4
3 Boston Bruins 1
2 Montreal Canadiens 4
2 Montreal Canadiens 4
4 Chicago Black Hawks 3

Boston Bruins 4, Detroit Red Wings 2[]

The Bruins and Red Wings last met in the 1946 Semi-finals where the Bruins won 4 games to 1. Detroit were heavy favorites, having finished in first place with 21 more points than Boston. Boston's Woody Dumart effectively checked Gordie Howe, limiting him to 2 goals in the series, having scored 49 in the regular season. Boston's line of Ed Sandford, Johnny Peirson and Fleming Mackell led offensively with Sandford scoring 6 goals. Detroit's coach Tommy Ivan acknowledged that Bruins goalie Jim Henry was the biggest reason for Boston's upset. Detroit had over 40 shots in every game but one in the series.

Game 1 at the Detroit Olympia saw the Red Wings dominate the Bruins from the opening whistle. First period goals by Ted Lindsay and two by Marty Pavelich staked Detroit to a 3-0 lead. A second period goal by Alex Delvecchio and third period goals by Metro Prystai, Johnny Wilson and Lindsay's second lead Detroit to a 7-0 rout with Terry Sawchuk picking up the shutout.

Game 2 at Detroit saw the Bruins bounce back. Playing with a greater commitment to defense and countering off the rush, Fleming Mackell staked the Bruins to a 1-0 lead before Howe tied it up on the Power play with John McIntyre in the box. Making up for his penalty, McIntyre's pass to Dave Creighton put the Bruins ahead 2-1 at the end of the first period. The Wings couldn't solve Jim Henry in the second period but veteran Joe Klukay put the Bruins up 3-1. Third period goals by Bruins Johnny Peirson and Creighton's second of the game stunned the Wings crowd. Two late goals by Metro Prystai weren't enough as the Bruins won 5-3 and tied the series going to Boston.

Game 3 at the Boston Garden was the turning point in the series. In a clean, hard-fought game in which only two penalties were called, Ed Sandford opening the scoring for the Bruins. Tony Leswick tied it up in the second but the Wings couldn't solve Jim Henry and the game went into overtime. Dave Creighton fed Jack McIntyre a pass at 12:29 of the first OT who snapped it past Sawchuk for a Bruins 2-1 win.

Game 4 at Boston was a reversal of Game 1. The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first period goals by Sandford and McIntyre. After an early second period fight between Mackell and Pavelich, the Bruins poured it on and goals by Milt Schmidt, McIntyre's second of the game and Dave Creighton made it 5-0 Boston. The Wings recovered later in the second and goals by Prystai and Delvecchio made it 5-2. Henry barred the door in the third period and Sandford's second of the game made it 6-2 Bruins. The Wings were on the brink of elimination going back to Detroit.

Game 5 at Detroit saw the Wings determined to not be eliminated at home. They came out on fire and goals by Lindsay and Bob Goldham in the game's first minute had them in front 2-0. The game got chippy and multiple penalties for high sticking were called. Benny Woit made it 3-0 Wings but the rough play continued as Klukay and Lindsay got into a mix-up. In the second period, Howe scored his second and last goal of the series before Ed Sandford got the Bruins on the board. However, the Wings Johnny Wilson responded and the period ended with the Wings up 5-1. After an early goal in the third period by Sandford, the game boiled over. Leo Labine was given a misconduct for high sticking. Glen Skov made it 6-2 Detroit but the Bruins wouldn't relent and Schmidt made it 6-3. Tony Leswick high sticked Fleming Mackell resulting in a fight and the Bruins going on the power play. Schmidt scored making it 6-4. After Marcel Pronovost took an interference penalty, a frustrated Terry Sawchuk protested to referee Red Storey which resulted in a misconduct. The Wings held on for an unconvincing 6-4 win.

Game 6 at Boston went wrong the beginning for the Red Wings. Tony Leswick took a slashing penalty and and Ed Sandford scored his 6th goal of the series on the power play to open the scoring for Boston. The Bruins went up 2-0 in the second on McIntyre's goal. Late in the second, third liner Reg Sinclair gave the Wings hope, cutting the lead to 2-1. In the third period, the Wings poured it on but to no avail. Woody Dumart continued to hold Howe off the board and a long shot by Fleming Mackell got by Sawchuk making it 3-1 Bruins. Ted Lindsay responded two minutes later but the first playoff goal for Leo Labine sealed a 4-2 victory and a 4-2 series win for the Bruins.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 March 24 Boston Bruins 0-7 Detroit Red Wings 0-1
2 March 26 Boston Bruins 5-3 Detroit Red Wings 1-1
3 March 29 Detroit Red Wings 1-2 (OT) Boston Bruins 1-2
4 March 31 Detroit Red Wings 2-6 Boston Bruins 1-3
5 April 2 Boston Bruins 4-6 Detroit Red Wings 3-2
6 April 5 Detroit Red Wings 2-4 Boston Bruins 1-4

Montreal Canadiens 4, Boston Bruins 1[]

see 1953 Stanley Cup Finals

NHL Awards[]

1953 NHL Award winners.

Prince of Wales Trophy: Detroit Red Wings
Art Ross Memorial Trophy: Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings
Calder Memorial Trophy: Lorne "Gump" Worsley, New York Rangers
Hart Memorial Trophy: Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings
Vezina Trophy: Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings

All-Star Teams[]

First Team   Position   Second Team
Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings G Gerry McNeil, Montreal Canadiens
Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings D Bill Quackenbush, Boston Bruins
Doug Harvey, Montreal Canadiens D Bill Gadsby, Chicago Black Hawks
Fleming MacKell, Boston Bruins C Alex Delvecchio, Detroit Red Wings
Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings RW Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens
Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wings LW Bert Olmstead, Montreal Canadiens


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1952-53 (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 1952-53 (listed with their last team):



Highlights of the December 21, 1952 game between the Bruins and the Habs. This was the third game of a tryout for Jean Beliveau (who wears #12) and he scores twice in Montreal's 4-3 win. A first period fight between Jack McIntyre and Bernie Geoffrion (in response to McIntyre breaking Billy Reay's cheek), a dust-up between Milt Schmidt and Maurice Richard as well as goals by Dave Creighton and Beliveau are shown. The end has highlights of the December 7, 1952 Toronto Maple Leafs versus Chicago Blackhawks game including a goal by George Armstrong.

A fascinating video of hockey at all levels in 1953 featuring Jean Béliveau playing for the Quebec Aces and at the 6:45 mark, three minutes of excellent footage of the January 17, 1953 Canadiens-Red Wings game. Gordie Howe's game tying goal at 18:53 of the third period is shown.

See Also[]


NHL Seasons

1948-49 | 1949-50 | 1950-51 | 1951-52 | 1952-53 | 1953-54 | 1954-55 | 1955-56 | 1956-57