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The 1953-54 NHL season was the 37th season of the National Hockey League. Six teams each played 70 games. The James Norris Memorial Trophy made its debut this season and its first winner was Red Kelly of the Detroit Red Wings. The Norris Trophy goes to the top defenceman each year and was named in honour of James E. Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings franchise from 1932 until his death in 1952.

Regular Season[]

Dave Gatherum held the record for longest shutout streak to start an NHL career until 2011.

In October, 1953, Dave Gatherum was called up by the Detroit Red Wings to replace the injured Terry Sawchuk in goal. In his first game, Gatherum shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 on October 11, 1953. He then held the Chicago Black Hawks scoreless until early in the third period of the 2-2 tie game on October 16. He ended up with a 2-0-1 record in three games but was never recalled to the NHL. His name was put on the Stanley Cup as the Wings won it in 1953-54. Gatherum held the record for longest shutout streak to start an NHL career (100.21 minutes) until the 2011–12 NHL season when it was surpassed by Matt Hackett.

The New York Rangers decided to drop Gump Worsley and went with Johnny Bower in goal this season. Bower did well, but not well enough to get the Rangers into the playoffs. However, the Rangers managed to come up with a fine rookie in Camille Henry who won the Calder Memorial Trophy.

On December 9th, the Montreal Canadiens played the Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens and the teams set a record of most penalties in a game. The trouble started when Montreal's Ed Mazur got into a fight with Toronto's George Armstrong in the first period. Both received game misconduct penalties. Early in the second period, Bud MacPherson broke his stick on the ribs of Toronto's Ron Stewart. He chose not to retaliate until a more opportune time. It came at 18:12 of the third period when Stewart and MacPherson collided again. This time they pushed and shoved and the gloves came off and they began to pummel each other. Tom Johnson came to MacPherson's aid by putting a headlock on Stewart and Stewart threw a punch that landed on Johnson's jaw. Stewart pursued MacPherson again, now that he was in combat with Eric Nesterenko of Toronto and soon the benches emptied and everyone was fighting except Maurice Richard and Tim Horton who merely grabbed each other's sweaters. Referee Frank Udvari handed out 36 penalties, including 15 misconducts for a record 204 minutes in penalties. With almost 2 minutes left in the game, only 8 players from each team excluding the goaltenders Gerry McNeil and Harry Lumley, who did battle in the brawl, were permitted to finish the game. Almost forgotten was that Toronto won the game 3-0.

Bernie Geoffrion clubs Ron Murphy, December 20, 1953.

President Campbell was busy this year imposing fines and suspensions. As a result of pushing referee Frank Udvari into the boards during a November 12th game, Bernie Geoffrion was fined $250. Later, the December 20, 1953 game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens saw stick work between Ron Murphy and Bernie Geoffrion. Geoffrion wanted to fight and had dropped his stick but Murphy wouldn't let go of his. Geoffrion retrieved his stick and swung it at Murphy until he made contact with his head. Murphy was knocked unconscious, suffered a broken jaw and concussion and missed the reason of the season recovering from the attack. Geoffrion was suspended for all remaining games versus the Rangers for the season.

The Rangers gained some publicity by using a so-called elixir prepared by restaurateur Gene Leone, but no conclusive results were reported.

There were persistent rumours that the Chicago Black Hawks would fold due to the poor performance of the team and fans staying away in droves. NHL president Clarence Campbell discussed the problems with Arthur M. Wirtz and it was announced that the rumours were without foundation. However, Wirtz decided to play several home games in other locations. Three games were played in Indianapolis at the State Fair Coliseum.

Gordie Howe and Ted Kennedy are separated by Red Storey during Howe's second Gordie Howe hat trick game, March 21, 1954.

Gordie Howe achieved the feat named for him, the Gordie Howe hat trick, twice during this season, on October 11, 1953 and March 21, 1954. These were the only times Howe accomplished the feat.

There was trouble brewing for Maurice Richard when he ghosted an article in the Samedi Dimanche newspaper, calling NHL president Clarence Campbell a dictator and took exception to Campbell's suspension of Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion for the stick swinging incident. Richard was required to post a $1000 bond and refrain from any more articles.

The Detroit Red Wings were first overall in the National Hockey league for the sixth straight season.

Detroit Red Wings Prison Game[]

The Red Wings take to the ice at Marquette Prison, February 2, 1954.

On February 2, 1954 the Red Wings played an exhibition game outdoors at the Marquette Branch Prison. Invited by the warden, they played a team of convicts called the "Marquette Prison Pirates." It was the first ever outdoor game played by the Detroit Red Wings. After the first period the Red Wings were winning 18–0, and the scores for the remainder of the match were not kept. To make things interesting, the Wings swapped a few players, trading goalie Terry Sawchuk, among others, and exchanged one set of defensemen. Ted Lindsay, skated on the opposite wing as Gordie Howe with an inmate as their centerman. Howe then skated the second half of the game with the prisoners, wearing a #16 Pirates jersey. Jack Adams presented a "trophy" (a bucket) at the end of the game.

Final Standings[]

National Hockey League
Detroit Red Wings 70 37 19 14 88 191 132
Montreal Canadiens 70 35 24 11 81 195 141
Toronto Maple Leafs 70 32 24 14 78 152 131
Boston Bruins 70 32 28 10 74 177 181
New York Rangers 70 29 31 10 68 161 182
Chicago Black Hawks 70 12 51 7 31 133 242

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 33 48 81 109
Maurice Richard Montreal Canadiens 70 37 30 67 112
Ted Lindsay Detroit Red Wings 70 26 36 62 110
Bernie Geoffrion Montreal Canadiens 54 29 25 54 87
Bert Olmstead Montreal Canadiens 70 15 37 52 85

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
Jacques Plante Montreal Canadiens 17 1020 27 1.59 7 5 5 5
Harry Lumley Toronto Maple Leafs 69 4140 128 1.86 32 24 13 13
Terry Sawchuk Detroit Red Wings 67 4004 129 1.93 35 19 13 12
Gerry McNeil Montreal Canadiens 53 3180 114 2.15 28 19 6 6
Jim Henry Boston Bruins 70 4200 181 2.59 32 28 10 8
Johnny Bower New York Rangers 70 4200 182 2.60 29 31 10 5
Al Rollins Chicago Black Hawks 66 3960 213 3.23 12 47 7 5

Stanley Cup Playoffs[]

Playoff Bracket[]

Semifinals Finals
1 Detroit Red Wings 4
3 Toronto Maple Leafs 1
1 Detroit Red Wings 4
2 Montreal Canadiens 3
2 Montreal Canadiens 4
4 Boston Bruins 0

Montreal Canadiens 4, Boston Bruins 0[]

The teams met the previous year in the 1953 Stanley Cup Finals where Montreal prevailed 4 games to 1. The Canadiens won in convincing fashion, never trailing in a game and despite Maurice Richard not registering a point in the series. Jacques Plante was brilliant, allowing only 4 goals in 4 games and posting 2 shutouts. At the end of the playoffs, after managing the Bruins since their first season in 1924-25, Art Ross announced his retirement and was replaced by Lynn Patrick.

Jacques Plante stops Joe Klukay, Game 1 of the 1954 Semi-finals, March 23, 1954.

Game 1 at the Montreal Forum saw the Canadiens pepper Bruins goalie Jim Henry with 43 shots. After Canadiens Lorne Davis opened the scoring at 4:25 in the second period it appeared Boston had tied it up when a Doug Mohns shot eluded Plante and skittered towards the open net. Doug Harvey batted it out and the goal judge declared the puck hadn't crossed the line. The Bruins couldn't solve Plante and Bernie Geoffrion scored in the third period for a 2-0 Montreal win.

Game 2 in Montreal saw the Canadiens dominate from the opening faceoff as Dickie Moore scored 10 seconds into the game. Montreal scored three more in the first period then Moore potted his second for a 5-0 lead. After Jean Béliveau scored his first career playoff goal early in the second, the game got chippy. Fleming Mackell scored Boston's only goal of the game at 13:02 and then several fights broke out. The fighting continued in the third period as 94 minutes in penalties were called in the game. Paul Meger and Beliveau added goals for a 8-1 Canadiens romp and 2-0 series lead.

Game 3 at the Boston Garden was the closest game of the series. After a scoreless first period, Butch Bouchard and Cal Gardner traded goals in the first minute of the second period. Geoffrion and Bouchard made it 3-1 going into the third period. The Bruins fought back hard and goals by Doug Mohns and Milt Schmidt (the last of his career) tied it up with four minutes left. Dickie Moore scored with 1:30 left to win it 4-3 for Montreal.

Game 4 in Boston saw Montreal sweep the series on goals by Floyd Curry and Dickie Moore's 4th of the series.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 March 23 Boston Bruins 0-2 Montreal Canadiens 0-1
2 March 25 Boston Bruins 1-8 Montreal Canadiens 0-2
3 March 28 Montreal Canadiens 4-3 Boston Bruins 3-0
4 March 30 Montreal Canadiens 2-0 Boston Bruins 4-0

Detroit Red Wings 4, Montreal Canadiens 3[]

see 1954 Stanley Cup Finals

NHL Awards[]

Prince of Wales Trophy: Detroit Red Wings
Art Ross Memorial Trophy: Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings
Calder Memorial Trophy: Camille Henry, New York Rangers
Hart Memorial Trophy: Al Rollins, Chicago Black Hawks
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings
Vezina Trophy: Harry Lumley, Toronto Maple Leafs

All-Star Teams[]

First Team   Position   Second Team
Harry Lumley, Toronto Maple Leafs G Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings
Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings D Bill Gadsby, Chicago Black Hawks
Doug Harvey, Montreal Canadiens D Tim Horton, Toronto Maple Leafs
Ken Mosdell, Montreal Canadiens C Ted Kennedy, Toronto Maple Leafs
Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings RW Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens
Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wings LW Ed Sandford, Boston Bruins


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1953-54 (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 1953-54 (listed with their last team):


See Also[]


NHL Seasons

1949-50 | 1950-51 | 1951-52 | 1952-53 | 1953-54 | 1954-55 | 1955-56 | 1956-57 | 1957-58