|5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
172 lb (78 kg)
|Born||January 22, 1918,|
Nokomis, SK, CAN
|Died||April 4, 2015,|
Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada
|Pro Career||1940 – 1954|
|Hall of Fame, 1966|
Elmer James Lach (born January 22, 1918-April 4, 2015) was a retired Canadian professional centre who played 14 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League. He was part of the Punch Line, along with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake. He led the league in scoring twice, and was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1945 as the league's Most Valuable Player. Lach won three Stanley Cups with Montreal. He retired as the league's all-time leading scorer in 1954, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame 12 years later. Up until his death he was oldest suriving NHL player.
He was born in Nokomis, Saskatchewan, a small town north of Regina. He began playing junior ice hockey for with the Regina Abbotts in the 1935-36 SJHL Season. He played the two following seasons with the Weyburn Beavers of the Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League (SSHL). In the 1938–39 season, Lach joined the Moose Jaw Millers of the SSHL. In his first season with the Millers, he led them in assists, with 20, and was the leading playoff scorer. He also scored 17 regular-season goals. The next season, he scored 15 goals and 29 assists, and led in playoff scoring again. Lach was also noted for his defensive contributions.
Lach signed with the Montreal Canadiens on October 24, 1940. He came to the Canadiens' training camp with only an overnight bag, not expecting to be offered a contract. In his NHL season, Lach played 43 games, scoring seven goals and adding 14 assists. He was limited to only one game the following season, after suffering an elbow injury in the first game. He returned the following season to score 58 points in 45 games. He set a still-standing Canadiens records by scoring six assists in one game on February 6, 1943.
In the 1943–44 season, Montreal head coach Dick Irvin tried a line combination of Lach at centre, Maurice Richard on the right wing, and Toe Blake at left. This line became known as the Punch Line and dominated the NHL for four seasons. In the first season of the Punch line, Lach played 48 games, scoring on average an assist per game; he also added 24 goals. At the conclusion of the season, Lach was named to the Second All-Star team. He also won his first Stanley Cup, helping sweep the Chicago Black Hawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the 1944–45 season, Lach played in all 50 games, picking up a league-leading 80 points, of which 26 were goals and 54 were assists. That season, linemate Maurice Richard became the first player in the NHL to score 50 goals in 50 games. That season, the Punch line amassed 220 points in total, a NHL record until the 1960s. Lach was presented the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player, and was named to the First All-Star team.
After being eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the semi-finals in the 1944-45 NHL season, Lach and the Canadiens won another Stanley Cup in the 1945–46 season. Lach led all players with 34 regular season assists, and was named once more to the Second All-Star team. In the 1947–48 season, Lach became the first recipient of the Art Ross Trophy, after leading the league in points, with 61. The Punch line ceased to exist after Blake retired at the end of the season. Lach led the league in assists for the last time in the 1951–52 season, with 50. In the 1952–53 season, Lach won his third and final Stanley Cup in a memorable finish. At 1:22 of overtime, he scored the Cup-winning goal against the Boston Bruins; however, in the on-ice celebration immediately after the goal, Maurice Richard accidentally broke Lach's nose with his stick.
Lach retired in 1954 as the league's leading scorer, having played 664 regular season games, scoring 215 goals and 408 assists for 623 points, as well as 76 postseason games, where he scored 19 goals and 45 assists for 64 points. He retired as he had accepted an offer to coach the Montreal Junior Canadiens. He also stood behind the bench for the Montreal Royals for two seasons, before pursuing business interests. He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1998, he was ranked number 68 on List of 100 greatest hockey players by The Hockey News. He became the oldest living former NHL player on Septermber 23, 2014 with the passing of Al Suomi. Lach suffered a stroke on March 28, 2015 and passed away at the age of 97 on the morning of April 4, 2015.
Records once held by Elmer Lach
- Began his final season as the all time leading NHL scorer and retired in 2nd place behind Maurice Richard.
- NHL all time points leader- 610 points, surpassed by Maurice Richard and currently held by Wayne Gretzky (2857 points).
- NHL all time assists leader- 408 assists, surpassed by Gordie Howe and currently held by Wayne Gretzky (1963 assists).
- Most assists in a season- 54 in 1944-45, surpassed by Ted Lindsay (55 in 1949-50) and currently held by Wayne Gretzky (163 in 1985-86).
- 1st player in NHL history to reach 600 career points, he reached the mark in his 620th game.
- 1st player in NHL history to reach 400 career assists.
- Fastest player to reach 200 career assists- 261 GP, surpassed and currently held by Wayne Gretzky (165 GP).
- Fastest player to reach 400 career points- 365 GP, surpassed by Jean Beliveau (362 GP) and currently held by Wayne Gretzky (197 GP).
An incredible video featuring the 1951 off-season activities of 15 NHL players in the days when most worked during the summer. Brief, excellent game footage of each is shown. Players featured are Ted Lindsay, Johnny Peirson, Bill Mosienko, Bill Gadsby, Bill Juzda, Leo Reise, Jack Gelineau, Edgar Laprade, Doug and Max Bentley, Chuck Rayner, Gus Mortson, Pentti Lund, Glen Harmon, Elmer Lach.
(NHL Scoring Champion)
|Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
|NHL Scoring Champion
|Winner of the Hart Trophy
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