Welcome to Habs History! Throughout this series, we are going to be taking a look at the coaches of the Montreal Canadiens from their inception in 1909 up to the present. This will include short bios and their accomplishments with the team.
Jack Laviolette 1909-1910
Jean-Baptiste Laviolette was born on July 27, 1879 in Belleville, Ontario but grew up in Valleyfield, Quebec. He started playing hockey when he was 12 years old and made friends with future Canadiens player Didier Pitre. Laviolette began playing elite level amateur hockey in 1904 for Montreal Le National and would go on to play for the Michigan Soo Indians and the Montreal Shamrocks.
Laviolette was one of the founding members of the Montreal Canadiens organization in 1909. He created a team made entirely of French-Canadian hockey players at the request of John Ambrose O’Brien, the founder of the National Hockey Association which was the predecessor of the National Hockey League. At the time of the team’s founding, Laviolette already held an executive position with the NHA, but would then go on to serve as co-general manager, captain, coach, and defenseman for the Habs, and he remains the only person in Habs history to hold these positions at the same time. He played for the Habs from their founding until he lost his right foot in a car accident in 1918.
Jack Laviolette died on January 10, 1960 at the age of 80, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.
Adolphe Lecours 1910-1911
Adolphe Lecours was born on January 23, 1878. He served as coach of the Canadiens for a single season, during which time hockey legend Georges Vezina joined the team. He posed an 8-8-0 record during his tenure with the team. He died on July 6, 1955.
Napoléon Dorval 1911-1913
Napoléon Dorval took over as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens after a shareholders meeting for the club. Dorval was an artist and a businessman who frequently took time to draw the players on the team, with some of his images being published in the Montreal Gazette. During his first year, he maintained a 8-10-0 record with the team. In his second and final season with the team, he maintained a 9-11-0 record.
Jimmy Gardner 1913-1915
James Henry Gardner was born May 21, 1881 in Montreal, Quebec. He began his playing career with the Montreal Hockey Club amateur team where he started as a left winger. It was during this time that he won the Stanley Cup twice, once in 1902 and again in 1903 as one of the Little Men of Iron. He then joined the Montreal Wanderers before playing for two American teams, the Calumet Miners and the Pittsburgh Professionals. He returned to Canada to play for the Montreal Shamrocks before he rejoined the Montreal Wanderers, winning the Stanley Cup in 1908 and 1910.
After Gardner joined the Canadiens, he served as both head coach and the team’s captain. His first season with the team saw a 13-7-0 record, while his second season with the team saw a 6-14-0 record. He retired as a hockey player following his second season with the Canadiens.
Before his coaching days were finished, Gardner would go on to coach the Hamilton Tigers, the Providence Reds, and the Sherbrooke and Verdun hockey teams. He died on November 7, 1940 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
Newsy Lalonde 1915-1922, 1932-1934
Edouard Lalonde was born on October 31, 1887 in Cornwall, Ontario. He earned the nickname Newsy after working at a paper mill during his youth. He also began playing both hockey and lacrosse during this time. Lalonde began his professional hockey career at just 16 years old, playing for teams in both Ontario and Manitoba before joining the Montreal Canadiens in 1909. He went on to score two goals in their first game against the Cobalt Silver Kings in 1910.
He scored nine goals after being traded to the Renfrew Millionaires before returning to Montreal as the team’s captain the following season, scoring 19 goals and accruing 61 penalty minutes. He went on to play for the Vancouver Millionaires for the 1911-12 season before once again returning to Montreal and becoming one of the first superstars of the game, scoring at least one goal per game over the next ten seasons.
Lalonde resigned his captaincy at the start of the 1915-1916 season when he was named coach of the team. He eventually became captain again during the 1916-1917 season. During one game in 1920, Lalonde scored six goals in one game, a team record that he still holds up to the present.
Lalonde coached the team until he was traded to Saskatoon in favour of Aurèle Joliat. He retired from playing hockey in 1928, and returned to coach the Canadiens in 1932. Newsy Lalonde was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, and died November 21, 1970.
Léo Dandurand 1922-1926
Joseph Viateur “Léo” Dandurand was born on July 9, 1889 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. His family moved to Canada when he was a teenager. He had always had a passion for hockey, and even became an NHL referee during his youth.
Dandurand and his business partners Joseph Cattarinich and Louis Letourneau purchased the Montreal Canadiens on November 2, 1921. He served as the head coach of the team for four seasons between 1922-1926. His tenure as coach saw the arrival of the great Howie Morenz as well as a Stanley Cup victory. He stayed on as the team’s General Manager until 1935. Dandurand was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963, and died on June 26, 1964.
Cecil Hart 1926-1932, 1936-1938
Cecil Hart was born on November 28, 1883 in Bedford, Quebec. Hart first served as coach between 1926 and 1932, during which time the team won two Stanley Cups. However, Hart was fired by team owner Léo Dandurand after an argument between the two.
Hart was re-hired by Ernest Savard in 1936 on the condition that Howie Morenz be acquired to the team from the New York Rangers. During his stint as coach, the Canadiens finished at the top of the NHL’s Canadian division a total of five times. Hart’s success as a coach speaks for itself, as he maintained a 196-125-73 record during his tenure with the team.
The Hart trophy was donated to the NHL in 1923 by Cecil Hart’s father, David Hart. The original trophy was retired in 1960, 20 years after Hart’s death on July 1, 1940. The Cecil Hart Memorial trophy is awarded annually to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to their team.
By Cate Racher, Hockey History Researcher.
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