Monday, December 20, 2010

Topping the List

It is the time of year when the "Best of the Best" polls begin to circulate in the media. Recently, Canadian Major League baseball player, Joey Votto, was named the recipient of the Lou Marsh Award.

In December of 1950, the Canadian Press released the results of a poll concerning the greatest hockey player of the past 50 years. Topping the list was the legendary Howie Morenz.

Howie Morenz first season in the National Hockey League was 1923-24 with the Montreal Canadiens. Right from the start, Morenz tremendous offensive talents made him a fan favourite. His ability to skate like the wind led to the nickname "The Stratford Streak". Many hockey fans in the United States were attracted to the NHL as a result of Morenz. They would marvel at his creative skills on offence, and be buzzing when he roared back to negate an opponents rush. In the U.S. Morenz was referred to as "The Babe Ruth of Hockey.

 When Canadian Press announced Morenz as the winner, the debate began immediately regarding others who should have been considered.  However, it is very difficult to argue as to why Morenz shouldn't have been ranked at the top. His achievements include 3 Hart Trophy wins (1928,1931,1932), and 3 Stanley Cups (1923-24,1929-30,1930-31).

Lionel Conacher, Canada's top athlete for the first half of the century, commented after Morenz was named the greatest player.

"Morenz was great in those 1-0 games. You could knock him down, but you knew he'd get up and that on the next rush he would probably beat you", said Conacher.

Unfortunately, Morenz didn't live long enough to bask in the accolades of this richly deserved acknowledgment of his skills. In a game played on January 28,1937, Morenz broke his leg. While still in hospital, he passed away at the age of 34.

In 1945, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the initial class.

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