Profiles in Excellence: Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde

Edouard Charles “Newsy” Lalonde: Rank #39 – 19 points
NHA Coaching Experience: Montreal Canadiens, 1915-1917
NHA Regular Season W-L-T: 26-17-1; NHA Playoff W-L: 5-6
NHL Coaching Experience: Montreal Canadiens, 1917-1922, 1932-1935; New York Americans, 1926-27; Ottawa Senators, 1929-1931
NHL Regular Season W-L-T: 144-167-28; NHL Playoff W-L: 7-7-3
WCHL/WHL Coaching Experience: Saskatoon Crescents, 1922-1923; Saskatoon Sheiks, 1923-1926
WCHL/WHL Regular Season W-L-T: 57-54-7; WCHL/WHL Playoff W-L-T: 0-2-2
Playoff Appearances: 1916-1919, 1925-26, 1930, 1933-34
Stanley Cup Finals Appearances: 1916-17, 1919; Stanley Cup Victory: 1916

Edouard Charles “Newsy” Lalonde was the first icon in the pantheon of the Montreal Canadiens. Not only did he score the first goal in Habs franchise history he was the greatest scorer in hockey during the early 20th century. In the 1919 Stanley Cup playoffs he scored a stunning eighteen points—a record which lasted until Gordie Howe broke it in 1955.

If you combine his scoring totals from the NHA era with his NHL stats he becomes the greatest scorer in hockey until the arrival of Maurice Richard. Indeed it was Lalonde who set the standard for future Montreal Canadien icons: Howie Morenz, Toe Blake, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Guy Lafleur to strive for and surpass in their careers.

The late Charles L. Coleman wrote in volume one of his trilogy The Trail of the Stanley Cup that “Newsy Lalonde was the greatest and most colourful hockey player of the era…a great fighter with a fiery temper, he went after opponents, spectators, and even teammates of occasion. All the bad men of his time…carried marks of their tangles with Newsy. A born leader, he was almost always the captain or playing manager of his team. There were no desultory performances without incurring the whiplash of his tongue.”

Lalonde was born in 1887 and by the early 1900s was playing amateur hockey in Ontario. (It was during his amateur days that he got the nickname “Newsy” because he worked in a newspaper plant). By 1906 he had turned pro. When the National Hockey Association was created in 1910 (the pre-cursor to the NHL) Lalonde instantly became an impact player. Lalonde played with the Canadiens and the Renfrew Creamery Kings (where Frank and Lester Patrick were his teammates).

When the PCHA began in 1912, Lalonde jumped to Frank Patrick’s Vancouver Millionaires and led the league in scoring in its inaugural season. The very next season, Newsy returned to Montreal but his relationship with the Habs would always be topsy-turvy—marked by contractual holdouts and clashes with management.

He became coach of the Habs in 1915 and his first chance at glory came in 1916 when he led them to the Stanley Cup against the PCHA winner Portland Rosebuds. Despite a relatively poor performance on the ice, Lalonde led the Habs to the only Stanley Cup victory in his coaching career. The following season the Canadiens lost the Cup to Pete Muldoon’s Seattle Metropolitans.

Lalonde stayed with Montreal when the NHL was formed in 1917 and played in its very first game. From 1917-1926 Lalonde was the finest offensive coach in hockey. His teams led the NHL in offense from 1917-1921 and the WCHL from 1923-1926.

Lalonde had the advantage of having a top gun like himself on the team but he wasn’t the only sharpshooter with the Habs. Joe Malone scored forty-four goals in the 1917-18 Season (which remained the NHL record until 1944). Indeed when comparing his team’s average goals per game totals (and where they finished in the league offensively) against that of his nearest offensive rival, Frank Patrick, Lalonde wins hands down.

Patrick-PCHA Lalonde-NHL

1917-18                   3.9-1                                        5.2-1

1918-19                   3.6-1                                        4.8-1

1919-20                   3.4-1                                        5.3-1

1920-21                   3.6-1                                        4.6-1

1921-22                   3.2-1                                        3.7-3

Patrick-PCHA Lalonde-WCHL/WHL

1922-23                   3.9-1                                        3.7-4

1923-24                   2.9-1                                        3.0-1

Patrick-WCHL/WHL Lalonde-WCHL/WHL

1924-25                   3.2-4                                        3.6-1

1925-26                   2.1-6                                        3.1-1

Only once does Patrick exceed Lalonde’s totals and in the final two seasons noted above, Lalonde and Patrick were both in the same league. Also interesting is that when Lalonde was coaching in the WCHL from 1922-1926 (with the exception of the 1923-24 Season) his offensive output exceeded that of the NHL’s top offensive teams as well.

Lalonde’s last shot at the Stanley Cup came in 1919 when, once again, he faced Muldoon’s Seattle Metropolitans.

The 1919 Stanley Cup final is famous because it ended prematurely with no winner due to the Spanish influenza epidemic (which killed millions of people worldwide) and infected the players themselves: killing Lalonde’s teammate Joe Hall in the process. Five games were played and the series was split evenly at 2-2-1 before the epidemic struck. (Game four was declared a no contest after five periods of scoreless play). Game 4 was the exception not the rule because the 1919 finals was a dazzling display of offensive hockey for both teams. Lalonde ended up with seventeen goals in the 1919 playoffs—a playoff record which stood until 1976 when it was broken by Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Under Lalonde, the Habs had stellar players like defensemen Joe Hall and Sprague Cleghorn and the immortal Georges Vezina tending the nets. All of these men are in the Hockey Hall-of Fame.

When Canadiens manager George Kennedy died and the team was sold to Leo Dandurand, Lalonde’s days with the team were numbered. He clashed repeatedly with Dandurand, was summarily benched, and finally traded to Saskatoon in the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) in 1922 to serve as a player-coach.

After a bad first season, the Saskatoon Crescents (later the Sheiks) became contenders in the league but never made it to the Stanley Cup finals—being thwarted twice by Lester Patrick’s Victoria Cougars in the WCHL playoffs. Lalonde’s teams had the famous brother forwards, Bill and Bun Cook. Bill Cook would lead the WCHL in scoring from 1923-1926.

Lalonde also was blessed with the presence of hall-of-fame goalie George Hainsworth. The Cook brothers and Hainsworth would go on to greater glories in the NHL and become Hockey-Hall-of-Fame members.

By 1925 Lalonde had stopped playing and when the WCHL folded in 1926 he returned to the NHL to coach the New York Americans franchise for one season without success. Between 1927 and 1935, Lalonde bounced between the NHL and the minors. He coached two seasons for the original Ottawa Senators before making his peace with Leo Dandurand to coach the Habs once more (succeeding Cecil Hart in the process).

Sadly for Lalonde the magic was gone. The team struggled through three lackluster seasons and two early playoff eliminations. In 1935 he was fired by the Canadiens and never returned to NHL coaching again.

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