Retro Rangers Camille “The Eel” Henry

Camille Henry was born in Quebec City, Quebec, on January 31, 1933. He originally had hopes of becoming a professional baseball player but that dream soon gave way to another when his outstanding hockey skills became apparent.

After rising through the local youth leagues, Camille moved up to the powerful and popular Quebec Citadels of the Quebec Junior Hockey League where he was expected to fill the rather large skates of Jean Beliveau. Beliveau, a 6-foot-2, 195 pound center was so revered in Quebec that his popularity and grace were often compared to the Yankee’s centerfielder Joe DiMaggio. But what Beliveau had in size, the scrawny 5-foot-7, 138 pound Henry offered in brains, desire and hockey sense and he went on to lead the QJHL with 55 and 46 goals his last two seasons.

Camille’s next step up hockey’s ladder was to the Rangers in 1953-54 where he was used mostly as a power-play specialist. Henry made the most of every opportunity scoring 24 goals and winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s outstanding rookie beating out Beliveau who was beginning his career with the Montreal Canadiens. Late in that season Camille also did what no NHL player had ever been done before, scoring four goals in a game against Detroit’s legendary goalie Terry Sawchuk, who is considered by many to be the best netminder to ever strap on the pads.

“That four goal night won the Calder trophy for me,” Henry once told reporters. It also cost Sawchuk the Vezina trophy and a first team All-Star berth. “I ran into him a few weeks later. ‘You little French baboon’ he said to me. I guess I cost him a couple of thousand dollars.” In addition, all four of the Camille’s goals were scored on the power play, a Ranger record that still stands today.

The next season however, Camille got off to a bad start and was sent to the Providence Reds who loaned him to the Quebec Aces of the QHL. In 1955-56 he was back with Providence where he led the team with 50 goals in just 59 games and set a league record by scoring six goals in a game.

Cammy returned to the NHL for good in January 1957 and won the Lady Byng trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player the next season. Camille reached double digits in goals 10 times as a Ranger and topped the 30-goal mark three times while never being called for more that eight minutes in penalties until the 1964-65 season when he amassed a total of 20 minutes in 49 games. He notched a career high 37 goals in 1962-63 and was named captain of the Rangers in February of 1964 when Andy Bathgate was dealt to Toronto.

Henry specialized in deflections in front of the net and he had a deadly wrist shot, but his uncanny ability to use his small stature to avoid crunching body checks earned him the nickname, “The Eel”. Once when asked by a reporter which player he had ever hurt with a body check, Henry replied: “Camille Henry, that’s who.”

Henry was one of the most popular Rangers of all time and Muzz Patrick the Rangers’ GM was well aware of his publicity value. Once when Henry was in St. Clare’s hospital recovering from an injury, Patrick had photographers present as he signed the winger to a new contract. Camille was also prominently placed in the Rangers annual photo shoots with the ladies from the Ice Capades.

Camille was also married for a while to the famed Quebec singer/actress Dominique Michel.

Unfortunately Henry’s Broadway run ended on February 4, 1965, when he was traded to Chicago with Don Johns, Wally Chevrier and Billy Taylor for Doug Robinson, Wayne Hillman and John Brenneman. He later returned to the Rangers for Paul Shmyr in August 1967. In fact Cammy was on the ice with Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert for the opening faceoff at the “New” Garden on February 18, 1968. But the NHL was getting bigger and Henry, one of the smallest players to ever make it to the big leagues, wasn’t. He was once again traded away, this time to St. Louis with Bill Plager and Robbie Irons for Don Caley and Wayne Rivers in June of 1968.

Henry retired after the 1969-70 season finishing his Rangers career with 256 goals, 222 assists, 478 points and only 78 penalty minutes in 637 games. Overall Cammy scored 279 goals, 249 assists, 528 points and 88 penalty minutes in 727 NHL games for the Rangers, Black Hawks and Blues.

He later became the first coach of the New York Raiders of the WHA and the Kansas City Blues of the Central Hockey League. He also had a radio show in Montreal and worked at Ice World in Totowa, NJ. But unfortunately his life took a downward spiral and he drifted from job to job and lived the last years of his life in virtual poverty.

Camille Henry was one of the few bright lights in many a dismal Ranger season during the late 50’s and early 60’s. He beat the odds in making it to the NHL but in the end couldn’t beat diabetes and other illnesses and the toll they took on his body. He died on September 11, 1997, at the age of 64.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Retro Rangers Camille “The Eel” Henry”

  1. Alexx Hebert
    February 20, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    ..Thank You for well written page on one of my childhood faves, the scoring artist, Camille Henry..Reminded me of smallish scoring star of 1980`s Vancouver Canucks, Tony Tanti..The NY Rangers had a very good, competitive team in the Mid-Late 1950s, Had a strong, exciting offense…The decline started in 1959-60.. Alas, Defense, indeed Rangers defensive system, would often prove suspect…Cheers..