Retro Rangers: Davey Kerr, The Rangers Original Franchise Goaltender

Before there was a Chuck Rayner, a Gump Worsley, an Ed Giacomin, Mike Richter or Henrik Lundqvist there was Davey Kerr.

Kerr was the Rangers’ original “Franchise” goaltender, the guy who set the standard for all future Blueshirt netminders to aspire to.

David Alexander Kerr began his amateur career with the Toronto Canoe Club of the OHA in 1924. He moved on to the Montreal AAA of the MCHL in 1929 and led them to the Allen Cup Championship in 1930.

He was then signed by the Montreal Maroons in 1930 and played 102 games for them over three seasons (46-37-18 with 11 shutouts and a 2.36 GAA.)

But in 1934 the Maroons needed cash and Rangers GM / Coach Lester Patrick whose Blueshirts had started the season with a 3-8 record needed a goaltender,  And so Kerr was purchased by the Rangers for $10,000, the going price for a netminder at the time. It proved to be money well spent.

In the first eight years of the Rangers existence, goaltending was a mostly unsettled position, with seven different players taking turns between the pipes including Lester Patrick himself.  But once Kerr was acquired the goaltending situation was in good hands for the next seven seasons.

Kerr made his Ranger debut on December 16, 1934 in a 2-1 victory over Boston and the durable netminder went on to miss only one game for the rest of his seven-year Blueshirt career. He backstopped the team into the playoffs six of those seven years and led them to the finals twice, first in 1937 when he set a franchise record with four shutouts in a playoff year (since tied by Mike Richter) in a losing effort against Detroit and then again in 1940 when they won the Stanley Cup.

Kerr enjoyed his best season in 1939-40 when the Rangers set a record with a 19-game unbeaten streak (14-0-5). Davey posted a 1.54 GAA and recorded eight shutouts to lead the league in both categories, won the Vezina trophy and was named to the first All-Star team.

Perhaps his defining moment as a Ranger was during the 1940 playoffs, in the semi-finals against Boston. The Rangers had won the series opener but dropped the next two games and were in trouble. Kerr shut the Bruins out 1-0 in both of the next two games and then held them to a single goal in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory to put the Blueshirts in the finals. He then led them to a four games to two series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the last two games going into sudden death overtime. If not for Kerr’s heroics in those two series, the Blueshirts 54-year Cup drought would have been a lot longer.

Kerr was a fan favorite and in March of 1938 he became the first active hockey player to appear on the cover of Time magazine in a portrait by artist S.J. Wolff. It was an amazing tribute considering that two of the sport’s biggest stars at the time, Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz, had never appeared on Time’s cover and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Montreal’s Maurice Richard was afforded the same honor.

The Toronto native always kept himself in great shape. At 5-foot, 10 inches and 160-pounds, he was solidly built with strong legs and arms and an excellent glove hand. He was also very agile and would challenge teammates in practice by laying his stick flat on the ice in front of him. He would then prop his feet against the left and right posts leaving himself spread-eagled with a large space between his legs. But he had both of his hands free to stop the puck while the stick deflected shots along the ice.

Kerr was also very well respected by his teammates, being able to shout commands to his defensemen without offending them. He also never blamed a teammate for a goal scored against him, always taking full responsibility.

Off the ice Kerr was deliberate and methodical. He smoked a pipe and wore sunglasses while traveling with the team by train to protect his eyes from the glare of the sun off the snow. He attended McGill University and was a stock broker in Toronto.  He played tennis and handball in the offseason to stay in shape and keep his reflexes sharp. He also preferred to be called a goaltender rather than a goalkeeper, feeling that the latter was a soccer term.

After his retirement he confessed that he would occasionally sip a little wine with his pre-game meal. This was done in the privacy of his home since it would certainly have been frowned upon by Lester Patrick.

Kerr retired at the age of 31 following the 1940-41 season to accept an offer of year-round employment with a Toronto based beverage company.  It was believed that Kerr’s decision to retire was influenced by Lester Patrick’s desire to trade him along with five other members of the 1941 Rangers following their first round playoff ouster.

At the time of his retirement Kerr held every franchise goaltending record including regular season games (324), wins (157) shutouts (40) and playoff games (32), wins (17), and shutouts (7) and most shutouts in a single playoff year (4).

Kerr led the league in games played five times and shutouts twice. He also led all playoff goaltenders in games played, minutes, wins, shutouts and goals-against average twice,

In 324 regular season games over seven seasons with the Rangers, Davey posted a 157-110-57 record with 40 shutouts and a 2.07 GAA. In 32 playoff games Kerr posted a 17-13-2 record with seven shutouts and a 1.57 GAA. Overall in 10 NHL seasons Kerr’s record was 203-148-75 in 427 games with 51shutouts and a 2.15 GAA. In a total of 40 playoff games he was 18-19 with 8 shutouts and a 1.74 GAA.