Edgar Laprade was considered by many to be the best senior hockey player in Canada during the early 1940s. Laprade began playing junior hockey with his hometown Port Arthur, Ontario, Bruins at the age of 16 in 1935. Three years later he moved up to senior hockey and the Port Arthur Bearcats, leading the Thunder Bay Senior League in scoring in 1941 and 1942 and helping his team win the Allan Cup in 1943. He was as presented with the Gerry Trophy as the league’s top player in 1939 and 1941. In addition, the city of Port Arthur also held a special night for Edgar and his brother Burt, a popular local sports figure in his own right, in 1941. Edgar joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1943 and suited up for the Montreal RCAF team.
The Rangers first placed Edgar on their negotiation list in 1938. The Canadiens were also interested in the smooth skating center but Laprade wasn’t interested in turning pro. Perhaps he was too comfortable in Port Arthur, or maybe there just wasn’t enough money on the table. However that all changed in the summer of 1945 when Frank Boucher visited Edgar in person and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse – a two year contract worth $15,000 plus a $5,000 signing bonus, which was exactly the amount Laprade owed on his house in Port Arthur.
Ranger GM Lester Patrick, who was known to be tight-fisted with a buck was agreeable to the contract amount but not very happy with the bonus offer.
But as he recounted in his book, “When the Rangers Were Young,” Boucher calmly explained the inevitability of the cash payment to his boss.
“Lester, if Edgar Laprade was already a professional, playing, let us say for Mr. Smythe in Toronto, would you be prepared to pay $5,000 to buy his contract?”
“I certainly would,” Lester replied promptly.
“Well, in heaven’s name, what’s the difference whether we give the $5,000 to him or to Connie Smythe?”
“You have a point,” Lester conceded. “Pay him the money.”
The 5-8, 160lb. Laprade, made his Ranger debut in October 1945 at the age of 26 and proved to be well worth the money as well as the wait. He scored 15 goals with 19 assists and no penalty minutes (the only NHL player to do so that season) to finish third among Ranger scorers and win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
“Eager Edgar.” as he was called by his teammates. was a superb puck handler who seemed to glide effortlessly along the ice. He led the Blueshirts in Points (1949-50), Goals (1948-49, 1949-50) and Assists (1946-47), as well as tying for the team lead in playoff points and assists in 1948.
He was also a valuable forechecker and penalty killer, and set what was then an NHL record in December, 1949 when he scored two shorthanded goals within 45 seconds in a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the Chicago Black Hawks.
Laprade was known for his gentlemanly behavior both on and off the ice. He managed to go an entire season without drawing a single penalty, three times in his 10-year career. He never drew more than 12 minutes in penalties in a season and accumulated only 42 penalty minutes during his entire career and won the Lady Byng trophy in 1949-50.
Laprade’s career was nearly cut short in early October, 1948 when he and four teammates were involved in a serious auto accident while returning to their training camp following an exhibition game in Quebec. Buddy O’Connor sustained broken ribs and Laprade had a broken nose. Frank Edolls suffered a knee injury and Bill Moe, a scalp wound. All four were unconscious when brought to the hospital. Tony Leswick was also in the car, but was uninjured. Laprade missed only four games that season and finished with 18 goals and 12 assists.
The Blueshirts only made two playoff appearances during Laprade’s ten seasons in New York. In 1947-48 Edgar tied with Tony Leswick and Phil Watson for the team lead in scoring in their first round loss to Detroit. However, the next season the Blueshirts went all the way to the finals and Edgar was an important contributor, scoring a pair of goals in the Blueshirts 3-1 win in the second game of the finals and scoring a goal in the fourth game to get the Rangers back into the match and even the series at a game apiece. The series eventually went to seven games where the Wings’ Pete Babando beat Chuck Rayner in the second overtime period to win the Cup for Detroit.
Edgar played in four consecutive All-Star games (1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950) and was selected as the Rangers MVP twice, sharing the award with Chuck Rayner in 1948-49 and being named the sole recipient in 1949-50. He was also awarded the Frank Boucher trophy as the most popular Ranger in 1954-55, his final season.
Edgar retired briefly in 1952-53 but returned to play on a line with Max Bentley the following season. He retired for good in 1955 and opened a sporting goods store in his native Ontario. He was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 as a player and again in 1983 as a member of the 1939 Bearcats Allan Cup winning team. In 1993 Laprade was Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the veteran player category.
Laprade played in exactly 500 games over 10 seasons in New York, scoring 108 goals with 172 assists for 280 points, with 42 penalty minutes and 18 game-winners. In 18 playoff games, Edgar scored four goals with nine assists for 13 points with four penalty minutes and one game-winner.
Apparently Laprade’s exploits were remembered by a New Jersey college professor in the 1970s, who liked to assign difficult research projects in the days before the Internet and Google. Every year he would challenge his students to identify the Rangers line known as “The Three Little Schaefers.”
The nickname was created by radio announcer Bert Lee, probably with an eye towards boosting the sales of Schaefer Beer, (The one beer to have when you’re having more than one), the Blueshirts sponsor at the time.
The members of the line were Laprade (five-foot-eight, 160 pounds) centering for Tony Leswick (five-foot-seven, 160 pounds) and Grant “Nobby” Warwick (five-foot-five, 155 pounds) on the right. The trio was indeed one of the smallest lines in Ranger history.
Every season, New Jersey college students would wind up calling the Rangers public relations office to ask who played on the “Three Little Shaefers line” To which Ranger PR Director John Halligan and his crew would gladly answer, ”Laprade, Leswick and Warwick.”