Elmer Lach: As Tough As They Come

Daniel ArouchianSenior Analyst IOctober 26, 2008

Born in Nokomis, Saskatchewan on Jan. 22, 1918 Elmer Lach played 14 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. Many players considered his style of play unmatched. His spirit and ability to handle the puck made him an important asset to the team.

After signing as a free agent in 1940 his NHL career started in the 1940-41 season with 21 points in 43 games. Montreal fans loved his fearless style of play, but it also contributed to injuries he suffered all the way through his playing career.

During practice in the 1943-44 season, then-coach Dick Irvin decided to experiment by combining Lach with both Maurice Richard and Toe Black on the forward line. They were known as the “punch line” and they quickly became one of the most effective forward lines in the NHL.

In one game in February 1947, a Toronto Maple Leafs player hit Lach. He fell on the ice head first and fractured his skull. With fans thinking it was the end of Lach’s career, he proved them wrong by having an incredible 1947-48 season.

In the last game of the 1948-49 season against Detroit, Lach broke his jaw when he was hit by a Detroit player. At first he downplayed the injury since he wanted to play in the semifinals against the Red Wings. He could barely open his mouth to talk which showed that he was severely injured.

That didn’t stop him from trying to get a helmet approved by then-NHL president Clarence Campbell so he could play. His request was denied.

Lach played 664 regular season games. He scored 215 goals, 408 assists earning him a total of 623 points. Although he led the 1944-45 season with 80 points he wasn’t awarded the Art Ross Trophy since it wasn’t created yet, but that honor came in 1948 when he was the first official recipient.

He retired after the 1953-54 season and went on to coach the Montreal Junior Canadiens and Montreal Royals for two seasons. He won the Stanley Cup in 1944, 1946, and 1953. He received the ultimate honor when he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.