Elmer Lach has died at age 97, and like the old names slowly being removed from the Stanley Cup to make room for new, Elmer’s passing is another chapter closed.
He was a junior star in Saskatchewan, invited to Toronto so the Leafs could see what he was made of, and following a practice that Conn Smythe in particular wasn’t impressed with, Elmer hopped on a train and headed back to Moose Jaw to play senior hockey.
The Leafs weren’t thrilled about Elmer bailing out, and promptly traded his rights to the New York Rangers, who wrote Elmer and told him to bring his skates and make sure they were sharpened.
But Elmer didn’t go, he became a free agent instead, and signed with Montreal, the only team he would play with (from 1940 to 1953), and where he made his mark as part of the legendary Punch Line with the Rocket and Toe Blake.
The Punch Line. Crafty elder statesman Toe Blake. Scoring machine overdosing with desire, Maurice Richard. And hard-working, never give up, aggressive, sometimes dirty, always talented playmaker Elmer Lach, who scored the Stanley Cup winner against Boston in 1953, causing a jubilant Rocket to jump into his arms and break his nose. The hardest check I ever received, said Elmer.
Elmer was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966 and his (and Henri Richard’s) number 16 hangs from the rafters at the Bell Centre. Well deserved honours for this legendary Hab.
So long, Elmer. You’re gonna have a great time meeting up with the old gang again.