By: Bill Bradley – Sudbury Northern Life
Montreal Canadiens fans may recall that Hector “Toe” Blake was the coach of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s and 1960s, until his retirement in 1968.
Blake, who died in 1995, was also a native of Coniston.
On July 14, the Coniston Community Action Network (CAN) will ask city council to rename the Coniston Arena the Toe Blake Arena.
Blake, a former Canadiens player himself, coached his team to eight Stanley Cup victories. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1982, he was made a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canadian hockey.
The Coniston CAN have written support from Blake’s family, as well as several Coniston community organizations, including the Coniston Lion’s Club, Coniston Minor Hockey Association, Paroisse Notre Dame-de-la-Merci, St. Andrew’s United Church, Club Allegri and All Saints Anglican Church.
Ward 9 Coun. Doug Craig also wrote a letter in support of the arena being renamed in memory of Blake.
“I understand that this request has broad community support and has met all of the requirements,” Craig wrote. “I wish to advise that I fully support this request and hope it will be given favourable consideration.”
The following is a summary of Blake’s life and his accomplishments, as written in a city staff report:
-Hector “Toe” Blake was born in Victoria Mines in 1912 and was raised playing outdoor hockey in the town of Coniston
-Blake played junior and senior hockey in the Sudbury area and was part of the 1932 Sudbury Cub Wolves who were Memorial Cup champions
-He played for the Hamilton Tigers of the Ontario Hockey Association before joining the Montreal Maroons of the NHL in 1935. They won the Stanley Cup that year. Financial troubles caused the Maroons, who appealed mostly to the anglophone community, to suspend operations in 1938-39.
-Blake left the team for the second Montreal NHL team, the Montreal Canadiens, in 1935. He continued with them until 1948.
-He scored 235 goals and had 292 assists, for a total of 527 points in 577 games, and was team captain of the Canadiens from 1940 to 1948.
-During playoff games he scored 25 goals and had 37 assists, for a total of 62 points in 57 playoff games.
-In the 1938-39 season he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion.
-While playing for the Montreal Canadiens, Blake was part of a trio called the Punch Line, also featuring Elmer Lach and Maurice (the Rocket) Richard.
-After retirement, as a player, he coached several of the Canadiens minor league teams for eight years until being named head coach of the Canadiens in 1955.
-Blake coached the Canadiens for 13 years with a total of 500 regular season wins, 18 out of 23 playoff series wins, and eight Stanley Cup victories, including a record five wins in a row from 1956 to 1960-the most for any coach in the team’s history and second best in the history of the NHL.