Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Canadiens Goalies Of The Late 1950's

Len Broderick 1957 - 1958

Goaltender Len Broderick played in his only NHL game of his career as an emergency reserve fill in for Jacques Plante on October 30, 1957. Plante had suffered an asthma attack and Broderick helped the Canadiens win the game 6-2.

The 5' 11" Broderick had earned a reputation as one of the top netminders in the OHA with the Toronto Marlboroughs in the 1956-57 season. With 28 wins, a league-leading 8 shutouts and 2.48 goals against average, Broderick was in the midst of helping his team to consecutive Memorial Cup apearances.

Towards the beginning of his third season with the Marlies, Broderick was loaned to the Canadiens for the game in which Plante was ill. Broderick filled in admirably, donning Plante's jersey number and surrendering just two goals en route to the 6-2 Canadiens victory.

Completing his third Marlies season, Broderick's numbers dropped some, though he still led the OHA with a league best 3.28 GAA.

After one more season with the Marlboros, Broderick spent the 1959-60 season split between Senior hockey in Oakville and short stint playing professional with the St. Paul Saints.

Broderick didn't duplicate his NHL success with the Saints, however, and was victimized 16 times in just three games and retired from the game of hockey.

Claude Pronovost 1958 - 1959

Claude Pronovost registered a shutout in his first NHL game - against his own team, the Canadiens!

On January 14, 1956, Pronovost was loaned to the Boston Bruins for one game, as their regular goalie John Henderson was injured.

Pronovost promptly shut out the Habs 2-0.

It took three years before Claude Pronovost got to play his second game. He certainly wasn't a bad goaltender, for the Montreal Canadiens kept him under contract during that time. Yet, there may have been some bad feelings about the shutout he fashioned in his first NHL start.

The problem was that it came against his own team, and it all happened because of a pair of skates.

Pronovost, a diehard Red Wings fan, was the practice goaltender for the Canadiens and was on standby when the Boston Bruins came to town on January 14, 1956. The Bruins were without their regular goaltender, Terry Sawchuk, due to an injury, and had intended to use their backup, Long John Henderson. The only problem was that Henderson's size 13 skates did not arrive with him.

Milt Schmidt, the Bruins coach, tried to get the Canadiens Gerry McNeil to fill in, but was refused in his attempt. That left Claude Pronovost, younger brother of Marcel, to fill in between the pipes.

Pronovost proceeded to shut down the some of the best players in the game over the next sixty minutes. In the first period Leo Boivin gave the Bruins the lead before Lorne Ferguson scored in the second.

By game's end, the young backstop had blocked all 31 shots directed his way, even killing off his own penalty in the third period.

His second chance to play in the NHL came three years later while the Canadiens were being blown out at home by the Maple Leafs. Pronovost came on with the Canadiens behind 5-1 in the third period on February 5, 1959. Pronovost's shutout streak ended at 68:27 when Frank Mahovlich put the rubber past him. The Canadiens lost the game 6-3.

Claude Pronovost's one and only start, and his last appearance, came later on March 19, 1959, when Jacques Plante came down with a mysterious muscle ailment. He lasted two periods before being pulled in favor of Claude Cyr. The loss contributed to the elimination of his beloved Red Wings.

On September 10, 1959, the Canadiens traded Pronovost to the Chicago Blackhawks for cash.

He suited up for the Calgary Stampeders of the WHL in 1959-60 before toiling with three Eastern Pacific Hockey League teams from 1960 to 1963.

After playing 27 games for the Montreal Royals in 1961, Pronovost moved on to the North Bay Trappers for 4 games the following season. His final pro action came when he appeared with the Hull Ottawa Canadiens in the 1962-63 season, playing a single game.

Claude Cyr 1958 - 1959

Claude Cyr, born in Montreal, Quebec on March 27, 1939, played just one period with the Canadiens, and it proved to be the only NHL experience of his career.

The Hull Ottawa Canadiens loaned Cyr to Montreal and when starter Claude Pronovost surrendered five goals to the Toronto Maple Leafs through two periods on March 19th, 1959, Cyr came in to start the third and gave up just one goal the rest of the way. Pronovost was filling in for Jacques Plante, sidelined by stomach problems.

Cyr spent four seasons with the Hull Ottawa Canadiens, first as both a junior and senior player, and then a professional. Cyr won a Memorial Cup in 1958 and turned pro officially during the 1959-60 season. He tended goal for seven different clubs over the next four seasons as well as representing Canada at the World Championships in 1961.

In 1963, Cyr returned to Senior hockey spending the final four years of his career in the Quebec Senior Hockey League minding the net for four different franchises before hanging up his pads in 1967.

All told, Cyr donned his pads in 14 different destinations in an 11 year career.

Les Binkley - In The System - 1957 - 1966

Much like the legendary Johnny Bower, netminder Les Binkley spent considerable time in the minor leagues before debuting in the NHL in his thirties.

Although he did not have a Hall of Fame career, Binkley enjoyed five solid years with the Pittsburgh Penguins before joining the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros of the WHA.

Binkley played junior with the Galt Black Hawks and Kitchener Greenshirts. He then spent the 1954-55 season playing senior hockey with the Walkerton Capitals and the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen before turning pro. The affable backstopper played in four different leagues and was a popular competitor in each one of them. Highlights of this stage of his career included leading the Eastern League in wins in 1957 and 1958.

In 1957, Binkley was signed by Cleveland (AHL) as assistant trainer and practice goaltender. He remained property of the Canadiens run team until 1966.

Binkley notched three 30-win seasons for the Barons in the 1960's and was the winner of the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL's top rookie in 1962. Four years later he was presented the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

Binkley was the first number one goaltender in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played 104 games during the club's first two years and later tutored youngsters like Jim Rutherford and Al Smith.

In 1972-73 he sought a new challenge with the Ottawa Nationals of the WHA and remained with the franchise when it relocated to Toronto the next season. Although his minutes played were down, Binkley was a solid veteran presence on the club. He retired in 1976 after playing most of the year in the North American League with the Buffalo Norsemen.

Gil Meyer - In The System - 1959 - 1961

Gil Mayer was twice associated, briefly and somewhat loosely, with the Montreal Canadiens, at the start of career and at the end. A workhorse between the pipes despite his small size, few goaltenders in professional hockey had the success that Mayer did in the American Hockey League.

An Ottawa native, Mayer was nicknamed "The Needle" because of his 5-foot-6, 135-pound frame, making him just about the smallest player in the league at the time. Mayer played with Montreal sponsored Hull Volants in junior and spent a season in the New York State junior circuit with the Lake Placid Roamers. He then spent two years with the OHA's Barrie Flyers and led the league with 26 wins in 1948-49.

Mayer’s career saw him capture many individual honors as well, earning three First Team AHL All-Star nods along with two Second Team berths. Five times in a six-year span, beginning in 1950-51 at the age of 20, Mayer captured the Harry "Hap" Holmes Award, which was at the time presented to the goaltender who led the league in goals against.

Mayer made up for his diminutive stature with quickness and agility, and would be credited with winning 346 games over 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Hornets, Hershey Bears, Cleveland Barons and Providence Reds from 1949-63. Mayer's victory total is actually slightly higher, but statistics from the 1958-59 season remain incomplete.

Mayer posted 30 wins in a season seven different times, including a memorable 46-19-3 campaign with the Pittsburgh Hornets in 1951-52. He led them to the Calder Cup championships that season and again in 1955. Along the way, Mayer was recalled to see action in nine games in the NHL game with the Toronto Maple Leafs where he posted a career record of 2-6-1 with a 2.78 GAA.

When the Hornets folded following the 1955-56 season, Mayer joined future AHL Hall of Famers Frank Mathers and Willie Marshall in making the move from Pittsburgh to Hershey. He spent three seasons with the Bears, playing on teams that went on to win the Calder Cup in 1958 and 1959, although he did not see any postseason action either year.

Mayer played the next two years (1959-61) in Cleveland, sent there in a trade for Habs farmhand Claude Dufour, and spent the next two seasons after that in Providence before retiring in 1963, Mayer trailled only Johnny Bower in all-time AHL wins and shutouts (41) when he hung up the pads.

In 2007, Mayer was honoured as one of the first seven inductees into the AHL Hall Of Fame.


Frosty said...

Fantastic Site!!! Thanks for your hard work.

I am actually looking for photos of several players on this post (Gil Mayer and Claude Pronovost). Is that something that you may have available???



Stephen Cole said...

Hi Robert,

I’m looking into copyright permissions and quotes to reprint the image of Len Broderick you've featured on your website (“”).

My name is Stephen Cole, and I am an established sports writer in Toronto. I am currently working on my eighth hockey project, Triple Overtime, to be distributed in Canada in October 2012 in a print run of approximately 25,000. I would like to reprint a copy of your image in the interior of the book, and I’m wondering if you have any information as to the original photographer/artist, or if you have an established process for obtaining any necessary permissions and releases.

I am happy to provide more details, so please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
All the best,
Stephen Cole

Anonymous said...

A bat dah