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Hockey's First Superstar

For the week of Monday September 25, 2006 

On September 30, 1923, the Montréal Canadiens signed Howarth William Morenz to his first professional contract. Gifted with remarkable speed and skill, “Howie” grew up playing goalie for the Mitchell, Ontario, hockey team, but became a forward because of his offensive talent. This shift allowed Morenz to develop into hockey’s first superstar, and one of the greatest players ever.

Howie Morenz
©James Rice/Hockey Hall of Fame
Morenz played junior hockey for the Mitchell Juveniles, where he was dubbed the “Mitchell Meteor” due to his great speed. He led the Juveniles to the 1917 western Ontario championships before moving to Stratford, Ontario, where he became the “Stratford Streak.” He enjoyed a successful amateur career there, and National Hockey League (NHL) scouts quickly took notice of the young Morenz.

Howie debuted professionally in the 1923-24 NHL season. At just 5 foot 7 inches and 165 pounds, he relied on quickness and vision to win games. His Montréal days were remarkable: three Stanley Cups, three Hart trophies as the league’s Most Valuable Player, and selection to the first ever All-Star Team in 1931. During the 1929-30 season, he scored an incredible 40 goals in 44 games. His talent helped to popularize the game in the United States, leading to the NHL`s expansion southward. However, in 1934, with his speed fading, Morenz was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. His play reflected his disappointment and, after less than two seasons, he was moved to the New York Rangers. His beloved Canadiens soon purchased his contract and his return helped Montréal to a first-place standing before tragedy struck.

Morenz scores!
© Hockey Hall of Fame
In a January 28, 1937 game against Chicago, Morenz broke his leg after a body check. His career was over. On March 8 he died after suffering an injury-related embolism. Thousands of mourners packed the Montréal Forum on March 11, 1937, with nearly 50,000 more passing by to show their respect.

On November 2, 1937, the Howie Morenz Memorial Game was played at the Forum between the Montréal All-Stars and the League All-Stars, raising $20,000 for the Morenz family. That same night, the Canadiens retired his number 7 jersey. As further tribute to his greatness, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1945, and was voted Outstanding Hockey Player of the Half Century by the Canadian Press in 1950. Howie Morenz was designated a National Historic Person in 1976.

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