Welcome to Habs History! Throughout this series, we’re going to be taking a look at the top seven goalies to ever wear the bleu-blanc-rouge throughout the Habs’ extensive history, according to their number of wins. It will include bios, player stats, and other fun facts about some of our favourite team goalies and how they fit into the team’s history. This week, we’ll be taking a look at George Hainsworth, but before we do that, be sure to check out part one below.
No. 7: Michel “Bunny” Larocque
“Little George” Henry Hainsworth was born June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. At a fairly young age, the Hainsworth family moved from Toronto to Berlin, Ontario (now known as Kitchener) where his father worked as a water commissioner. It is unknown at what age George began playing hockey, but his amateur hockey career began in 1911 at the age of 16 when George signed on with the Berlin Union Jacks.
After playing with the Union Jacks for just a year, George moved up to the Berlin City Seniors as part of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA). After four years playing in Berlin, George had developed a reputation as the best goaltender in the OHA due to leading the league in wins and was being seen as one of the top goaltending prospects in Canada. He spent one year playing for the Toronto based Kew Beach team before returning to Waterloo Region and signing with the Kitchener Greenshirts to start the 1917-’18 season.
George spent three years playing for the Saskatoon Crescents of the WHL/WCHL with a 2.70 goals-against average (GAA) throughout that time, coming in second to Harry Holmes of the of the Victoria Cougars. During this time, he lead the league in terms of games played and was catching the attention of NHL players like Newsy Lalonde, who had coached him in Saskatoon.
At Lalonde’s recommendation, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens, Leo Dandurand, signed George on August 23, 1926 following the death of Habs legend Georges Vezina in March. At this point, George was already 31 years old, but proved he was more than up to the task of goaltending for the Habs by recording 14 shutouts in his first year alone. By his third season, George had achieved 22 shutouts in a 44 game season with a GAA of 2.42. It is easy, then, to see why he was given the Vezina trophy for the first three years that it was awarded.
At 5-foot-6-inches, 150 pounds, George Hainsworth would be considered small by today’s standards, but that didn’t stop him from stopping the puck. Following his Vezina trophy wins, George helped the team win the Stanley Cup in both 1930 and 1931 and maintained a GAA of between 1.95 and 2.20 for those years. He was elected as captain of the team by his teammates before the start of the 1932-’33 season. During this time, he maintained a GAA of 2.32 despite the team losing 25 of their 48 games played.
Before the start of the 1933-’34 season, George was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Lorne Chabot, making Chabot and Hainsworth the first two goalies in the NHL to play for both franchises. George’s efforts with the Leafs proved to be very beneficial to the team, who subsequently won two Canadian division titles and made appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs more than once.
He also served as Toronto’s goaltender at the famous Ace Bailey Benefit Game in February of 1934, where they defeated the Boston Bruins 7-3 in support of their injured teammate, Ace Bailey. This benefit game served as the first NHL All Star game in history. At the start of the 1936-’37 season, the Leafs signed Turk Broda as their main netminder and George was allowed to sign as a free agent with the Canadiens.
George played just four games with the Canadiens when he returned for the 1936-37 season. Hainsworth retired in 1937 with a career GAA of 1.91 and a record 94 career shutouts, 75 of which were as a Habs player.
Following his retirement from professional hockey, George, his wife Alma and son Bill returned to Kitchener and worked as a radio inspector with Dominion Electrohome Ltd. He worked as part of Kitchener’s civil defence guard during World War II before being elected to Kitchener’s city council in 1949 at the age of 54.
On Monday October 9, 1950, George and his wife were returning home from a visit with their son in Val D’Or, Quebec when their car was involved in a head on collision with a light panel truck near Gravenhurst, Ontario. The accident resulted in several broken ribs for George, some of which pierced his heart, and he was pronounced dead at the scene at the age of 55. His funeral was held four days later at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and he was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery in Kitchener.
George Hainsworth would later be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.