During the 1930-31 season, the National Hockey League was comprised of ten teams, divided equally between an American and a Canadian Division. That season had concluded with the Montreal Canadiens first in the Canadian Division with 60 points, while the Boston Bruins topped the American Division with a league-best 62 points. Montreal's star centre, Howie Morenz, was the league's scoring leader for a second time (he had led the league in 1928 as well). Morenz collected 51 points on 28 goals and 23 assists. For a second time, he was also named the recipient of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. Morenz would win the Hart in 1928, 1931 and again in 1932.
It appeared as though the remainder of the playoffs might be anticlimactic after the opening round series between the Canadiens and the Bruins. But, in fact, the best was yet to come. After dumping the Boston Bruins, the Canadiens faced the Chicago Black Hawks in 1931's best-of-five Stanley Cup final. It was the first appearance in a Stanley Cup final for Chicago.
|Click to expand photo. Howie Morenz's captured his final Stanley Cup
championship in 1931 after a hard-fought series with the Chicago Black Hawks. (HHOF Images)
The final began in Chicago, and after two games, both teams left the Windy City with one win. Montreal took the first contest 2-1, with Chicago edging Montreal by the same score in Game 2.
The remaining three games were scheduled for Montreal. In Game 3, the Canadiens led 2-0 with five minutes to play but surrendered two goals in regulation, then lost when Chicago's Cy Wentworth scored at 53:50 of overtime to claim the game. To that time, it was the longest game in NHL history.
The Canadiens roared back in Game 4. Down 2-0, the Canadiens scored four unanswered goals to double the Hawks 4-2.
Game 5 was played at the Forum in Montreal on April 14, 1931. Johnny 'Black Cat' Gagnon opened the scoring midway through the second period to put Montreal up 1-0. Both George Hainsworth in the Canadiens' goal and Charlie Gardiner in goal for Chicago were sensational and held the game close. Then, at 15:27 of the third stanza, Howie Morenz scored his first goal of the playoffs. Shaking off the ghosts that had haunted him through the post-season (along with injured shoulders and tight checking), Morenz picked up a loose puck at his own blueline, raced down the right boards past a Hawk defenceman, faked a shot and then fired a rocket over the shoulder of Gardiner. The goal was an insurance marker, and made certain of the Canadiens' Stanley Cup victory. The score stood, 2-0. The Montreal Canadiens were crowned champions!
Up and down Rue Ste-Catherine, adjacent to the Forum, fans honked their horns and cheered for the hometown victory. It was the second consecutive championship for Howie Morenz and the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs were but the second National Hockey League team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. For Morenz, it would be the final championship of his extraordinary career.
Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.