When asked to select the pinnacle of their professional hockey careers, it is surprising how many Honoured Members eschew the expected milestones, records and awards for less tangible achievements, selecting instead, more emotional rewards.
Edgar Laprade is one who selected a much more heart-felt pinnacle. During a 10-season NHL career that led to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Laprade could easily have selected his first NHL game, just three weeks after his 26th birthday, on October 31, 1945. He could have selected the thrill of being honoured with the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie in 1945-46. No one would have been surprised to read of a first goal, or the pride in not being penalized in three of his ten seasons. It would have been expected to discover that Laprade claimed his zenith was winning the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly NHL player in 1950. He was chosen to play in the NHL All-Star Game in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950, and could easily have claimed any of those highlights.
Instead, Edgar Laprade selected being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the pinnacle of his outstanding NHL career. "It was absolutely unexpected," said Laprade. "I hadn't played since 1955 and thought I was long forgotten. It was the thrill of my life!" In 1993, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Guy Lapointe, Steve Shutt and Billy Smith in the Player Category. Laprade was selected in the now defunct Veteran Category. John D'Amico was elected in the Officials Category while Frank Griffiths, Seymour Knox III and Fred Page were selected in the Builder Category. Edgar flew in from his Thunder Bay home to attend the ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in its newly-opened location at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets in downtown Toronto. The glittering affair had been held at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall the year before.
With a 500-game NHL career proving beyond doubt that he was one of the game's finest two-way centres, Edgar Laprade has proudly and humbly taken his rightful place with the greatest of the game in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor of Publications and On-Line Features.