Known as "Apple Cheeks" for his ruddy complexion when he blushed, Harry Lumley first started people talking about his goaltending skills when he was a 17-year-old rookie in the National Hockey League. Many goalies were thrust into the spotlight during the war years, replacements for stars serving overseas, but most sank back into obscurity when the league had its full complement of players in the late 1940s. But Lumley's career was just getting underway and he went on to become one of the league's top netminders over a 16-year professional career that included stays with five of the Original Six teams.
Early in his career, as a junior with the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey Association, he didn't let many pucks escape him, and consequently he was signed by the Detroit Red Wings at the tender age of 15.
Lumley didn't look as though he was professional material in his first two games in the NHL during the 1943-44 season after being called up from the Indianapolis Capitols of the American Hockey League. He gave up 13 goals in the Detroit losses, though most people excused the 17-year-old, who at the time wasn't old enough to vote or cross the border without permission. Later that season, he was loaned to the New York Rangers after their goalie was injured.
Lumley was sent back to Indianapolis for half of the next season before earning a starting job with the Wings. He was especially effective in the playoffs, backstopping Detroit to within one game of the 1945 Stanley Cup. Detroit met the Toronto Maple Leafs in the finals. The Leafs' goalie, Frank McCool, was also a rookie and got off to a fast start, winning the first three games of the series by shutouts to set an NHL record. Lumley rebounded in games five and six to post two shutouts of his own to force a seventh and deciding game, a 2-1 thriller won by Toronto.
Over the next five years, Lumley and the Red Wings established themselves among the league's best in a very competitive era. Twice he led the league in wins and games played and had the most shutouts during the regular season in 1947-48. In the 1950 Stanley Cup playoffs, Detroit overcame the loss of Gordie Howe to a serious injury in the semifinal series against Toronto. The Leafs were the three-time defending champions and the team that had swept the Wings in the two previous finals. The Wings defeated the New York Rangers after playing two games of the final series in hated Toronto because of the circus using the arena in New York, and Lumley won his first and only Stanley Cup. He had three shutouts in the playoffs and a minuscule 1.85 goals-against average.
During the tail end of the 1949-1950 season, Lumley was injured and young Terry Sawchuk was called up to man the Detroit net for seven games. Sawchuk impressed Red Wings manager Jack Adams, and only a week after hoisting the Cup, Lumley was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, the league's worst team, in a nine-player deal. Lumley spent two seasons with the hapless Hawks before being traded to another struggling franchise, the faded Leafs, in 1952.
Lumley had his best individual seasons in Toronto. In 1953-54, Lumley won his only Vezina with a 1.86 average. His 13 shutouts also set a modern record that would stand until Tony Esposito registered 15 in 1970. Lumley was selected to the league's First All-Star Team, a distinction he'd earn again the next season.
During the summer of 1956, Lumley was sold along with Eric Nesterenko back to Chicago. Lumley wanted no part of the struggling Black Hawks and refused to sign. He played instead with the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League for most of the next two seasons. He was brought back to the NHL by the Boston Bruins in 1957 when the team was having injury problems. He stayed with the Bruins, playing sporadically, until he retired in 1960.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.