Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Doug Harvey
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One on One with Doug Harvey

21 NOV 2008
Doug Harvey captured the 1947 Allan Cup with the Montreal Senior Royals
Prior to becoming a regular on the Canadiens blue line, Harvey competed with the Montreal Senior Royals where in his final year with the club he captured the 1947 Allan Cup.
(HHOF Archives)
Jean Beliveau described Doug Harvey as the greatest defenceman who ever played the game. "He changed the whole game," stated Bernie Geoffrion.

Douglas Norman Harvey was born in Montreal's Notre Dame de Grace (NDG) neighbourhood on December 19, 1924. A natural athlete from the time of his youth, Doug began playing organized hockey at the age of 13 as a goaltender, put there because of his diminutive size. He disliked being stuck in goal, so was moved to centre. It was only later that he would be placed on defence, a position he would later revolutionize.

While Harvey excelled at hockey, pundits will argue that as great as he was on the ice, he was even better on the baseball diamond and the gridiron playing football. In 1942-43, he was a member of the Montreal Junior Royals hockey team, but as a member of Montreal Navy, Harvey was also the most valuable player in the Quebec Rugby Football Union. That squad won football's Grey Cup in 1944, although without their star halfback, who was serving his country during the Second World War.

Upon his return from the war, where he served in the Navy, Doug picked up his athletic career where it had been left off. He rejoined the Montreal Royals late in the 1944-45 season, played hockey at the same time with the National Defence League's Donnaconas and also played football with the Montreal Hornets, the predecessor of the Montreal Alouettes. The Royals, who also featured Doug's brother Harvey in goal, won the league championship, but lost to the Oshawa Generals in the Eastern Canada final.

In 1945-46, Doug graduated to the Royals' senior team, and helped the team win the Quebec Senior Hockey League championship. That squad lost to the Hamilton Tigers in the Eastern Canada senior final. The next year, the Royals went all the way and collected the Allan Cup as Canada's premier senior hockey team. Never fully satisfied unless he was exploring all his options, Doug also played semi-pro baseball with the Ottawa Nationals of the Class 'C' Border League in 1947. The team won the championship, although third baseman Harvey missed much of the end of the season as it took place at the same time as the Montreal Canadiens' training camp.

Doug Harvey utilized his skating speed and passing talent to make the Montreal Canadiens a high-scoring team
In a time when defensemen rarely found themselves on the scoring sheet, Doug Harvey utilized his skating speed and passing talent to make the Canadiens a high-scoring team. (Turofsky Collection/HHOF)
"Doug Harvey can skate with the best of them, is big enough to horse around with any of those NHL hard guys, handles his stick expertly and has a head on his shoulders," reported the Montreal Gazette. "He is also something of a blue line general and an organizing force for the Royals."

Doug attended the 1947 training camp beside a number of players with whom he'd played on the Royals, as well as many players he had idolized growing up. "It was tough going in training camp," Harvey admitted. "The guys in those days didn't welcome you too much. They made you earn your job."

Doug Harvey made the Montreal Canadiens, replacing Frank Eddolls, who had been traded to the New York Rangers. Doug was even given Eddolls' number 2 to wear with the Habs. Harvey joined a defence corps that included Butch Bouchard, Glen Harmon, Roger Leger and Ken Reardon. After debuting in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on October 16, 1947, coach Dick Irvin very quickly discovered Harvey's greatest skill – the ability to control the temp of a game. Methodically, Doug carried the puck, at his own speed, surveying the ice landscape before he committed to any play. At first, it drove his coach and teammates to distraction, until they learned that there was method to Harvey's madness – the other team couldn't score if Doug controlled the puck. "I'm not throwing any pucks away," he said. "I'm trying to do what's best for the team. That's why I take my time and make the play."

Montreal missed the playoffs that season, and Doug finished the campaign with but 4 goals and 4 assists in 35 games. Playing full-time with the Canadiens during 1948-49, Harvey picked up 16 points, and added 87 penalty minutes.

Doug continued playing baseball in hockey's off-season, and during the spring of 1950, was invited to attend the spring training camp of the Boston Braves. He ignored the invitation while he played with the Canadiens during the 1949-50 playoffs.

It took Doug a few seasons to assert himself as one of the league's premier defencemen, but by 1951-52, he was selected to the NHL's First All-Star Team for the first of ten times. The team was gelling with an abundance of great talent, including Harvey, and in 1952-53, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

Doug Harvey served as assistant captain of the Montreal Canadiens before becoming captain in 1960
Doug Harvey proudly served as the assistant captain of the Montreal Canadiens before he became captain of the club when Maurice Richard retired in 1960. (Turofsky Collection/HHOF)
The Canadiens dominated the NHL with five consecutive Stanley Cup championships between 1955-56 and 1959-60. The dynasty's roster remained virtually steadfast through those years. Montreal finished first in four of those five seasons with a team that included Jacques Plante in goal (winner of the Vezina Trophy for best goals-against average all five years), Dickie Moore won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring leader twice, Jean Beliveau won it once (1955-56) as well as the Hart Trophy as most valuable player. Doug Harvey won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's premier defenceman in 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1960. Teammate Tom Johnson won the award in 1959.

The Canadiens' powerplay was particularly potent during that era. Jean Beliveau centred Maurice Richard and Bert Olmstead (later Dickie Moore) while Doug Harvey played one point position and 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion assumed the other. At the time, penalized players would serve the entire two minutes of a minor penalty, but the Canadiens would frequently score two and sometimes three goals during the powerplay. So explosive was this quintet that during the summer of 1956, NHL owners voted to thwart the Canadiens by changing the rules so that a minor penalty ended as soon as the shorthanded team was scored upon.

The Canadiens won an unprecedented fifth Stanley Cup championship in 1960. Following the championship game, Maurice Richard retired, and the team's captaincy was handed to Harvey. But he would only wear the 'C' for one year. The New York Rangers had missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season, and coach Alf Pike had been fired at the end of the dismal campaign. The Rangers inquired about Harvey's availability, and were told by Ken Reardon that their captain would be made available if he could be promised a role as playing-coach. In spite of his protestations, Doug Harvey was traded to the Rangers for 'Leapin' Lou' Fontinato on June 13, 1961.

Why the trade was made has never been fully understood, but many attribute it to Harvey's participation in forming a players' association for NHL players. Prior to the start of the 1956-57 season, Ted Lindsay and Doug Harvey, archrivals on the ice, initiated investigations into where the players' pension money was going. Both were player representatives of the NHL Pension Society, but when they questioned the others on the board (two owners plus NHL president Clarence Campbell), they were rebuffed and information withheld.

Harvey and Lindsay were frustrated and angry that the $900 contributed by each player was not being matched, as promised, by owners, and that any money that was contributed by the owners came from All-Star Game tickets and a surcharge on playoff tickets, and not from the pockets of the owners. "They weren't taking care of us," fumed Lindsay. "We figured we could do better by the pension plans if we had an association and our own legal advisors, so we started banding together," explained Harvey.

Dough Harvey (Bottom row #2) with the 1962 NHL All-Star team
Dough Harvey (Bottom row #2) gathers with the 1962 NHL All-Star team. Beginning in 1951-52, he was selected to the NHL All-Star Team in 11 successive years, 10 of them on the First Team. (Turofsky Collection/HHOF)
The two recruited like-minded representatives from each of the other four NHL teams who then pledged to sign up as many teammates as possible for the fledgling players' association. Astonishingly, every player in the NHL but one signed up, paying $100 each. But once the owners caught wind of the burgeoning association, they did what they could to scuttle it. Frank Selke, Montreal's GM, questioned why Harvey would want to be involved in such an association. "Mr. Selke, it's not for me," replied Harvey. "It's for the guys who aren't treated like we're treated here."

But Doug, who had always been a free spirit, was clearly not in his team's good books because of the association, nor were the others who were attempting to create the association. Ted Lindsay was traded to Chicago, as was Toronto's representative, Jim Thomson. Although the Canadiens' management of that time claim that Harvey's trade to the New York Rangers was motivated by his age and flagging skill-set, Doug was never convinced. "It had to do with union activities," he stated firmly. "I was a First Team All-Star and won the Norris that year. You don't give away a player like that!"

That first players' association was eventually scuttled, and it would take ten years before NHL players finally gained the control they so craved.

The Rangers, with their new playing-coach, made the playoffs in 1961-62, although were defeated in the semi-finals. Harvey was voted recipient of the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman.

After that season, Doug decided he wanted to continue playing, but was no longer interested in coaching. The Rangers agreed, and GM Muzz Patrick also assumed the coaching reins. Doug's salary was increased to $30,000, making him the highest paid player in the league at that time. The Rangers finished fifth, missing the playoffs once again.

It was the beginning of a tumultuous time for Doug. The Rangers did not protect him in 1963's intra-league draft, citing his age as a detriment, and he signed with the Quebec Aces of the AHL, where he spent two seasons in the provincial capital. In 1965-66, Doug signed as a free agent with the AHL's Baltimore Clippers. Just before Christmas 1966, he was traded to Providence of the AHL, but exercised a clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he was traded by the Clippers. In doing so, Harvey joined the Pittsburgh Hornets, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. During that 1966-67 season, he found himself back in the NHL for 2 games with the Detroit Red Wings.

During the summer of 1967, the newly-formed St. Louis Blues hired Doug to coach their American Hockey League franchise in Kansas City. Harvey was once again a playing-coach, and the team made the playoffs. But once they were eliminated, the parent Blues called up several players, including Gary Veneruzzo, Don McKenney and Doug Harvey.

Doug Harvey as a member of the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues
As a member of the St. Louis Blues, Doug Harvey aided the club's drive to the Stanley Cup finals, where they would be swept by his former team from Montreal. The following year he played in every game with St. Louis before retiring from the league.
St. Louis was playing Philadelphia in the seventh game of their quarter-final playoff series. Paired with veteran Al Arbour, Harvey and his partner played more than 40 minutes each in a 3-1 victory to clinch the series. Next up were the Minnesota North Stars, and St. Louis eliminated them in seven games, too. For a second consecutive spring, the Blues faced the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup, but for a second straight season, were swept. Harvey's return to the Montreal Forum for the first time in seven years was laudable. The veteran "kept the flying Habitants off balance with his knowledge of angles, clearing the puck unerringly and setting up St. Louis forays with his beautifully-timed passes."

Doug played the 1968-69 season with the Blues, but then, at the age of 44, retired from playing. His spectacular if not unusual career saw Harvey revolutionize the game. His forays quarterbacking his teams from the blueline produced 540 points in 1,113 regular season NHL games. But more importantly, Harvey dominated the game from his blueline position. He was selected as the Norris Trophy winner seven times, was a First Team All-Star on ten occasions and made the Second Team once. In 1984, fans of the Montreal Canadiens selected an all-time All-Star Team. Jacques Plante was chosen as goaltender, the forwards were Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore and Maurice Richard while the blueliners selected were Larry Robinson and Doug Harvey. In 1998, Harvey was ranked number six on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Players of all-time.

Ever the free spirit, when invited to his own Hockey Hall of Fame Induction in 1973, the carefree Harvey chose instead to go fishing.

Hard-living had taken its toll on Doug. On October 26, 1985, the Canadiens retired his number 2. Ronald Corey, president of the Canadiens, was informed of Doug's personal situation and hired him as a part-time scout. "I go to those games anyway, and I'm sure I can help."

In 1988, Harvey was diagnosed with liver disease. "It was just such a strange thing for us to see our father needy," admitted Darlene Petsche, the oldest of Doug's daughters. "All his life he'd been a big, strong, athletic guy who could do anything." Reduced to a shell of his former robust self, Doug Harvey died on December 26, 1989, having just celebrated his 65th birthday. Yet, fans will always remember Harvey not for his latter years, but rather as one of the greatest defencemen of all-time.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.