Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Georges Vezina - The Pinnacle
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The Montreal Canadiens rebounded from a last-place finish in 1914-15 to finish first in the National Hockey Association in 1915-16. Buoyed by a solid lineup that included future Hall of Famers Georges Vezina in goal and Newsy Lalonde, Jack Laviolette and Didier Pitre at forward, the team won 16, lost just 7 and tied one through the season. Lalonde led the NHA in goal-scoring with 31 in 24 games.

The NHA champion Montreal Canadiens met the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Portland Rosebuds in a best-of-five series, with the winner claiming the Stanley Cup.

Game One, played March 20, 1916, saw the PCHA champs shut out the Canadiens 2-0. "The supposedly train-weary Rosebuds skated the Canadiens dizzy, and but for the brilliant work of (Georges) Vezina, would have run up a much larger score than the 2-0 margin," wrote Charles Coleman in 'The Trail of the Stanley Cup.'

Two days later, Portland faced a Montreal squad without stars Newsy Lalonde (bad cold) and Jack Laviolette (broken nose), yet still beat the Rosebuds 2-1.

In Game Three, a 6-3 Montreal victory on March 25, the play was so aggressive that police had to intervene to break up a fight between Portland's Ernie Johnson and Montreal's Newsy Lalonde. Didier Pitre recorded a hattrick for the Canadiens.

Portland evened the series with a 6-5 victory in Game Four. Fred Harris, a Rosebud forward, recorded a three-goal game.

With the series deadlocked at two games apiece, it all came down to Game Five, played March 30, 1916. Tommy Dunderdale of Portland and Skene Ronan of Montreal traded goals, but it was a marker by Goldie Prodgers, a Canadiens defenceman who had been moved to a forward position, that made the difference, and the game ended in a 2-1 win for the Canadiens. Although it was the first Stanley Cup championship for the Montreal Canadiens, and the first of his career, Georges Vezina had another reason to celebrate. That night, Georges's wife Marie gave birth to the couple's second child. "I'm going to name him Stanley," Georges told George Kennedy, the team owner. "Marcel Stanley Vezina will be his name."

The winners' share of the Stanley Cup spoils amounted to $238 each, and that money went a long way in keeping Vezina's young family happy. For both personal and professional reasons, the 1916 Stanley Cup win was regarded by Georges as the pinnacle of his outstanding career.

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