Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Lester Patrick - The Pinnacle
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Lester Patrick poses for a formal portrait. (HHOF)
During April 1928, the New York Rangers were battling the Montreal Maroons for the Stanley Cup. Because the circus had been booked into Madison Square Garden that spring, the Rangers were forced to play the entire Stanley Cup final at the Montreal Forum, home rink to the Maroons.

The Rangers were shut out 2-0 by Clint Benedict and the Maroons in Game One of the best-of-five final.

On April 7, 1928, early in the second period of Game Two, a shot by Nels Stewart of the Maroons caught Lorne Chabot on the eye, and the Rangers' netminder was forced from the contest. NHL teams of that era did not carry spare goalies. When Chabot was injured and deemed unable to continue, Lester Patrick, the team's coach and general manager, asked to use a borrowed goaltender as a replacement, a practice that was common at the time.

Patrick was made aware that Alex Connell, the goaltender for the Ottawa Senators, was in the Montreal Forum as a spectator. In an emergency, it was customary for the opposing team to permit the use of an available goaltender. Patrick asked Maroons' coach and general manager, Eddie Gerrard, for permission to use the Ottawa goalie, but was refused. Gerrard acknowledged that the Stanley Cup would almost certainly belong to the Maroons if New York could not replace Chabot with an adequate goaltender. Patrick then asked permission to use a minor league goalie named Hugh McCormick but that request was also denied.

Patrick returned to his team's dressing room and angrily explained the situation to the Rangers players. Looking for a solution, defenceman Leo Bourgault agreed to strap on the goalie pads and do what he could to block the puck. But Frank Boucher and Bill Cook, the team captain, stated that such a decision would leave the team short a valuable player, and suggested that Lester Patrick himself play goal, promising that the team would keep Maroons' skaters at bay and away from their net.

At the age of 44, Patrick hesitatingly agreed to play goal for the Rangers. There really were few other options. Chabot's equipment fit Patrick, and once he was dressed, he skated out onto the ice for a brief warm-up.

Lester Patrick added to his already legendary status when he came from behind the bench and strapped on the goalie pads as an emergency replacement in a Stanley Cup game, backstopping his team to victory.
This was not Lester's first time playing goal. As a point player (defenceman) in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, he had occasionally gone into the net when his team's goaltender was penalized. On one occasion, he had blocked a shot and proceeded to skate the length of the ice to score.

The Maroons, meanwhile, were astonished to see Patrick skate out in Chabot's pads. Cockily, they vowed to bury the Rangers. But their coach warned that scoring wouldn't be as easy as they thought. He knew the Rangers would protect Patrick at all costs.

The Rangers played terrific defensive hockey, and any shots at their net were harmless. At the end of the second period, the score was deadlocked at 0-0.

Thirty seconds into the third period, Bill Cook scored for New York. Then, with less than six minutes to play, Nels Stewart of the Maroons flipped a long shot along the ice that skidded towards the Rangers goal. Patrick fell to his knees to block the shot but the puck slid between his pads for the tying goal. The third period ended tied at one apiece.

In overtime, the Rangers intensified their defence. Any shots by the Maroons were easily blocked by Patrick. Then, at the seven-minute mark, Rangers' defenceman Ching Johnson passed the puck up to Frank Boucher, who took the pass in full stride, danced around the Maroons' defenceman and fired the puck past Clint Benedict in the Montreal goal. While traditionally the team would rush out to congratulate the game-winning goal scorer, this time, the Rangers poured over the boards and mobbed Lester Patrick. His team carried him off the ice on their shoulders.

The 2-1 overtime win tied the Stanley Cup final at one game apiece.

The next day, the NHL gave the Rangers permission to use Joe Miller, who had played with the New York Americans during the regular season. Miller played well for the Rangers, earning a shutout in Game Four, and the re-energized New York Rangers went on to win the best-of-five final three games to two, earning the Stanley Cup.

It was a historic moment for the New York Rangers, who captured the Stanley Cup in only their second year of existence, but also a series that has been immortalized by curiosity and the valour of the Rangers' coach and general manager, and further serves to confirm Lester Patrick's place in hockey's history.

Ironically, six years earlier, Lester's brother Frank had encountered a similar situation; one that included Eddie Gerard. In the Stanley Cup final of 1922, the Vancouver Millionaires, champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, travelled to Toronto to face the NHL champion St. Pats. In Game Two of that series, Toronto's Harry Cameron injured his shoulder and was unable to continue playing. Toronto asked for, and received permission, to use Eddie Gerard, a player borrowed from the Ottawa Senators, as an emergency replacement. In a show of good sportsmanship, Frank Patrick agreed. Although he played but one game, Eddie Gerrard won his third consecutive Stanley Cup championship when the St. Pats defeated Vancouver in 1922. As captain of the Senators, he had led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup in 1920 and 1921, and would do so again in 1923.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.