1938–39 NHL season

The 1938–39 NHL season was the 22nd season of the National Hockey League (NHL). Seven teams each played 48 games. The Boston Bruins were the Stanley Cup winners as they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs four games to one in the final series.

1938–39 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationNovember 3, 1938 – April 16, 1939
Number of games48
Number of teams7
Regular season
Season championsBoston Bruins
Season MVPToe Blake (Canadiens)
Top scorerToe Blake (Canadiens)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsBoston Bruins
  Runners-upToronto Maple Leafs

League business

Just prior to the start of the 1938–39 season, the league held a meeting to decide the fate of the Montreal Maroons. The team had requested a shift to St. Louis, but this was rejected after considerable discussion, resulting in the Maroons suspending operations for the season. They sold most of their players to the Canadiens, and it was evident that the Maroons were through for good. With only seven teams left, the NHL decided to go back to the one division format.

The Stanley Cup finals would be expanded to a best-of-seven format.

Regular season

Prior to the start of the season, the Boston Bruins sold their star goaltender, Tiny Thompson, who had just won a record fourth Vezina Trophy, to the Detroit Red Wings The fans thought Art Ross was crazy, but soon they were applauding rookie Frank Brimsek, would go on to back-stop the Bruins to a first overall finish and a Stanley Cup victory. He wiped out Thompson's shutout sequence record with three consecutive shutouts. He nearly equalled his new record with three more. He ended the season with 10 shutouts, and earned the nickname "Mr. Zero". He also became the first goaltender to win both the Vezina Trophy and Calder Memorial Trophy in the same season.

Joseph Cattarinich died on December 7 of a heart attack following an eye operation. Cattarinich was the original goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens when they were formed in 1909 and later a part-owner of the team. He was 57.

The Montreal Canadiens eroded to the point where Jules Dugal replaced Cecil Hart as manager and coach. Dugal was not much better and the Canadiens finished sixth. One bright note was that Toe Blake won the scoring title, however, despite the poor showing of the team.

Chicago, after its Stanley Cup win the previous season, began floundering at mid-season and owner Frederic McLaughlin was displeased. Accordingly, he fired coach Bill Stewart and hired left wing Paul Thompson in his place. But the Black Hawks continued to lose and finished last.

The New York Americans, up in third place at mid-season, proceeded to fall into a big slump in the second half and though they finished fourth, they were below .500 and had the worst defence in the league. Part of the problem was the retirements of Ching Johnson and Hap Day on defence. Al Murray was also out of action for quite a time. Still, goaltender Earl Robertson found himself on the second all-star team.

Final standings

National Hockey League
Boston Bruins48361021567674
New York Rangers482616614910558
Toronto Maple Leafs481920911410747
New York Americans4817211011915744
Detroit Red Wings481824610712842
Montreal Canadiens481524911514639
Chicago Black Hawks48122889113232


Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
       Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.


Playoff bracket

  Quarterfinals Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
  1 Boston 4  
    2 NY Rangers 3  
    1 Boston 4
  3 Toronto 1
  3 Toronto 2  
4 NY Americans 0  
3 Toronto 2
    5 Detroit 1  
5 Detroit 2
  6 Montreal 1  


(3) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) New York Americans

Toronto won series 2–0

(5) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

Detroit won series 2–1


(1) Boston Bruins vs. (2) New York Rangers

This series was the first to need seven games in NHL history; additionally, the Rangers were the first team in NHL history to force a Game seven after losing the first three games of a series. Mel Hill, a right wing for the Bruins, scored a record three overtime goals in a single series.[2]

Boston won series 4–3

(3) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings

Toronto won series 2–1

Stanley Cup Finals

Boston won series 4–1


Award winners
Calder Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins
Hart Trophy:
(Most valuable player)
Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Clint Smith, New York Rangers
O'Brien Cup:
(Stanley Cup Runner-up)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular Season Champion)
Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy:
(Fewest goals allowed)
Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins
All-Star teams
First team  Position  Second team
Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins G Earl Robertson, New York Americans
Eddie Shore, Boston Bruins D Earl Seibert, Chicago Black Hawks
Dit Clapper, Boston Bruins D Art Coulter, New York Rangers
Syl Apps, Toronto Maple Leafs C Neil Colville, New York Rangers
Gordie Drillon, Toronto Maple Leafs RW Bobby Bauer, Boston Bruins
Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens LW Johnny Gottselig, Chicago Black Hawks
Art Ross, Boston Bruins Coach Red Dutton, New York Americans

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

Player Team GP G A PTS PIM
Toe BlakeMontreal Canadiens4824234710
Sweeney SchrinerNew York Americans4813314420
Bill CowleyBoston Bruins34834422
Clint SmithNew York Rangers482120412
Marty BarryDetroit Red Wings481328414
Syl AppsToronto Maple Leafs441525404
Tommy AndersonNew York Americans4813274014
Johnny GottseligChicago Black Hawks4816233915
Paul HaynesMontreal Canadiens475333827
Roy ConacherBoston Bruins4726113712


Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, PTS = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Leading goaltenders



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1938–39 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1938–39 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley; Hughes, Morgan; Romain, Joseph; Duplacey, James (2003). The Hockey Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of the National Hockey League. Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
  • McFarlane, Brian (1973). The Story of the National Hockey League. New York, NY: Pagurian Press. ISBN 0-684-13424-1.
  1. Standings: NHL Public Relations Department (2008). Dave McCarthy; et al. (eds.). THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE Official Guide & Record Book/2009. National Hockey League. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-894801-14-0.
  2. http://www.legendsofhockey.net/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/SearchPlayer.jsp?player=12944
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