1943–44 NHL season

The 1943–44 NHL season was the 27th season of the National Hockey League. Six teams played 50 games each. The Montreal Canadiens were the top team of the regular season and followed it up with the team's fifth Stanley Cup championship.

1943–44 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 30, 1943 – April 13, 1944
Number of games50
Number of teams6
Regular season
Season championMontreal Canadiens
Season MVPBabe Pratt (Maple Leafs)
Top scorerHerb Cain (Bruins)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsMontreal Canadiens
  Runners-upChicago Black Hawks

League business

In memory of Frank Calder, the former NHL President who died in 1943, the league's Board of Governors donated the Calder Memorial Trophy to be awarded to the NHL's top rookie.

Rule changes

For the start of this season, the NHL added the centre red line, which allowed players to pass the puck out of their defensive zone into their half of the neutral zone. This was done in an effort to increase the speed of the game by reducing off-side calls. "This rule is considered to mark the beginning of the modern era in the NHL," according to the NHL's Guide and Record Book. In 2005, 62 years later, the two-line pass would be legalized for similar reasons.

Regular season

The Montreal Canadiens had turned the corner and now Tommy Gorman and Dick Irvin had a team to make the fans happy. Bill Durnan solved the goaltending woes, but not before Gorman had all kinds of problems signing him. Durnan knew his worth, and wanted a handsome sum. Just before the first game, Gorman agreed to his contract demands. He was worth every penny, as he ran away with the Vezina Trophy and the Canadiens lost only five games all year, finishing first by a wide margin. The new and more familiar "Punch line" of Elmer Lach, Toe Blake, and Maurice Richard dominated the offence and Richard had 32 goals. He replaced Joe Benoit, who did his duty to his country by joining the armed forces. Richard, in fact, was dubbed by teammate Ray Getliffe the nickname that would be his legend "The Rocket".

When Paul Bibeault came back from the Army, he found his job lost to the best goaltender in the NHL, Bill Durnan. Montreal agreed to loan him to Toronto, where he played very well, leading the Leafs to third place and leading the NHL with five shutouts. Gus Bodnar, a crack centre, was the top rookie, and for the first time, a team produced Calder Memorial Trophy winners in consecutive years. In fact, Bodnar scored the fastest goal by a rookie in his very first game. It took him only 15 seconds to score on Ken McAuley, Ranger goaltender, in a 5–2 win over the war-weakened Rangers.

The Rangers had plunged to last place the previous year and Lester Patrick was so discouraged that he wanted to suspend operations for the year. This year the Rangers lost Clint Smith, Lynn Patrick, Phil Watson, and Alf Pike. The most unbelievably inept team iced for the Rangers this year. Things were so desperate that coach Frank Boucher had to come out of retirement to play some. But the Rangers set a modern-day record of 6.20 goals against, giving up 310 goals in 50 games. One night when Lester Patrick went behind the bench to coach the team with Frank Boucher attending a brother's funeral, the Rangers were demolished 15–0 by Detroit as the Red Wings set a modern-day record of most goals by a team in a single game. It was a horrifying experience for Patrick. Only a week later Syd Howe set a modern-day record of 6 goals in a game in a 12–2 conquest of the hapless Rangers. The Rangers won only 6 games all year and finished a distant last, 26 points behind fifth-place Boston.

Chicago started with sub-par goaltending, but then president and general manager Bill Tobin decided to bring back Mike Karakas, who had been demoted to the minors in 1939–40 for his lackluster play. Karakas was just what the Black Hawks needed, as he played well and recorded three shutouts and got the team into the playoffs.

In Boston, the Bruins lost star forward Bill Cowley to injury after the first 36 games. At that point in the season Cowley was on pace to set a new standard in scoring for the NHL. After the first 36 games he had scored 30 goals – 41 assists – 71 points before going down to injury. However, the scoring title would still eventually end up in Boston as linemate Herb Cain picked up the slack, scoring 82 points over the course of the 50-game schedule and setting a new record for points in the regular season.

Final standings

National Hockey League[1]
1Montreal Canadiens503857234109+12583
2Detroit Red Wings5026186214177+3758
3Toronto Maple Leafs5023234214174+4050
4Chicago Black Hawks5022235178187−949
5Boston Bruins5019265223268−4543
6New York Rangers506395162310−14817


Playoff bracket

Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
1 Montreal 4
3 Toronto 1
1 Montreal 4
4 Chicago 0
2 Detroit 1
4 Chicago 4


(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (3) Toronto Maple Leafs

The Montreal Canadiens finished first in the league with 83 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished third in the league with 50 points. This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams with the teams splitting the two previous series. They last met in the 1925 NHL Championship where Montreal won a two-game total goals series 5–2. Montreal won this year's ten game regular season series earning fifteen of twenty points. Maurice "Rocket" Richard was named first, second, and third Star of the game after scoring all 5 Montreal goals in game two, the first player to have this honour.

Montreal won series 4–1

(2) Detroit Red Wings vs. (4) Chicago Black Hawks

The Detroit Red Wings finished second in the league with 58 points. The Chicago Black Hawks finished fourth with 49 points. This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams with the teams splitting the two previous series. They last met in the 1941 Stanley Cup Semifinals where Detroit won in two games. The teams split this year's ten-game regular season series.

Chicago won series 4–1

Stanley Cup Finals

This was the sixth playoff meeting between these two teams with Chicago winning three of the five previous series. They last met in the 1941 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals where Chicago won in three games. Montreal won this year's ten game regular season series earning eighteen of twenty points.

Montreal won series 4–0


Award winners
O'Brien Cup:
(Stanley Cup runner-up)
Chicago Black Hawks
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular season champion)
Montreal Canadiens
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
Gus Bodnar, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hart Trophy:
(Most valuable player)
Babe Pratt, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lady Byng Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Clint Smith, Chicago Black Hawks
Vezina Trophy:
(Fewest goals allowed)
Bill Durnan, Montreal Canadiens
All-Star teams
First team  Position  Second team
Bill Durnan, Montreal Canadiens G Paul Bibeault, Toronto Maple Leafs
Earl Seibert, Chicago Black Hawks D Emile "Butch" Bouchard, Montreal Canadiens
Babe Pratt, Toronto Maple Leafs D Dit Clapper, Boston Bruins
Bill Cowley, Boston Bruins C Elmer Lach, Montreal Canadiens
Lorne Carr, Toronto Maple Leafs RW Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens
Doug Bentley, Chicago Black Hawks LW Herb Cain, Boston Bruins
Dick Irvin, Montreal Canadiens Coach Hap Day, Toronto Maple Leafs

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

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

Player Team GP G A PTS PIM
Herb CainBoston Bruins483646824
Doug BentleyChicago Black Hawks5038397722
Lorne CarrToronto Maple Leafs503638749
Carl LiscombeDetroit Red Wings5036377317
Elmer LachMontreal Canadiens4824487223
Clint SmithChicago Black Hawks502349724
Bill CowleyBoston Bruins3630417112
Bill MosienkoChicago Black Hawks5032387010
Art JacksonBoston Bruins492841698
Gus BodnarToronto Maple Leafs5022406218

Source: NHL[2]

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Mins – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP Mins GA GAA W L T SO
Bill DurnanMontreal Canadiens5030001092.1832572
Paul BibeaultToronto Maple Leafs291740873.00131425
Mike KarakasChicago Black Hawks261560793.0412953
Connie DionDetroit Red Wings261560803.0817721
Jimmy FranksDetroit Red Wings171020694.066831
Benny GrantToronto Maple Leafs201200834.159920
Hec HightonChicago Black Hawks2414401084.50101400
Bert GardinerBoston Bruins4624602125.17171951
Ken McAuleyNew York Rangers5029803106.2463950



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1943–44 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note who played their last game in the NHL in 1943–44 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (1994). Years of glory, 1942–1967: the National Hockey League's official book of the six-team era. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-2817-2.
  • 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. Toronto, ON: 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. Lincolnwood, IL: 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: 1943–1944". National Hockey League. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  2. Dinger 2011, p. 148.
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