One of the first stars of the NHL and arguably one of the greatest players of the first half of the 20th century, Newsy Lalonde would go down in hockey history as not only a great player, but also a very colourful one.
The man who would become known as the Flying Frenchman was born in Cornwall, Ontario on Oct. 31, 1887 to Pierre and Rose Lalonde. As a young man, he would work for the Cornwall Freeholder as a reporter and printer. It was here that Eduoard Cyrille Lalonde gained the nickname, Newsy that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
After playing hockey as a child on the outdoor ponds and creeks, Lalonde would gain his first taste of organized hockey with the Cornwall Victorias of the Federal Amateur Hockey League.
The next season, he was playing for the Woodstock Sweepers of the Ontario Hockey Association Senior A League, recording eight goals in seven games. His skill on the ice was evident at the time, and he was given an offer from Sault Ste. Marie to play for them.
In 1906, he went professional with the team, playing in the International Professional Hockey League. In his one season with the team, he was able to earn a spot on the IHL Second All-Star Team. Soon enough, an offer came from a rival team for Lalonde but Sault Ste. Marie matched it to keep their star for the rest of the season. With the team, he had 33 points, including a staggering 29 goals, in only 18 games.
In 1907, Lalonde signed with the Toronto Professionals of the Ontario Professional Hockey League, leading the team to the league championship. They then went on to play for the Stanley Cup, only to lose in a close game against the Montreal Wanderers. He won the scoring race that year with 29 goals in only nine games.
In 1910, the National Hockey Association was formed and Lalonde signed with the Montreal Canadiens in the club’s first season. He has the honour of scoring the very first goal for the team, then added a second to help the team win its first game in history. Shortly afterwards, he was traded to the Renfrew Creamery Kings halfway through the season. By the end of that season, he led the league in scoring with 22 goals in five games. In that season, on March 11, 1910, he scored nine goals in one game.
The Canadiens decided to bring Lalonde back in 1911.
In 1912, Lalonde jumped to the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association and played for the Vancouver Millionaires, leading the league in scoring, recording 27 goals in 15 games.
Once again, he found his way back to Montreal when the Canadiens bought his rights for $750 from the PCHA. He would respond by scoring 25 goals in 18 games, finishing fifth in league scoring.
Around this time, Lalonde developed a reputation for holding out for what he felt he deserved for pay. In 1914, he would go on strike until mid-January to get the salary he felt he deserved.
Even with his holdouts, he would become the player-coach of the team in 1915, and spent the next decade with the team. Over the course of his decade with the team, he would score at a pace of a goal a game, while wearing #4 for a number. In 1916, he led the NHA in scoring, while captaining the team to the Stanley Cup that same year. The team had finished first in the NHA with 16 wins, seven losses and one tie. They took on the Portland Rosebuds who finished first in the PCHA. The first game saw the Canadiens lose 2-0, with Lalonde dealing with a heavy cold. Lalonde did not play in the second game at all, but the Canadiens won 2-1. In game 3, he was back and he scored one of the team’s six goals as they defeated the Rosebuds 6-3. Lalonde was so flashy and aggressive in his display in that game that Ernie Johnson of the Rosebuds attacked Lalonde, resulting in a bench clearing brawl that required police intervention. In game 4, the Canadiens were losing 3-0 but Lalonde would score in the second period, and the team would roar back to win the game 6-5, thanks to a second goal from Lalonde in the third period. In the fifth game, the teams were tied 1-1 until the third period. The Canadiens would win 2-1, taking the Stanley Cup, the first of 24 for the franchise. For his only Stanley Cup win, Lalonde was given $238, or $5,139 today as a bonus.
The NHL was formed in 1917 and Lalonde scored his first NHL goal in the first NHL game on Dec. 19, 1917. Lalonde would play only 14 of 21 games that season, yet still finished second behind Joe Malone in the scoring race thanks to his 23 goals.
In 1919, Lalonde scored 17 goals in 10 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs but the deciding game of the Stanley Cup was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu on the team. Lalonde would contract the flu and the game was postponed, and eventually cancelled with no winner declared.
In the next season, on Jan. 10, 1920, he would set a Canadiens team record that stands to this day, when he had six goals against the Toronto St. Patricks. Today, Lalonde is one of only seven players in NHL history to have that many goals in a game. In that game, after earning an assist on the team’s first goal, he scored his first goal of the game. He scored his second goal two minutes later, and in the second period recorded a hat trick in only 10 and a half minutes. He would score his sixth goal in the third period. The team won that game 14-7 thanks to the seven point performance. At the time, his six goals in a game was an NHL record until it was beaten by Joe Malone in his legendary seven goal game a few weeks later.
For the next two season, Lalonde continued to play well on the ice but when the Canadiens were sold to new owners, he would clash with them and it would impact his play. He would leave the team for four games and was relegated to reserve duty. The Canadiens would send Lalonde to the Saskatoon Sheiks and it was there he would win his final scoring title, even though the team did poorly.
The team would improve over the next two seasons but Lalonde was now feeling his advancing age on the ice and he would score his last goal on March 2, 1925 against Vancouver.
In 1926, Lalonde was named as the head coach of the New York Americans, and he played one game as a substitute in November of that year before retiring from the ice for good.
Throughout his career, Lalonde was remembered for never backing down from a fight. All that Lalonde cared about was winning and he had a fierce determination to win that wouldn’t be seen on the Canadiens until the arrival of Rocket Richard. His brutal methods on the ice would ensure that his opponents gave him his own space on the ice. Joe Malone’s wife had a great dislike for Lalonde, despite Lalonde’s own contribution to the success of Malone’s career on the ice. This was likely due to the fact that sometimes, the on-ice tactics of Lalonde would cause collateral damage to his own teammates. Malone’s son would say, quote:
He then turned his attention to coaching, serving as the head coach of the Ottawa Senators from 1929 to 1931 and the Canadiens from 1932 to 1935.
While Lalonde is most famous for his time as a hockey player, he is also considered to be one of the greatest lacrosse players in Canadian history. He would begin to play lacrosse in 1905 as a goaltender and moved to the attack position in 1910, becoming the biggest star in the sport. That year, he scored 31 goals and in 1912, he signed with Con Jones in Vancouver for $5,000 for one season, almost five times what his salary was with the Montreal Canadiens at the time. It was even comparable to the salary brought in by baseball superstar Ty Cobb, who was earning $9,000 but for a 152 game season, not a 16-game season like Lalonde. With Vancouver, he would win three Minto Cups in 1911, 1918 and 1920. In his nine seasons with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club and Vancouver Terminals, he had 147 goals in 93 games. In 1950, Canadian sports journalists named him the greatest lacrosse player of the first half of the 20th century. In 1965, he was one of the first men inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Going back to hockey, Lalonde’s legacy is hard to dispute. He would lead the Canadiens in scoring six years, while captaining the team from 1915 to 1921. He won the scoring championship seven times in the NHA, PCHA, WHL and NHL. This was a mark unsurpassed in the professional ranks until Wayne Gretzky.
Upon his retirement, Lalonde had 151 points, including 124 goals in 99 games in the NHL. In the NHA, he had 185 points, including 164 goals, in 108 games. His 468 goals, which includes his pre-NHL and his WCHL totals, was a record until 1954 when it was broken by Rocket Richard. His greatest professional season was when he scored 37 goals and nine assists for 46 points in 23 games with the 1919-20 Montreal Canadiens.
When Lester Patrick was asked how to keep Lalonde from scoring, he would say, quote:
“It’s very simple. All that is necessary is to keep the puck away from him.”
Going back to his goal total, it can be hard to estimate due to the poor reporting in the early years of hockey. While Rocket Richard is considered the first person to score 500 goals in professional hockey, some feel that Lalonde may have been the first. Due to Lalonde’s play across several leagues, it can be hard to calculate properly. Some hockey historians have gone over his statistics and he may have scored as many as 523 goals across his career, but this is not officially recognized by the NHL.
As a player, Lalonde played in a very aggressive era but he was able to keep playing for 23 seasons. Known for his incredibly accurate shot, he would send a knee-high shot at goaltenders knowing they couldn’t drop to their knees to make a save, easily scoring a goal.
Lalonde was a skilled playmaker and scorer, but he was also one of the meanest players on the ice. He was hated by the opposition and even his own teammates at times. One story tells of when he was a coach and he punched one of his players who tried to stand up to him, and he warned the team he would not take any talk back.
During his coaching career, he would finish with a record of 144 wins, 167 losses and 28 ties.
In 1950, Lalonde was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1965. When the Sports Hall of Fame opened in 1955, he was there to light the torch.
In 1998, he placed 32nd on the list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, the highest ranking player on the list who played in a professional league before the founding of the NHL.
A plaque exists at the Cornwall Civic Complex, celebrating the life of Newsy Lalonde and July 22 was declared as Newsy Lalonde Day in the City of Cornwall.
Currently, his #4 is retired by Montreal, although in the rafters it has the name of Jean Beliveau, the last man to wear the jersey. There is currently a campaign in place to have Lalonde honoured in the rafters as well.
Newsy Lalonde Way in Cornwall was also named for him in a ceremony in 2010.
Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur would speak of the trend that Lalonde started on the team, which would inspire players all the way up to today. He would say, quote:
“It is important, because if you look back, today’s kids might not go as far. If you look back to the 30s and 40s, players who wanted to play in the NHL, would look back to the players in the 1910s and 1920s. It goes on and on. For kids who identify themselves as players it is important because they would have a dream to one day become a hockey player and play in the NHL. You need that. It doesn’t matter what you want to do in life, you need some reference from the past.”
Information comes from NHL.com, Wikipedia, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Our History The Historical Website of the Montreal Canadians, Our Hockey Writers.com, theseeker.ca,