Sunday, March 14, 2010
George Hainsworth originally played for the Saskatoon Sheiks of the Western Canada Hockey League for three seasons, beginning in 1923-24 when he recorded four shutouts in 30 games. After two shutouts the following season, he added another four in 1925-26, giving little indication of what was to follow.
Following the death of legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Georges Vezina, Hainsworth was sold to Montreal for the 1926-27 season and impressed right from the start, going 28-14-2, with half of those wins being shutouts to lead the NHL with 14. His goals against average (GAA) of 1.47 was third in the league behind only the Montreal Maroons Clint Benedict's 1.42 and the New York Rangers Lorne Chabot at 1.46. Hainsworth was named the first recipient of the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the goaltender of the team allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season, unlike today's voting process, first introduced in 1981.
It was more of the same the following year when Hainsworth went 26-11-7 with 13 shutouts, good for second in the league, which was led by the Boston Bruins Hal Winkler and Alec Connell of the Ottawa Senators who tied at 15. Hainsworth again won the Vezina Trophy, as the Canadiens allowed the fewest goals against over the course of the season.
Despite the shutouts Hainsworth had recorded during his first two NHL seasons, no one could predict what he had in store for the league in 1928-29. The Canadiens season began with a 3-1 win at home over their rivals, the Montreal Maroons, and a 4-2 loss on the road to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hainsworth's first shutout of the season came in game three on November 20th, a 1-0 win over Boston, and was quickly followed by another shutout two days later in a scoreless tie versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After a loss and a tie, shutout number three came on December 1st over Ottawa. Hainsworth recorded back to back shutouts on the 15th in another scoreless tie against the Maroons and a 5-0 drubbing of the Chicago Black Hawks. Following a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Cougars another pair of clean sheets were posted against Ottawa on the 22nd and Detroit on the 27th. At the end of the calendar year, Hainsworth and the Canadiens were 7-5-3 with seven shutouts and counting.
1928 began with a trio of ties on New Year's Day, the 3rd and a scoreless one on the 5th. After a loss on January 10th, the Canadiens would go the rest of the schedule with a remarkable just one further loss, a span of 65 days and 25 games.
A 1-0 win over Chicago on January 15th added to the shutout total which now stood at nine. Following a 1-1 tie on the 17th, Hainsworth racked up three consecutive shutouts, a 0-0 tie on the 19th, a 1-0 win the next day and another scoreless draw on the 22nd. A 1-1 tie with Toronto and a 2-1 win over Ottawa preceded a pair of 1-0 blankings of the New York Americans and the Ottawa Senators pushed the shutout total to 14. Since the loss to Boston on January 10th, Hainsworth had only allowed four goals in ten games with a record of 6-0-4.
Two ties were followed by back to back shutouts on February 12th over the Pirates and again on the 14th over the Black Hawks to set a new NHL record with 16. After a 1-1 tie, shutout number 17 came in a 1-0 defeat of the Maroons on February 21st, pushing the Canadiens undefeated streak to 16 games.
The unbeaten streak would end on February 23rd with a 2-1 loss at Toronto, which only served to strengthen the Canadiens resolve, as they did not allow another goal until five games later, when the Pirates (4-0), Americans (0-0 tie), Bruins (3-0) and Senators (3-0) all failed to solve Hainsworth and the Canadiens defense.
Detroit broke the scoreless streak with a 1-1 tie before the Canadiens finished the season with three straight wins, including Hainsworth's record 22nd shutout of the season, recorded on this date in 1929, in a 1-0 win over the Maroons.
His 22 shutouts came despite rule changes such as permitting forward passing from the neutral zone across the blue line into the attacking zone and new overtime rules allowing for an extra ten minutes of playing time - a non-sudden death format which meant all ten minutes were played in their entirety, regardless if a goal was scored.
Hainsworth would finish the season with a record goals against average of 0.92, easily capturing his third consecutive Vezina Trophy. Such was Hainsworth's dominance that he outdistanced the New York Americans Roy Worters by nine shutouts and buried the old record by seven. Additionally, no other goaltender had ever had a goals against average under 1.0 before or since.
Because of a league-wide goals against average of 1.45, 15 scoreless games and 94 ties over the course of the 1928-29 season, the rules were changed for the next season to allow for forward passing in the offensive zone as well as the previously permitted defensive and neutral zones. This led to abuses by some players, who stood in front of the opposing net waiting for a pass. By December of that season the offside rule was created which meant players were no longer allowed to enter the offensive zone prior to the puck.
The effect of the rule changes were immediate, as Chabot led the NHL in shutouts that season with a mere six, while Hainsworth was second with four, which included the 50th of his NHL career. Tiny Thompson captured the Vezina with a goals against average of 2.23.
While Hainsworth would lose his grip on the Vezina Trophy, he was able to finally grasp the Stanley Cup that season, with a 2 games to none defeat of Boston.
The Canadiens backed that up by defeating the Chicago Black Hawks in 1930-31 for their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
1931-32 saw Hainsworth record his sixth consecutive 20 win season in an era which the season schedule was just 44 games long. After the 1932-33 season, in which Montreal sank in the standings and Hainsworth posted the first losing record of his career, he was dealt to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Chabot.
The move to Toronto suited Hainsworth, as he once more posted a dominant record of 26-13-9 the first time out and then topped that with his only 30 win season in 1934-35 with a 30-14-4 mark in a 48 game season to lead the league in wins both times. Another 20 win season followed with 23 in 1935-36.
His final NHL season saw him play three games for Toronto and then return to close out his career with the Canadiens with four final games. Hainsworth's final NHL totals stood at 465 games with a record of 246-145-74, 94 shutouts and a goals against average of 1.93.
Hainsworth's 22 shutouts in a single season came in just a 44 game schedule and still stands as the NHL record, as does his 0.92 goals against average. His career goals against average of 1.93, in 465 games, remains second all-time behind on Connell's 1.91 and his 94 shutouts, a mark that would stand as the record for 27 years, still ranks third behind Martin Brodeur's 108 and Terry Sawchuk's 103.
Hainsworth was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
Today's featured jersey is a 1928-29 Montreal Canadiens George Hainsworth jersey. The Canadiens were founded in 1909 but did not wear their now iconic red sweaters with the blue chest stripe until the 1912-13 season when it was introduced as an alternate jersey due to their red, white and blue striped "barberpole" jerseys drawing complaints that they were too similar to the Ottawa Senators similarly striped red, white and black jerseys.
White trim was added to the blue central stripe the following season, essentially creating the same basic jersey that remains in use today.