Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Jacques Lemaire, born on this date in 1945, began his hockey career with the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1963-64 with 55 points in 42 games. He increased his output over the next two seasons with 72 and then 93 points in 48 games.
He spent one season in the minors playing for the Houston Apollos of the Central Hockey League, the only season of his career spent outside of the city of Montreal, which must have been quite the culture shock for the 22-year-old French speaking Lemaire! He coped with life in Texas rather well though, scoring 19 goals and 49 points in 69 games.
Having served his apprenticeship with the Apollos, Lemaire cracked the Canadiens lineup the following season and never looked back. Lemaire wasn't the type of player to excel at one aspect of the game, but was renowned for playing all parts of the game at a high level.
Playing first in an era with the likes of Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer and then Frank Mahovlich and later Guy Lafleur, Lemaire did manage to lead the Canadiens in scoring once during his career in the 1972-73 season with 95 points.
Lemaire arrived in Montreal at a good time, as the Canadiens had made the finals the three previous seasons and they were hungry to improve upon their loss to their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs the season prior.
With the NHL just having expanded from six to 12 teams that season, Montreal was all but assured the Championship when they advanced to the finals by defeating the Chicago Black Hawks in the East Division finals to face the expansion St. Louis Blues, who they swept in four straight, but to the Blues credit, two games went to overtime and all four were decided by single goal to earn Lemaire a Stanley Cup ring in his first NHL season.
1969 was a repeat of the previous season when Montreal again took St. Louis apart in four straight to add another ring to Lemaire's collection.
Lemaire and the Canadiens returned to the finals after an absence of one year, but under a new playoff format which saw them facing a more formidable opponent, the Chicago Black Hawks, who took Montreal the full seven games before the Canadiens emerged victorious with a 3-2 win for the third championship in Lemaire's four seasons.
Following a break for two seasons, Montreal returned to their rightful place atop the league, showing that skill and flair were able to overcome the Philadelphia Flyers brawling ways as the Canadiens entered their late 70's dynasty with four consecutive championships, as they swept Philadelphia in 1976, swept the Boston Bruins in 1977 when Lemaire scored the cup winning goal at 4:32 of overtime in Game 4, defeated the Bruins in a six game rematch in 1978 before taking down the New York Rangers in five games as Lemaire became only the fifth player in league history with two Stanley Cup winning goals when he netted the game winner at 1:02 of he second period.
It would be the final goal of Lemaire's career, as he would retire at the conclusion of the playoffs having won eight Stanley Cups in his 12 seasons as a player. Throughout his career, Lemaire was a consistent, reliable player, having played 65 games or more 10 times while never scoring less than 20 goals a season.
Lemaire was subsequently elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.
Following his playing career, Lemaire spent several seasons honing his craft as a head coach, first in Switzerland and then in the QMJHL before becoming an assistant with the Canadiens in 1983-84, only to become head coach later that season for 17 games. He coached Montreal for one more season.
It would be nine more seasons before he would return to the bench, this time with the New Jersey Devils, who he would lead to the Stanley Cup in 1995 for the final Stanley Cup ring of his career, which included several more as a Montreal Canadiens executive after leaving the Canadiens bench. Lemarie would be named the winner of the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year twice, first in 1994 with the Devils and again in 2003 with the Minnesota Wild, making him one of only four men to have won the award with two different teams.
Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Montreal Canadiens Jacques Lemaire jersey as worn during the final season of his highly successful career.
The white Canadiens jersey, long overshadowed by the iconic red jersey with the blue chest stripe, was first introduced in 1935 for games against the Detroit Red Wings, who also wore red jerseys. In 1941 the red shoulder yoke was first added, creating the jersey that has remained essentially the same ever since except for a brief three year period in the 1940's when the white jerseys had a blue chest stripe like the red jerseys before changing back to the style that remains in use today.
Our first video today is Lemaire scoring the cup winning goal in overtime of Game 4 of the 1977 Stanley Cup Finals against Boston.
Here is Lemaire scoring the cup winning goal in Game 5 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals against John Davidson of the Rangers.
Finally, the wit and wisdom of coach Jacques Lemaire while with the Wild.