Thursday, November 18, 2010
Goaltender Percy LeSueur was born in Quebec City, Quebec on this day in 1881. He was a member of the 1903-04 Smith Falls Seniors of the Ontario Hockey Association, where the right winger converted to goaltender, going 3-3 in six games played, and stayed with the club the following season when they moved to the Federal Amateur Hockey League. Smiths Falls won the league title by going a perfect 7-0 with LeSueur winning all seven games while posting a 1.9 goals against average, far ahead of the next best goalkeeper's 4.5 average.
Smiths Falls, encouraged by their strong performance in the FAHL, challenged the current Stanley Cup holders, the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa won the first game of their best-of-three series 6-5 on March 6, 1906 and successfully defended their rights to the cup two days later with an 8-2 win. Despite the 14 goals scored against Smiths Falls in the two games, the Senators were so impressed by LeSueur that they obtained his rights and he made his Senators debut just nine days later.
At the time the Senators were involved in another playoff series for the championship of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association against the Montreal Wanderers, with whom they had tied for the league lead with matching 9-1 records, with the league champion also earning possession of the Stanley Cup. Following Montreal's dominant 9-1 win in the first game of the two-game total-goals series, LeSueur was installed in the Senators goal. Anticipation for the game was high, attracting a crowd of over 5,400 people, which resulted in all manner of changes to the Dey's Arena seating to accommodate the throng, some of which paid five times face value for a ticket to the match, a lofty $10!
Facing an enormous task being down by eight goals, the Senators made things harder for themselves by giving up the first goal of the game, raising their deficit to nine. The Senators responded by scoring three goals prior to halftime, and Ottawa then stormed out in the second half, piling up six straight goals to even the series at ten goals apiece! Montreal's Lester Patrick would dash the Senators dream of a comeback by scoring with a minute and a half to play and clinch the title with another with seconds left on the clock, ending the Silver Seven's three year reign as holders of the Stanley Cup, which included nine straight successful defenses.
The Toronto Globe would call the game the "greatest game of hockey ever played on Canadian ice, or any other", while The Sporting News labeled it the "Greatest Hockey Game in History".
In his first two full seasons of 1906-07 and 1907-08 with Ottawa, LeSueur posted identical 7-3 records before he lead Ottawa to the league title in 1908-09 when he went 10-2. By winning the league championship, Ottawa regained their role as holders of the Stanley Cup for the first time since losing control of the cup in LeSueur's memorable first game as a Senator in 1906.
During this time period, he was also chosen to play goal in the Hod Stuart Memorial Game, the first All-Star game in hockey history on January 2, 1908.
The next season was one of turmoil for Ottawa off the ice, as they joined the ill-fated Canadian Hockey Association for a few weeks prior to moving over to the National Hockey Association. During the season, the Senators successfully defended two separate challenges to their rights to the Stanley Cup, with LeSueur winning all four games, two against Galt and two against Edmonton. Back in the NHA, at the end of the season Ottawa had finished second in the seven team league, forcing them to relinquish the cup to the Wanderers once more.
Ottawa regained the cup following the 1910-11 season in which LeSueur went 13-3 and then withstood two single game challenges from Galt (7-4) and the Port Arthur Bearcats (13-4), giving LeSueur a six game winning streak in Stanley Cup challenge games.
1910-11 Ottawa Senators - holders of the Stanley Cup
LeSueur is in the center of the photo holding his goalie stick and wearing the leg pads
LeSueur would spend three more seasons with the Senators before being traded to the Toronto Shamrocks for the 1914-15 season and transferred to the Toronto Blueshirts for the final season of his playing days.
LeSueur was an innovator, being credited for the design of the hockey net used on the ice from 1912 to 1925 and the "gauntlet" style goaltending glove. He later coached the Hamilton Tigers of the NHL in 1923-24 and was a member of the broadcast team of Hockey Night in Canada during it's early days while still on the radio. He was also a member of the ownership group which won the rights to an NHL franchise for the city of Detroit, originally named the Cougars, who coincidentally played their first game also on this date in 1926.
LeSueur was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
Today's featured jersey is a 1910-11 Ottawa Senators Percy LeSueur jersey with the Senators trademark black, red and white horizontal "barberpole" stripes. This style of jersey was first adopted in 1904, and except for one season with vertical stripes in 1910-11, remained in use through the original Senators final season in Ottawa of 1933-34, with the addition of the letter "O" crest from 1929-30 on.