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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau Jersey

On this date in 1955, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins squared off at The Forum in Montreal.

The Bruins jumped out to an early lead with an even strength goal by Leo Boivin at 1:35 of the first period. Before the period would end, Doug Mohns would add to the Bruins advantage with a power play goal at the 18:12 mark. Before the period would end, Cal Gardner of Boston would be whistled for a penalty with just ten seconds remaining that would put Montreal on the power play to start the second period.

With Montreal already with a man advantage, Hal Laycoe would be called for a penalty at the 16 second mark that would change the way the game would be played forever more. The Canadiens relished any opportunity to play with a man advantage, for the previous season they led the league in goals with 228 in 70 games, the only team to average more than 3 per game and 24 more than their closest pursuer thanks to their notoriously potent power play.

Montreal controlled the puck following the face-off and Doug Harvey fed Bert Olmstead who got the puck to center Jean Beliveau who redirected it past Bruins goaltender Terry Sawchuk at the 42 second mark to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.

Beliveau scores four

After the ensuing face-off, with Montreal still on the power play, Maurice Richard worked to get the puck to Olmstead, who again fed Beliveau who once more beat Sawchuk on a similar play just 26 seconds later to even the score at 2-2.

Now, in this day and age, the first Montreal goal would have freed Gardner from the penalty box while the second tally would have set Laycoe free, ending the Montreal man advantage, but this was not the case back in 1955, as any penalized player was required to serve the full length of his penalty, regardless of how many goals were scored while his full time was being served.

So, with both Gardner and Laycoe still serving their full sentence with no parole in the offing, Montreal remained on a two-man advantage with 42 second remaining. After controlling the puck once again, Harvey again found Olmstead who knew exactly what to do with it - get the puck to Beliveau. "Le Gros Bill" found the twine to complete his hat trick at 1:26, his third goal with the two man advantage in the span of just 44 seconds!

Gardner was finally able to escape the penalty box 24 seconds later after having to helplessly watch the carnage created by his departure, and Laycoe's freedom finally arrived 26 seconds later, but not until he was forced to watch a 2-0 Boston lead turned into a 3-2 lead for the Canadiens while he was away.

While there were no further power play goals during the contest, Beliveau would score his fourth goal of the night at 15:53 of the third period at even strength, assisted by Olmstead once again and Bernie Geoffrion for a final score in favor of Montreal 4-2 thanks to the talents of Beliveau and the remarkable Canadiens power play.

Beliveau scores four
Beliveau displays the four pucks from his stellar evening and
is joined by Olmstead, who assisted on all four of his goals

Beliveau would go on to go on to win the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion and the Hart Trophy as league MVP at the conclusion of the season, thanks in part to the opportunity to score multiple goals on a single power play.

Such was the dominance of the Montreal power play, having scored more than once with the man advantage eight times that season, that a new rule was put into effect in time for the start of the 1956-57 season to minimize the distinct offensive advantage enjoyed by the Canadiens, as any penalized player serving a two-minute minor would be freed immediately following any goal scored against his team in an effort to keep games more competitive. Predictably, the vote was 5-1 in favor of the new rule change.

While Montreal was able to capture the Stanley Cup in 1956 with the ability to score seemingly at will with the man advantage, how did the new rule affect the competitive balance for the time period immediately after the new rule was put into effect? Very little, in fact, as the Canadiens would reel off four more consecutive titles from 1957 to 1960 for a dynasty like no other, as no team before or since would ever win five consecutive Stanley Cups.

Today's featured jersey is a 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau jersey. Believau was a staggering ten time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal in his 20 years with the club. Beliveau also won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1956, the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1956 and 1964 and the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965. Had the Conn Smythe Trophy been in existence prior to the 1965 finals, odds are that Beliveau would have won at least one other one, particularly in 1956 when he led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in just ten games.

This exact variation of the Canadiens jersey arrived in 1947 when the red shoulders no longer encroached into the blue arm stripes and would be worn until 1956 when further detail changes were introduced.

Montreal Canadiens 55-56 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions
Today's video selection is the wonderful Legends of Hockey profile of Jean Beliveau.

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