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Toe Blake

Hired As Coach Of The Canadiens

When Irvin, Blake's old coach, retired as head coach of the Canadiens after the 1954-55 season, Blake was the only man really considered to replace him. Blake had the support of Frank Selke, Sr., the managing director of the Canadiens. He was officially hired on June 8, 1955. As Robert McG. Thomas, Jr. wrote in the New York Times, "But for all his acclaim as a player, no one was quite prepared for what happened when Blake, his signature fedora on his head, took his place behind the Canadien bench for the first time in 1955 and found his true calling."

One immediate problem that Blake had to face was taking charge of a team consisting of many players he had played with before his retirement. Another issue was managing former linemate Richard, who, at 35, still had a tendency to lose his temper and fight instead of do what he did best: score. Blake convinced him that he did not need to prove himself in any way but winning the Stanley Cup. This helped form Richard's legacy. In turn, Richard fully supported Blake as a coach, which influenced the entire team's attitude towards Blake.

Related Biography: Hockey Player Elmer Lach

With Hector "Toe" Blake and Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Elmer Lach formed the Punch Line, which was the leading scoring line for the Montreal Canadiens from the mid-1940s to early 1950s and one of the most famous in the history of the NHL. Lach centered the line until he retired after the 1953-54 season. He was born in 1918 in Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Canada, playing his amateur career in his native province. He signed with the Montreal Canadiens during the 1940-41 season. Over the course of his fourteen-year career, Lach scored 215 regular season goals and 408 regular season assists, and nineteen playoff goals. In 1945, he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. In 1948, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer. With the Canadiens, he won the Stanley Cup three times, including 1944 and 1946 with the Punch Line. Lach was a tough hardworking playmaker who played through a number of major injuries, including a skull fracture and cheekbone fracture in a game in 1947, throughout his career. He only played five complete seasons in his 14 years in the NHL. Lach was also known for his passing and checking abilities. For his accomplishments on the ice, Lach was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. After retiring as a player, he coached for several years before founding his own business.

Awards and Accomplishments

1935 Won Stanley Cup with Maroons, though on the bench
1937 Played in the All-Star Game
1938 Second team All-Star
1939 Was the National Hockey League's leading scorer; won the Hart Trophy as MVP; first team All-Star; voted Canada's outstanding athlete; played in the All-Star Game
1940, 1945 First team All-Star
1944 Won Stanley Cup with Canadiens
1946 Won the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens; won the Lady Byng Trophy; second team All Star
1956-60, 1965-66 Won Stanley Cup as coach of the Canadiens
1966 Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame as a player
1982 Presented with the Order of Canada

Blake inherited a team with a good, young goalie, great scorers, and a smart defense. With this core, Blake created a dynasty and won eight Stanley Cups over the course of his 13 year coaching career. Many believe these were some of the best teams in the history of the NHL. He had the respect of his players, but used a dictatorial style of coaching and would not coddle them. While he used humor and had the ability to motivate, he also had a temper. Blake would never call out a single player by name in front of the team and embarrass them. He got everyone to play better, to push themselves. Blake put as much into coaching as his players did into playing.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsHockeyToe Blake Biography - Signed With Montreal, Chronology, Won Stanley Cups, Retired As A Player, Began Coaching Career