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Five Vezina Trophy winners you should know

by John McGourty
Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Dominik Hasek, Grant Fuhr and Bernie Parent are among the greatest goaltenders ever to play in the National Hockey League. They all won the Vezina Trophy awarded to the League's best goaltender during the regular season and their epic campaigns have been widely reported. Those not yet in the Hall of Fame -- Roy, Hasek and Fuhr -- will be.

But they're not the only netminders to win the Vezina, named for the great goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens, Georges Vezina, from 1917 to 1926. The "Chicoutimi Cucumber" won the Stanley Cup in 1924. He collapsed twice during a game on Nov. 28, 1925 and died four months later of tuberculosis. The award was first given in 1927 to George Hainsworth, Vezina's successor in Montreal, who won it three straight seasons.


Here are five great goaltenders whose Vezina Trophy-winning seasons deserve renewed attention:

George Hainsworth, 1929

The Canadiens goaltender recorded 22 shutouts, a record that has stood for 72 years. Amazingly, the Canadiens won only 22 of their 44 games that season and Hainsworth allowed only 43 goals. He played in every game and finished with an 0.92 goals-against average. The Canadiens were 22-7-15 during the regular season, winning the five-team Canadian division.

Hainsworth guided the Canadiens to Stanley Cups the next two seasons and was their captain, a practice no longer allowed, in 1932-33. He later played four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs and returned to the Canadiens for four games in 1937. The 5-foot-6, 150-pound marvel died in 1950 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

Frankie Brimsek, 1939

"Mr. Zero" earned his first Vezina Trophy in 1939 as a rookie. Brimsek replaced Tiny Thompson, who had captured his fourth Vezina Trophy the previous season. After losing his debut in Montreal, Brimsek, a native of Eveleth, Minn., recorded shutouts in his next three games, gave up a goal in his fourth game then notched three more consecutive shutouts to earn the nickname he'd carry until his death in 1998. His shutout stretch of 231 minutes 54 seconds broke Thompson's record of 224:47.

Brimsek posted 10 shutouts in 41 games, won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie and was named to the All-Star Team as Boston easily won the regular season and the Stanley Cup. Brimsek gave up only 76 goals. The next closest team surrendered 105 goals.

Brimsek is generally considered the first non-Canadian superstar in NHL history. He won the Vezina Trophy again in 1942. Brimsek was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

Bill Durnan, 1949

Durnan is the greatest nearly forgotten player in the history of the NHL. The ambidextrous native of Toronto won six Vezina Trophies for the Montreal Canadiens between 1944-50 and two Stanley Cups. Durnan had a nervous breakdown in the midst of the 1950 Stanley Cup Playoffs and never again played professionally, turning immediately to coaching. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964 and died in 1972.

Durnan went 28-23-9 with a 2.10 goals-against average and 10 shutouts. He set the modern shutout streak of 309 minutes 21 seconds when he posted four consecutive whitewashes that season. The Canadiens finished third during the regular season, behind Detroit and Boston, but their 126 goals allowed was 19 fewer than any other club in the NHL.

Glenn Hall, 1963

Credited with inventing the butterfly style of goaltending, Hall was named to the All-Star team in 11 of his 18 NHL seasons with Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. He set the record for most consecutive games by a goaltender (503) and concluded his career with a 2.51 goals-against average. Hall's consecutive-game streak came to an end on Nov. 7, 1962. During the run, he broke Vezina's 38-year-old record of 328 consecutive games.

Hall won the Calder Trophy for the Detroit Red Wings in 1955-56. He did not win the Vezina in 1961, the year he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, but he won it for Chicago in 1963 when he played in 66 games and in 1967, when he split duties with Denis DeJordy. He won again in 1969 while sharing the St. Louis Blues' net with Plante. Hall's 905 NHL games are third among goaltenders, behind only Sawchuk and Roy. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.

In 1962-63, Hall went 30-20-15 with five shutouts and a 2.55 goals-against average. He surrendered 166 goals, lowest in the League, for the Blackhawks who finished second in the regular season to the Stanley Cup-winning Toronto Maple Leafs. Now 70, Hall continues to advise NHL goaltenders.

Tony Esposito, 1970

"Tony O" set the modern record of 15 shutouts in a single season while leading the Chicago Blackhawks to first place in the East Division with a 38-17-8 record and a 2.17 goals-against average. Esposito's older brother, Phil, had played earlier for the Blackhawks and Tony was befriended then by Hall whom he credited with assisting in his development. Phil also scored the Bruins' two goals in Tony's NHL debut, a 2-2 tie between Montreal and Boston.

Esposito was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, two years after Hall was dealt to St. Louis. Esposito would also win the Vezina Trophy in 1972 when he split Blackhawks' duties with Gary "Suitcase" Smith and in 1974 when he finished in a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers' Parent. Esposito also won the Calder Trophy in 1970 and was named to the First All-Star Team. Esposito, who never won a Stanley Cup, won the NCAA championship with Michigan Tech in 1965. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.




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