PITTSBURGH -- The NHL's Original Six era, which spanned 1942-43 through 1966-1967, was a quarter-century largely of the haves and the have-nots.
The period gave birth to many Stanley Cup Final records, including at least one that is unlikely to be broken: From Game 1 of the Final in 1951 through Game 4 of the Final in 1960, Montreal Canadiens forward Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion played in all 53 Stanley Cup Final games. Often playing through injury, his streak remained intact while Montreal went to the championship round 10 consecutive years, winning six times.
The Stanley Cup Final record book is packed with Original Six achievement, the late Geoffrion's run of games the most impressive. A few highlights that top several categories:
- Maurice "Rocket" Richard reached the Cup Final 12 times from 1944-60, all with the Canadiens. Fellow Hockey Hall of Fame member Red Kelly appeared a dozen times as well, seven times with the Detroit Red Wings from 1948-56 and five times with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1960-67. Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard went to the Final 12 times, but three of Beliveau's appearances and four of Henri Richard's came after expansion in 1967.
- Kelly is the only NHL player to win the Cup at least seven times -- he won it eight times -- without winning one of them with the Canadiens; he won four each with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.
- Kelly's 65 Cup Final games -- 37 with the Red Wings, 28 with the Maple Leafs -- were the most in the Original Six era. He and Henri Richard are tied for the most in Final history. Beliveau played in 64, all prior to expansion.
- Beliveau's 62 points (30 goals, 32 assists) are the most in Final history. Wayne Gretzky's 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 31 games with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings are second.
- Rocket Richard's 34 career Final goals, scored in 59 games, are four more than Beliveau had in 64 games.
- Beliveau had nine game-winning goals in the Final, one more than Richard. But Richard's three Final overtime goals are more than anyone.
And here's a feat that's not in the record book but is unlikely to be duplicated because of modern-day scheduling: Forward Connie Broden won the 1958 Stanley Cup with the Canadiens six weeks after having won the World Ice Hockey Championship for Canada as a member of the Whitby Dunlops. Broden played one game in the Cup Final against the Bruins.
Of the Canadiens' NHL-leading 23 Stanley Cup titles (they also won the Cup in 1916, before the formation of the NHL), 10 came during the days of the Original Six. Nine of 14 won by the Maple Leafs came in the same era, as did five of the 11 won by the Red Wings and one of six for the Chicago Black Hawks, as they were known then.
The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers made it to within a few tantalizing victories of hoisting the Cup but never could close the deal.
Boston came up short in five appearances in the Cup Final, losing four times to Montreal and once to Detroit; the Bruins were 5-20 in those five series. New York advanced to one Final in those 25 seasons, losing to the Red Wings in seven games in 1950. The Rangers won two overtime games in the series, then had their hearts broken with a Game 7 double-overtime loss.
Geoffrion, who has the record for the fastest two goals in a Cup Final game, scoring 12 seconds apart against Detroit in Game 3 on April 7, 1955, was one of 12 Canadiens who played on five straight Stanley Cup champions from 1956-60, a winning streak that seems unlikely to be matched.
Geoffrion broke into the NHL in 1950-51, playing 18 regular-season games for the Canadiens. But coach Dick Irvin used him in all 11 playoff games. The Canadiens defeated the Red Wings in six games in the semifinals but lost in five games to the Maple Leafs in the Cup Final.
Geoffrion led the NHL in playoff goals twice, with six in 1954 and 11 in 1957, and led in assists with 10 in 1960.
Only once from 1951-52, when he joined the Canadiens full-time and won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie, through 1959-60 did Geoffrion play a full 70-game schedule. But with guts and bandages, he was good to go in every playoff game.
If 53 straight Stanley Cup Final games is impressive, consider that Geoffrion played 109 consecutive playoff games. The streak ended March 28, 1961, when he tore knee ligaments during Game 3 of Montreal's loss to Chicago in the semifinals. He missed Games 4 and 5, his leg in a cast.
But with the Canadiens trailing 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, Geoffrion took matters into his own hands. Riding an overnight train to Chicago for Game 6, he and Canadiens captain Doug Harvey retreated to the women's washroom and sawed off the cast with a knife borrowed from the train's kitchen.
In his 1997 autobiography, "Boom-Boom," Geoffrion wrote that the removal "seemed to take hours."
"I didn't do it in record time," Harvey said. "But you have to take into consideration the rolling train."
Blake, who was furious with the do-it-yourself treatment, gave Geoffrion limited power-play time in Game 6, the pain-seared joint frozen numb. The Canadiens lost 3-0.
Montreal's title reign was over, and general manager Frank Selke stayed good to his word that he would make major changes to the roster.
Harvey, who during the past decade had played one fewer Stanley Cup Final game than Geoffrion, was traded to the Rangers. During his time with the Canadiens, he won the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman six times, won the Cup six times and had a brief surgical career.