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Paul Masnick, who had been the oldest surviving member of a Montreal Canadiens' 1953 championship team, died March 23 in Barrie, Ontario, the city he had called home for years.

He was 92.

Masnick skated on coach Dick Irvin Sr.’s 1952-53 Canadiens, who won the Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins with Elmer Lach’s 1-0 Game 5 goal 1:22 into overtime.

It was Masnick’s only championship and the last of four won by Irvin Sr. as a coach, one with the Toronto Maple Leafs, three more with the Canadiens.

Masnick, a native of tiny Wakaw, Saskatchewan, 65 miles northeast of Saskatoon, played through the 1950s for the Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks and Maple Leafs, a utility forward who scored 59 points (18 goals, 41 assists) in his 232 NHL games.

He added nine points (four goals, five assists) in 33 postseason games, including most famously his overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1952 Semifinal in Boston. That goal forced a seventh game in Montreal that the Canadiens would win before they were swept in the Final by the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.

Masnick became the Canadiens’ oldest living member of the 1953 Stanley championship team with the 2019 death of Paul Meger, a dear friend and fellow Saskatchewan native who died at age 90.

The two were also Canadiens teammates in 1950-51, the Stanley Cup Final historically going into overtime in all five games before it was won by Toronto on Bill Barilko’s clincher at Maple Leaf Gardens.

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Paul Masnick (right) and goalie Gerry McNeil in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room at Maple Leaf Gardens on March 19, 1952. The Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0.

Marcel Bonin, who won the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1958, 1959 and 1960, now holds the franchise’s senior-most-champion title, not quite a half-year older than fellow 92-year-old Don Marshall. Bonin’s birth date and year have long been disputed. On Wednesday, his daughter confirmed that her father was born on Sept. 8, 1931.

Paul Andrew “Mazzy” Masnick was a flashy center with the major-junior Regina Pats, finding his way to the 1950-51 Canadiens by way of minor and junior hockey in the Prairies, a provincial juvenile champion in 1947-48.

He caught the eye of the Canadiens for his superb 1949-50 season with the Pats, scoring 87 points (44 goals, 43 assists) in 40 games, with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in the postseason. Regina fell to the Montreal Junior Canadiens in a five-game Memorial Cup Final that year, games played at the Montreal Forum and Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens.

Masnick would play 43 regular-season games for the Canadiens his 1950-51 rookie season, 19 more with the minor-pro Cincinnati Mohawks, then split his time in 1951-52 with Montreal, Cincinnati and the Buffalo Bisons.

He never knew what sweater would be awaiting him in the Canadiens’ 1951-52 dressing room, wearing No. 11, 22 and 23 that season as players, including himself, bounced up and down to the NHL team from the minors.

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The 1952-53 Stanley Cup-champion Canadiens in a team photo taken at the Montreal Forum. Front row (from left): Jacques Plante, Maurice Richard, Elmer Lach, Bert OImstead, coach Dick Irvin Sr., GM Frank Selke Sr., Bernie Geoffrion, Billy Reay, Paul Meger, Gerry McNeil. Middle row: Camil Desroches (public relations manager), Calum Mackay, Dickie Moore, Dick Gamble, Ken Mosdell, Floyd Curry, Lorne Davis, Paul Masnick, Frank Selke Jr. (public relations). Back row: Trainer Hec Dubois, Doug Harvey, Johnny McCormack, Eddie Mazur, Bud MacPherson, Butch Bouchard, Tom Johnson, Dollard St. Laurent, trainer Gaston Bettez.

Shuffled between the Canadiens and the Quebec pro league’s Montreal Royals from 1952-55, Masnick was traded (loaned, in effect) by the Canadiens to the Black Hawks for 14 games in November and December of 1954. He returned to Montreal a month after having changed sweaters.

A couple of seasons in the minor pros with Winnipeg and Rochester led to Masnick being sold to the Maple Leafs on Sept. 30, 1957, where he played his final 41 NHL games in 1957-58. His career finished with five years in the minors, including an International Hockey League Turner Cup championship run with coach Fred Shero’s 1960-61 St. Paul Fighting Saints.

Masnick’s NHL career and the seasons wrapped around it saw him play 789 games, from Montreal in the east to Victoria, British Columbia in the west, scoring 664 points (248 goals, 416 assists). 

He marched to his own drummer throughout his life, having found his life’s passion on Saskatchewan ponds and rinks in his youth, raised by his father upon the death of his mother when he was 6.

Masnick spurned the Canadiens’ first offer, in 1949, a $300 signing bonus tabled by GM Frank Selke Sr. during the latter’s scouting trip to Regina. He gambled on himself by suiting up another season with the Pats, his terrific season earning him a $2,500 bonus for his signature on a Montreal contract the following year.

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From left, Montreal Canadiens teammates Billy Reay, Dickie Moore and Paul Masnick pose in the lobby of a Toronto hotel early in the 1950s.

He earned $7,000 one year with the Canadiens, $8,000 the next. On a trip to Europe, a Mercedes-Benz tickled his fancy, so he bought it for $2,200.

But Masnick certainly wasn’t going to depend on hockey wages to sustain him. Between seasons, he earned a business degree at the University of Minnesota and eagerly took on summertime work as a door-to-door vacuum-cleaner salesman.

At 90, forever a bachelor, Masnick sat in his condo with Barrie Today reporter Peter Robinson and rewound his life, the Canadiens to play that night in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Of course I want to see them win,” Masnick said, the Canadiens ultimately dusted by the Lightning in a five-game series.

He said he’d be turning in before puck-drop, in a sleeping bag laid on a yoga mat on his floor because “it’s better for your health, your circulation.”

Masnick wouldn’t be tuned to the opener or any other game, having chosen not to have a television in his home.

“I can’t remember when I last watched a game,” he said. “It’s been years.”

He couldn’t recall when he’d last been in Montreal, though it was long before the 1996 closing of the Forum, having returned to his first NHL city for a tennis tournament.

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Chicago Black Hawks defenseman Pierre Pilote, behind goalie Glenn Hall, hooks Toronto Maple Leafs forward Paul Masnick during a 1957-58 game in Toronto.

Masnick remembered his trade/loan to the Black Hawks, news of it coming to him from Canadiens forward Bert Olmstead who told him, “you’re going the wrong way” when together they headed toward Montreal’s dressing room.

He was hale and hearty into his last years, conscious of a healthy diet and devoted to exercise.

One by one, Masnick had been losing his friends and former teammates, a fact he considered to writer Allen Abel in a 2017 Maclean’s Magazine feature.

“Everybody’s gone,” he said. “It’s like we’re in a different time zone. I walk down the street and people pity me ’cause I’m so old. I go on the bus and people get up and give me their seat but I don’t need it. I’m fine, but you can’t hide age no matter how much money you spend.

“My philosophy has always been there’s no wealth, there’s only health. If you don’t have health, you’re bankrupt. Nobody gives you health. You must earn it with discipline, diet and exercise. My mind’s still strong while so many other guys are wavy.”

Top photo: Paul Masnick in 1950s studio portraits with the Montreal Canadiens.