Jun 112009

It happened in Montréal during the Stanley Cup playoffs of 1928, in the final series between the Montréal Maroons in the New York Rangers.

After losing game one, the Rangers ran into grief in game two.  Lorne Chabot, New York’s steady goaltender was felled by a Nels Stewart shot and left the ice with blood streaming from a cut over his eye.

Ranger coach Lester Patrick, with no spare goalie, asked permission to use Alex Connell of Ottawa, who was a spectator at the game.  “No way” said the Maroons, aware that Connell, had played six consecutive games for Ottawa earlier in the season without allowing a single goal.  Patrick was handed an edict — either find a goalie in 10 minutes or forfeit the game.

So white-haired Lester Patrick, age 44, who played in goal.  Perhaps once in his long playing career, decided to put on the pad himself.  He told his players, “You fellows check and check hard I’ll need all the help I can get.”

If the Maroons felt that Patrick would be an easy mark when they saw him shuffle awkwardly onto the ice, they were mistaken.  Patrick played remarkably well, allowing just one goal on 18 shots as the Rangers won in overtime.

After the game, Patrick was mobbed by his mates.  In the dressing room, surrounded by reporters, he played down his remarkable feat.  “I stopped only six or seven really hard shots,” he said with a grin.  “And my teammates saved the old man with their backchecking.”

The Rangers, which Chabot back in harness, went on to win the Stanley Cup, and they were treated like heroes when they returned to New York.  Especially Lester Patrick, the coach-turned-goaltender.  Mayor Jimmy Walker, who’d recently hailed the return of Charles Lindbergh from France and organized a ticker tape parade for Babe Ruth after his 60-home runs season, embraced Patrick at City Hall while thousands cheered and flashbulbs popped.

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