Happy Emms

Leighton "Hap" Emms was nicknamed out of pure sarcasm. His sour look provided an opportunity for his teammates to tag the name "Happy" on him, which was later shortened to "Hap".

He is more famous for his contributions to junior hockey after his retirement, but he did play in the NHL regularly. He was a defenseman who broke in the NHL with the mean machine of hockey, the Montreal Maroons, in 1926-27.

He played some in 1927-28, but found himself in the minors for two seasons of success after that. He was involved in a big sale in 1930 as the Montreal Maroons purchased Lionel Conacher from the New York Americans. But Conacher demanded a high salary and so the Maroons sold Emms, Frank Carson and Red Dutton to the Americans for a whopping $35,000, a high sum in those days. Emms became a regular on the Amerks blueline with Bullet Joe Simpson .When Simpson retired after 1930-31, Emms faced the pressure of playing good defense alone and was sub-par. He was traded to Detroit.

He wasn't happy in Detroit and asked Jack Adams to release him. Adams obliged and Emms signed with Boston, but was traded back to the Americans during 1934-35. He would finish his NHL career as a steady presence with the Amerks. He would extend his career for several seasons, excelling with the Pittsburgh Hornets and Omaha Knights.

It was in Omaha that Emms contracted the coaching bug. Emms broke his leg midway through the 1941-42 season while the player coach for the Omaha Knights. He coached Omaha from 1939-42 and in the 1942 playoffs guided the team to 8 straight wins in three series, playing with as few as 10 players. After that, he joined the armed forces and served in World War II. He played two games for the St.Louis Flyers in 1944-45, but it was obvious he was finished and he retired as a player.

He then began his great success as a builder of junior teams.He built some of the best junior clubs ever assembled, first in his hometown of Barrie, then in Niagara Falls. His Flyers won four Memorial Cups, two by the Barrie Flyers in 1951 and 1953, and two by the Niagara Falls Flyers in 1965 and 1968. He developed such players as Jerry Toppazzini, Doug Mohns, Jean Pronovost, Doug Favell, Bernie Parent and Phil Myre just to name a fraction of the players who went on to play in the NHL. He also owned a team in St. Catherines.

Because of his success as a junior coach and manager, the Boston Bruins named him general manager of the Bruins in 1965 and he served two years. However,the Bruins showed little improvement despite adding a rookie player who would become the greatest defenseman in NHL history, Bobby Orr, in 1966-67. Emms was fired at season's end.

Born in 1905, he died of heart failure on October 22nd, 1988. Five years earlier he suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk or talk.


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