Larry Aurie

Larry Aurie was one of the smallest players to ever play the game.  Only 5-feet-6, 148 pounds, he established himself as one of Detroit's earliest hockey stars, combining a deft scoring touch with excellent speed and puck handling skills.

The other trait that was an Aurie trademark was his fiery competitiveness. He was nicknamed "Little Dempsey" after the heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. Like modern day Theoren Fleury, Aurie was a feisty, scrappy right winger who played with full out heart and desire. That made him not only a favorite of the fans, but of his coach and his boss.

When Jack Adams first arrived in Detroit as coach, one of the first things he did was acquire Aurie from the junior ranks. Aurie signed with the Wings on September 26, 1927, making his debut with Detroit, then known as the Cougars. Aurie went through some pretty lean years in Hockeytown. The first three years they were known as the Cougars, the next two they were known as the Falcons, and finally in 1932-33 they became known as the Red Wings.

Aurie was one of the few bright spots on those early Detroit teams, and was rewarded by being named captain in 1932. Not coincidentally, the Wings success increased under Aurie's captaincy. By 1933-34 Aurie starred on a line with future Hall of Famers Cooney Weiland and Herbie Lewis, the Wings finished the regular season in first place in their division. They then pulled off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history when they outplayed the Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Once in the finals the were eventually beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wings took a step back in 1934-35 when they missed the playoffs, but made moves to rectify that by trading Weiland to acquire Marty Barry. Barry assumed Weiland's pivot spot between Lewis and Aurie and the trio led the Wings to their first Stanley Cup in 1935-36

Aurie's best season came in 1936-37 when he led the NHL in goal scoring with 23 tallies in 45 games and was named to the First All Star Team. However the season was bittersweet as a broken ankle late in the season kept Aurie out of the playoffs. Despite missing Aurie, the Wings repeated at Stanley Cup champions.

Aurie never really recovered from that broken ankle. He struggled through the 1937-38 campaign and then retired that summer. He did make a one game comeback in the following season as an emergency fill in due to injuries. In typical Aurie fashion, Larry played hard and scored the winning goal.

"Larry was a big cog in the wheel of our first championship teams," teammate Pete Kelly, 83, said "He was on our production line and was a key to those championships."

Cummy Burton, a former NHLer and Aurie's nephew, recalled that "the best tribute paid to Larry was when someone once asked Jack Adams to compare a young Gordie Howe to Larry. At that time, they were using Larry Aurie as the talent gauge."

Former teammate Carl Liscombe remembered Aurie's play some 50 years later.

"Aurie would fight a tiger to win and was a damn good hockey player. He was very small, only 145 pounds, but very strong. He would stand in front of the net and take on players 50 to 60 pounds heavier and handled it well. Much like (Dino) Ciccarelli, only Larry could fight. He would drop his stick at the drop of a hat."

Aurie died of a stroke at age 47 in December 1952, a few days after the death of Red Wings owner James Norris, who was perhaps Aurie's biggest fan.

"It was, perhaps, merciful that Mr. Norris was spared the sudden, shocking and untimely passing of Larry Aurie," the Detroit Free Press said at the time.

"Larry was one of Mr. Norris' favorite players. That was manifested when Aurie's jersey, bearing number six, was retired from the active numbers when Larry left the Red Wing lineup for the last time.

"Perhaps, much of the admiration which Norris held for Larry lay in Aurie's type. He was a typical Red Wing. A great two-way hockey player, he continually battled the handicap of size to become the first Detroit forward to ever win All-Star recognition from the league. He was a unanimous choice for the original Detroit Hall of Hockey Fame and the first member of it to die."

Although his number is retired, his jersey doesn't hang in the rafters of Hockeytown like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay or Terry Sawchuk.

"Not hanging up Larry's number would be compared to the Yankees' not retiring Lou Gehrig's number, just because he was from the 1930s and now forgotten just because it's all old stuff now," said Cummy Burton "It's like saying that war heroes don't mean anything, just because they're not around anymore."

Aurie's family pressured the Red Wings to immortalize No 6 in the rafters in the 1990s. The Red Wings officially announced that they would not formally retire the jersey, only "keep the number out of circulation to respect the memory of Aurie. It was discussed and determined by the Red Wings that the jersey will not be hung up."


Anonymous,  12:57 AM  

It's a travisty that his number is not hanging in thr rafters along side Yzerman, Howe, Abel, Lindsay, Sawchuk, and Delvecchio. Ilitch "unretired" the number and will not say why. Seems something personal in this decision.

Anonymous,  5:49 PM  

It's because he's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Somewhere I read a post about Devellano stating it was because the Wings under Illitch only want Hall of Famers retired. I can understand that logic, but it's still a shame. Aurie does indeed seem to have been the heart and soul of that early Detroit squad.

cemetery seth 2:58 PM  

I think it's a shame they won't hang his jersey in the joe. If he was part of our first 2 cups then it more than deserves to be alongside the greats.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP