Normie Smith

Normie Smith was enjoying a pretty nice rookie season in the NHL in 1931-32, until he ran into Howie Morenz. Actually, it was the other way around.

The rookie goalie broke in with the Montreal Maroons in 1931 and played 20 games before the dazzling Howie Morenz was sent flying into the Maroon's net. Smith took the brunt of the collision and was injured so badly he was out for the rest of the season.

Smith spent the next two seasons in the minors, improving his rebound control and all around game. It is there that he discovered that wearing his trademark peaked cap over his eyes cut down the glare from the overhead lights, allowing him to follow the play more easily.

In 1934, Jack Adams of the Detroit Red Wings signed him. Adams was soon displeased with Smith's play and he brought in John Ross Roach to take over for the second half of the 1934-35 season.

Smith got a second chance the following year and was in the Detroit goal for one of the most remarkable games ever played. After the Wings and Maroons finished on top of their respective divisions, they met in Montreal in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. On March 24, 1936, Smith and Lorne Chabot were in their respective nets when the teams faced off at the Montreal Forum before more than 9000 fans. Many of those fans would not be around for the finish of the match - they would be back home and fast asleep when the Wings Mud Bruneteau scored the game's only goal at 2:25 - at 16:30 of the sixth overtime period! Norm Smith had recorded a shutout in the longest game ever played! 176 minutes and 30 seconds. Years later the Guinness Book of World Records also listed Smith's 92 saves as a world record.

Smith's mastery over the Maroons continued into game 2 of the series. He chalked up his second consecutive shutout when the Red Wings blanked the Maroons 3-0.

In game three, back in Detroit, the Maroons Gus Marker finally put a puck past Smith in the first period, ending Smith's shutout streak at 248 minutes and 32 seconds. But Johnny Sorrell and Scotty Bowman (no, not the famous coach, a different guy altogether) replied for the Wings, who won the game 2-1, ending the best of 5 series.

The Red Wings went on to defeat Toronto in the finals, three games to one, to capture the Stanley Cup!

The next year, thanks largely to Smith who won the Vezina Trophy, the Red Wings repeated as league champions. In the playoffs that spring, Smith suffered an elbow injury in game 3 against the Canadiens and was forced to the sidelines. He came back for game 5 and was in the net for a Detroit win that required 52 minutes of overtime.

In the finals against the Rangers, his sore elbow acted up, keeping him on the sidelines. Rookie netminder Earl Robertson took over and played a starring role as the Red Wings won their second straight Stanley Cup!

The Wings slipped badly in 1937-38, missing the playoffs and plummeting to the American Division basement.

Smith played just 4 games in 1938-39 before bolting from the team after a game in New York. Adams suspended him and quickly acquired veteran Tiny Thompson from Boston to replace him.

It had appeared that Smith's NHL career was over, but Adams soon invited him back. Desperate for goaltending help due to World War II enlistment, Adams invited Smith back 5 years later in the 1943-44 campaign. He played 5 games that year, and one more the following year, and then was dismissed.

His career was short, but memorable. A Vezina Trophy, 2 Stanley Cups and over 9 periods of shutout hockey in the playoffs!


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP