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02-04-2012, 05:11 PM
MLD Glue Guy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BC, Canada
Country: Canada
Posts: 16,381
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D Lionel Conacher

80 G, 105 A, 185 Pts in 498 GP

Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame
33-34 1st Team All-Star
32-33, 36-37 2nd Team All-Star
33-34, 34-35 Stanley Cup Champion
1934 Retro Conn Smythe
6th (26-27), 7th (32-33), 10th (36-37) in Assists
2nd (27-28), 3rd (25-26), 3rd (32-33), 3rd (36-37), 4th (26-27), 4th (33-34), 5th (31-32), 6th (35-36), 10th (28-29) in Defence Scoring
Captain of Pittsburgh Pirates 1925-26
Captain of Montreal Maroons 1936-37

Ultimate Hockey: The Best Shotblocker of the 1930s

Legends of Hockey
Named Canada's top male athlete of the half-century in 1950, Lionel Conacher excelled in virtually every sport he took part in. Aptly named "the Big Train," the 6', 195-pound Conacher was a proficient NHL skater. He normally played left defense and was best known for his imposing physical presence, leadership skills and rock-solid play in his own zone.

In 1925-26, the Big Train finally made his professional hockey debut. He was instrumental in keeping most of the Yellow Jackets together when the team renamed itself the Pirates and was admitted to the NHL as an expansion squad. The burly rearguard captained the team and scored the first goal in franchise history, against the Boston Bruins on November 26, 1925. A year later he was traded to the New York Americans, where he played four seasons and helped Leo Reise and Bill Brydge anchor the club's defense corps.

Conacher functioned as the Amerks' player-coach in 1929-30, then joined the Montreal Maroons the next season. He enjoyed three excellent years there, including a career-best 28 points in 1932-33. The Chicago Black Hawks obtained his services in time for the 1933-34 schedule, and Conacher was a key figure in the club's first-ever Stanley Cup victory that season. His impact was such that he finished second to the Canadiens' Aurel Joliat in the voting for the Hart Trophy and earned a spot on the NHL First All-Star Team.

After one year in Chicago, Conacher returned to the Maroons, where he'd spend his last three NHL seasons and take part in a second Cup triumph in 1935. He brought his distinguished career to a close after the Maroons were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Rangers on April 23, 1937. Rather than risk becoming a fading star, he went out on a high note: He was runner-up to Babe Siebert in the 1937 Hart Trophy voting and was placed on the NHL Second All-Star Team.

The Big Train was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1937 and to Parliament 12 years later. He served as an MP until his death on May 26, 1954. Conacher was a charter member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum in 1963 and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum in 1966. In 1994 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
From a Review of "Big Train: The Legendary Ironman of Sport, Lionel Conacher":

As a child, Lionel Conacher attended Jesse Ketchum School in Toronto, ON. Here he came under the influence of William Kirk, the school principal. Kirk wanted all his students to participate in sports activities. Lionel soon became a star athlete. In the fall, he played football, and in the spring and summer, he played baseball and lacrosse. However, he desperately wanted to play hockey, but he could not afford the expensive sport!

At age 16, Lionel finally saved up enough money to buy skates and hockey equipment. He never looked back! He became a member of the Toronto Canoe Club’s all star junior hockey team which won the Canadian national championship. “By 1920, Lionel Conacher was in demand. He had mastered every sport he played. He was the best all-round athlete in Toronto.” His football achievements earned him the nickname of “Big Train” because “he ran through opposition tacklers like a locomotive steaming down the tracks.”

For many years, his desire to play amateur sports prevented Lionel from cashing in on his fame as a professional athlete. In 1923, he was offered a chance to play amateur hockey in Pittsburgh. The offer included an insurance business for him and free tuition to university. Since he had recently married, Lionel needed the financial support.
Legends of Hockey Spotlight:
he Yellowjackets had been so dominant in their league that when the NHL decided to expand further into the United States and awarded a franchise to Pittsburgh, virtually the entire Yellowjackets team signed professional contracts and joined the new NHL franchise, which was called the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lionel signed a three-year contract with the Pirates for a record $7,500 per year on November 11, 1925. When the Pirates made their debut against the Bruins in Boston on November 26, Lionel scored the first goal in franchise history, helping the Pirates win their first game by a 2-1 score. The Pirates, under coach Odie Cleghorn, defied the skeptics and made the playoffs in their first NHL season.

Now that he was a pro, a number of doors opened Conacher's way. In January 1926, he signed a contract to play Triple-A baseball with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, even though he had not played competitive baseball for three years. The Maple Leafs finished first, halting Baltimore's string of seven consecutive titles, then went on to defeat the Louisville Colonels to capture the Little World Series championship. Conacher played but three games at the end of the season, and manager Dan Howley chuckled when he thought about Conacher, saying, "When he's in right field, he ought to wear a mask, but I'll say this -- he can hit some!"

After starting the 1926-27 season with Pittsburgh, just before Christmas, Conacher was traded to another expansion team, the New York Americans. While anchoring the defense with partner 'Bullet' Joe Simpson, Lionel was also hired as an assistant football coach at Rutgers University in New Jersey. That hockey season, he led the Americans in penalty minutes and was second in scoring to Hall of Famer Billy Burch, although the team missed the playoffs.

The frantic pace of life in New York caught up with Lionel. His drinking led his brother Charlie to quip that Lionel seemed "bent on a literal interpretation of the soft drink slogan, 'Drink Canada Dry'." After the team participated in just two playoff games in five seasons, the Americans sold Lionel to the Montreal Maroons prior to the 1930 season.

While playing hockey in the winter, Lionel signed on for a third professional sport, deciding to play professional lacrosse during the summer in the newly-formed International Indoor Professional Lacrosse League. The hockey Maroons had been granted a lacrosse franchise and won the championship in 1931, with Conacher collecting 107 points to win the scoring title. The runner-up had just 56.

Lionel added an extraordinary fourth professional sport to his portfolio when he signed to wrestle professionally during the summer of 1932. "It looks as if Big Mike (promoter Ivan Mickailoff) has a new ace in Conacher," wrote the Toronto Daily Star on May 4, 1932. "To begin with, he is already the athletic symbol of Canada and he needs no ballyhoo. He knew something about wrestling before Mike put him to school and he has the speed, size and fighting heart to make him a great drawing card."

Deciding to wrestle in Toronto that summer instead of playing lacrosse in Montreal, Lionel went undefeated in 26 matches. "Conacher, the greatest all-round athlete ever turned out by Canada, in addition to being one of the finest hockey players in history, also rated high in baseball, rugby, lacrosse, rowing and boxing. In his debut as a matman in Toronto, he threw Carl Pospeshil in straight falls," reported The Ring in July 1932.

Although hockey was certainly not Lionel's best sport, that is not to say he wasn't exceptionally good at it. What he lacked in skating skills was compensated for in shotblocking, positioning and sheer desire. In 1932-33, Lionel enjoyed a career season, accumulating 28 points (7 goals and 21 assists) and was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team.

During that summer, Lionel assisted in forming the first professional football league in Canada. He had not played serious football for nine years, yet Lionel was captain of Toronto's Crosse and Blackwell Chefs, playing games against teams from Buffalo and Rochester, New York. The press insisted that Conacher "must be considered the greatest grid performer of the decade."

Lionel was traded again just prior to the 1933-34, going to the Chicago Black Hawks, his fourth NHL team. Lionel continued his All-Star form, being named to the NHL's First Team and leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup. Again that summer, he played professional football. His Toronto team was now named the Wrigley Aromints and although it was a strong season for both Lionel and the team, at the age of 35, Lionel found the pace of playing aggressive sports winter and summer too much.

The Maroons realized the mistake they had made in letting Lionel leave for Chicago and persuaded the Canadiens to trade for him, seeing as it was near impossible that Chicago would trade him back to the Maroons directly. On October 3, 1934, the Canadiens sent Howie Morenz, Lorne Chabot and Marty Burke to the Black Hawks for Conacher and Leroy Goldsworthy. That same day, the Canadiens traded Lionel to the Maroons. Conacher's presence was measured in the fact that the Montreal Maroons became the Stanley Cup champions of 1934-35, Lionel's second hockey championship in as many years.

In his third season with the Maroons that time, Lionel again had a superb season, collecting 25 points and being selected to the NHL's Second All-Star Team for 1936-37. But Conacher surprised the hockey world, announcing his retirement. After 498 regular season games, scoring 80 goals and 105 assists, Lionel had found the years of grueling athleticism had taken their toll.
Honored Members (quote originally sourced by EagleBelfour):
Conacher was a pioneer on defense. He was famed for going down on one knee and sliding in front of the puck carrier to block shots or take away the pass.
Ex-teammate Johnny O'Flaherty (quote originally sourced by EagleBelfour):
''Conacher blocked more shots than Charlie Gardiner and was the definite difference in the finals.'
Page of Fame (quote originally sourced by EagleBelfour):
As a hockey player, not only was Conacher a solid defenseman, he was also known for his fighting. He was among the penalty-minutes leaders, and even had a fight with his younger brother Charlie, a leading goal scorer with the Maple Leafs.

Last edited by Hedberg: 03-01-2012 at 12:00 AM.
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