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02-08-2012, 05:43 PM
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Clint Benedict

- Member of the HHOF
- Stanley Cup (1920, 1921, 1923, 1926)
- Stanley Cup Finalist (1915, 1928)
- Led his league in GAA 10 times (1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1927)
- Led his league in Shutouts 10 times (1913, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924)
- Led his league in wins 8 times (1915, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924)
- Named #1 all-star goalie for the time period 1893-1926 by hockey historian Charles Coleman
- 3rd in Hart Voting (1925)
- 243-169-6 in NHA/NHL regular season
- 27-23-5 in playoff and cup final games

- Set post season shutout record with 4 and equaled it two years later
- 4th All-time in post season shutouts (14) - Was the all-time leader for 80 years
- Set Playoff Shutout record in one series (finals) with three (stands today)
- Set Playoff Shutout record with consecutive shutouts with three (stands today)
- In 1919-20, his 2.66 goals-against mark was 2.13 goals better than the league average, a mark that will probably never be equaled. That same season he was the ONLY goalie to record a shutout (he had 5)
- In his final Cup winning series with the Maroons he swept the opposing team in four games and was invincible. His GAA. for the SERIES was 0.75. (3 goals in 4 games)

Fun Clint Benedict Facts
- First male goalie to wear a facemask
- Broke the ‘no falling rule’ so many times that the league changed it
- Stuck with ‘thin’ pads even after much larger and thicker pads came into fashion

How many Vezinas do you think Clint Benedict would own if such an award existed during his career? How many All-star teams?

AT WORST, Benedict was the Martin Brodeur of his day - he played forever, often led in GAA, wins, and shutouts, won cups, and had a strong team in front of him. Unlike Brodeur, he led a mediocre team to the cup, had three playoffs with ridiculously low numbers versus the average, and is known as definitively the best goalie of his generation.


First hand accounts of Benedict first:

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, November 13th 1930:

Benedict has been rated by many shrewd observers the greatest goaler hockey has ever known…He first broke into athletics by playing Canada’s national game of lacrosse, at which he was a star, and came into hockey prominence with Ottawa New Edinburghs, an amateur club from which came many brilliant stars for the professional game. Tall, and apparently gawky and awkward, with a shambling style of skating, Benedict possessed an eagle eye and the quickness of a cat.
In the days when goalers were not allowed to drop to the ice to stop shots, Benedict was dubbed “Tumbling Clint” because he insisted on going to his knees to stop shots, and the records of those distant days indicate he was penalized more than once for thus breaking the playing rules. Later, when it became permissible for a goaler to drop to any position he wished to stop a shot, Benedict became almost unbeatable. He and the late Georges Vezina were the admitted kings of the net.
Gerard, captain and star of the Ottawa team was forced to retire the following season due to throat trouble, but Benedict’s great goaltending helped keep the team in the fight to the finish, when they were beaten out by the Canadiens.
Known as one of the game’s greatest “money players,” Benedict has figured in half a score of play-off series…Benedict figured in play-off or world’s series games in eight of nine seasons from 1919-1920 to 1927-1928, his first season with the Maroons being the only one in which he missed one or the other.
Ottawa Citizen, March 30, 1928. Sub-headline: Benedict bombarded. Basically within this game the Maroons got absolutely blitzed the entire time, with Ottawa outshooting them by a considerable margin in each period, however Benedict only conceded one goal to beat his old team:

Boucher went from end to end on a zig-zag expedition only to have Benedict make a marvelous save. Then Clancy rattled one off Benny’s pads and Kilrea before the puck got out of Maroon territory lobbed the puck and it almost connected, Benedict making the stop just at the goal line. At this stage the Maroons appeared to be rattled and Ottawas had command of the play for considerable time…A three man rush carried the puck in near the Montreal net but again Benedict rose to great heights.
A Goalie Before His Time?
Benedict seems to have been one of if not the first true innovator at the position, especially as far as using his hands. His unique style was particularly noted in this account.

Great Goaltenders: Stars of Hockey’s Golden Age by Jim Barber devotes its entire first chapter to Benedict

Not much is known about Clint Benedict’s early life, but theatrical training must have been in their somewhere. Unlike contemporaries such as Georges Vezina or George Hainsworth, Benedict is a bit of an enigma. He may be the most anonymous of the early hockey Hall of Fame goaltenders, even though, by all accounts, he was as talented as any other padded denizen of the goal cage.
Clint Benedict was a clever man, an innovative man, someone who was willing to test the boundaries of a very conservative sporting establishment. Although not one to deliberately seek publicity off the ice, when he entered the icy field of play, he did whatever he thought was best to protect himself and help his team win the game. His name should be ranked beside Jacques Plante or Glenn Hall, but radical ideas or radical personalities were rarely embraced in sports in the early years of the 20th century.
It was at this time – once Benedict became a starter and a recognized star—that keen observers began to take note of his unique style. Benedict was one of the first goaltenders to see the great benefit in using his hands as a defensive weapon. He caught the puck more than his contemporaries. He used his stick hand to intentionally block waist-high shots into the corner or away from the front of the goal. Since goalies at that time did not wear the padded blockers or trappers of today, Benedict’s hands took a perpetual beating. Benedict was often forced to play hurt, as did all goalies of the era…Not only did Benedict routinely display toughness, but he also displayed his creativity and penchant for self-preservation through innovation
Benedict slowly began testing the limits of the NHA rule that maintained that all goaltenders had to remain standing or incur a penalty. Sometimes he would pretend to slip down to one knee at precisely the right moment to make a save. At other times, Benedict would lose his balance and end up on his side or back at an opportune moment. He also began to skate out of the crease to challenge shooters. Somehow, Benedict rarely had penalties called against him, even though he was obviously breaking the rules. He seemed to be able to smooth talk referees.
Modern goaltenders, such as Curtis Joseph or Dominik Hasek, can thank a smart young man from Ottawa for pioneering a style of goaltending that transformed the way hockey was played.
The Senators and Benedict continued their roll into the 1920-1921 season. For the second consecutive year, Benedict was lauded as the best netminder in the NHL, even though Ottawa had dropped to second in the standings.
He certainly impressed a young rookie who joined the Senators before the 1921-1922 season – Francis “King” Clancy.
“He was superb. A lot of people say that Georges Vezina was the greatest goaltender in those early days of hockey, but if you look at the records you’ll see that Clint Benedict…had a better average.”
(paraphrasing the rest of this chapter as opposed to quoting it. Jim Barber’s words, not mine):

By 1924, Benedict’s eye sight possibly was beginning to fail him and he began letting in some longer range goals. So Ottawa, who was also in pretty dire straits monetarily at the time decided to get rid of him (this account mentions nothing of the alcoholism). They sold him and Punch Broadbent to the Maroons for cash. This issue seems to me something that would have been easily correctable in today’s era with medical advancements. This chapter of this book continues to champion Benedict’s playoff exploits (as well as some of the failures such as letting in an easy shot from distance shot by Clancy). Some examples include the 1926 Cup run, where he shut out the Senators to get to the Cup Finals, and then shut out Victoria in 2 out of the 3 games to win the Cup. By 1928 though however, his eye-sight had become a liability. Although he was still one of the best goaltenders in the game, he gave up a few soft goals to the Rangers and although he shut them out in Game 3, he couldn’t stop enough pucks and the Rangers won the Cup. This is where we pick up the story again.

After an abysmal 1928-1929 season for Benedict personally and the Maroons, both bounced back with a quick start to the 1929-1930 season. It was during this campaign at the twilight of his career that Benedict’s innovative spirit came to the fore once again.
In a Maroons-Canadiens game in January 1930, Howie Morenz fired a high shot directly at Benedict. Partially screened by a defenseman and his eyesight growing dimmer, the Maroons netminder totally misread the trajectory of the puck. It nailed him on the nose and cheek. One observer claimed that Benedict’s nose looked like a broken eggshell, as he was carried off the ice by players of both teams.

Six weeks after the Morenz blast, Benedict retook his position in goal for the Maroons. A murmur rippled through the crowd. He was wearing a self fashioned mask that covered a good portion of his face. Clint Benedict had done it again. Not only did he revolutionize the way that goalies played their position, now he was reforming what they wore. The ugly leather device was wholly impractical, as it prevented him from seeing shots at his feet and did little to deaden the impact of shots hitting his face. However, he wore the contraption for five games , winning two, losing two, and tying one – allowing 16 goals in all. His season came to an end when an errant elbow from Howie Morenz nailed Benedict in the throat during the fifth game.
However, there may be a different reason for why Benedict was released. Doug Fischer of the Ottawa Citizen has the tale:

But by mid-March, on the day of the Senators' first playoff game against the Canadiens in Montreal, he spent the afternoon in his hotel room drinking beer, according to management. Not surprisingly, his play wasn't sharp and the Senators lost 3-0. After another game, he defied a curfew imposed by coach Green and headed to a nearby tavern to drink with friends, staying out until after 2:30 a.m. Once the Senators were swept aside in the series, Ottawa's newspapers were filled with angst about the home team's quick demise. But if local sports reporters were aware of Benedict's behaviour, they never wrote about it as a factor in the playoff defeat.
But the claim began to look legitimate a few days later when team president Tommy Gorman, a former Citizen sports editor, announced the Senators had signed celebrated amateur goalie Joe Ironstone to a contract for the next season. At that same meeting with reporters, Gorman defended the playoff performances of his players -- with one exception. Benedict, he said, had seemed to recover from his "illness," but the goalie was "far from himself during the playoffs." Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Gorman and team owner Frank Ahearn agreed it was time to part with Benedict. Not only had his drinking become disruptive, he was always asking for more money. And the team was struggling financially
Among the Senators' claims was an allegation that Benedict suffered an alcohol-induced nervous breakdown shortly before the playoffs and that he had "deliberately rendered himself in such a physical condition as to be unable to carry out his contract," leading to a financial loss for the team. Benedict fought back. While he didn't deny his drinking, he argued the Senators had not been damaged by his behaviour. It was a team game and the entire team lost the series, he said, and he was entitled to his full salary. Both sides soon realized the folly of continuing the row in public. The Senators, in precarious financial shape, had nothing to gain by humiliating a popular player. Benedict likely knew his career in Ottawa was over, but he must also have also realized his chances of landing with another team might be hurt if he was seen as a malcontent. More than that, he had to know the team had lined up some of his teammates, including the great Frank Nighbor, to testify about his drinking. In early October 1924, Benedict dropped his claim for $800 and the Senators agreed to pay him $350. Within weeks, the goalie was sold for cash to the expansion Montreal Maroons along with right-winger Harry (Punch) Broadbent, another hometown favourite whose career was in a tailspin. The trade rejuvenated Benedict. He played six years for Montreal, leading them to a Stanley Cup in their second season -- still a record for an expansion team -- by allowing only three goals in four playoff games against Victoria in the finals. In doing so, he became the first goalie to win the Cup for two teams.
Meaning that while Benedict did have something of a drinking problem, he never wanted to become a malcontent. He was willing to drop his claim to make sure teams knew about this.

Who’s Who in Hockey by Stan Fischler:

While the consensus through the years points to the legendary Georges Vezina as the first great goalkeeper of pro hockey, a bit of further investigation reveals that Clint Benedict had a better overall goals-against average and was also single-handedly responsible for introducing the practice of flopping to the ice to stop a shot. He was also one of the first goalies to use a face mask.
Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL conquered hockey by Morey Holtzman and Joseph Nieforth:

But Ottawa benefitted too, by opening a spot for Benedict the future Hall of Famer who would lead the Senators to three more Stanley Cup championships over the next decade. Along the way, the innovative Benedict changed the face of goaltending by sprawling across the ice to make saves.
In “Let’s Talk Hockey, 50 Wonderful Debates” by Phil Schlenker he places Benedict as the #8 goalie of all time. Here’s what he has to say:

He was one of the first star goalies in NHL history. He played them the majority of his career in the 1920s so people forget about him. I like Benedict more than Georges Vezina and George Hainsworth of his era. His career overlapped both of theirs and it was Benedict who led the NHL in GAA those years.
Benedict was a winner. He was a competitor.
So let’s look at his credentials. He’s a multiple Cup winner. He led the league in several stats at a time when Vezina and Hainsworth were around. He’s an innovator in his own right and he’s the best goalie of his era. Goalies weren’t given any Vezina trophy awards at the time but if they had been, Benedict would have been first in line. Also keep in mind he was still a very good goalie after his trade to the Montreal Maroons in 1924, even though he was 32.
And of course, Doug Fischer at the end of somewhat damaging article mentions just how good Benedict actually was considered, and how the HHOF non-election for 20 years was an oversight due to his actions:

Hockey historians tend to agree that Benedict, along with Georges Vézina and George Hainsworth, were among hockey's first great goalies. Some even argue that had Vézina not died tragically from tuberculosis at age 39, the trophy for the NHL's top goaltender might just as easily have been named after Benedict. As it turned out, Benedict was not elected to the hall of fame until 1965, a lengthy oversight some historians believe might be linked to the reputation as a drinker he earned as an Ottawa Senator in 1924.


In conclusion, I would say that Benedict was one of if not the greatest innovator of the goalie position, which absolutely counts for something here. And even if you don’t think so, it seems to me that he was considered at least on par with Vezina, probably better due to statistics and especially longevity. If you throw that in along with his enormous playoff reputation of being a money goaltender, Benedict is probably right around that #8 of all time range. I’ll leave TDMM to talk about Vezina, but I do think there has been some underrating of him around these parts as well having researched this and coming across his name as many times as I have.
Also, a shout out to seventieslord for the first part of this bio up until the part that says quotes.

Last edited by vecens24: 02-08-2012 at 06:03 PM.
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