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08-13-2012, 03:44 PM
Student Of The Game
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Johnny Gagnon, RW

- 5'5", 140 lbs
- Stanley Cup (1931)
- Retro Conn Smythe (1931)
- 1st in Playoff Goals, 2nd in Points (1931)
- Placed 6th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 25th, 26th in points (bolded without Morenz)
- Best points percentages: 80, 80, 77, 74, 60, 52 (bolded without Morenz)
- Led his team in scoring (1937)
- Played in NHL All-star game (1937, 1939)

Originally Posted by
Seldom has there been a more colourful character gracing the ice lanes of NHL arenas than this 5'5" speedster. Born on August 6, 1905, Gagnon was one of eleven children brought up in conditions bordering on poverty. Neither of his parents was enthused about his passion for hockey, least of all his father, who used to break his sticks whenever he caught him playing. So, when he was 18, he left home, traveled to Three Rivers on the train, and tried out for the Eastern League's Renards. He was placed on a Bank League squad to improve his game. He so impressed the team's management in an exhibition game that he was promoted to the Senior "A" club the next campaign. There he pulled down the huge salary of $10 a week, $8 of which went for room and board.

Following his second season at Trois-Rivieres, he was home to attend the funeral of another Chicoutimi native, Georges Vezina. Leo Dandurand, President of les Canadiens was in attendance and approached Gagnon about hockey. He acknowledged his obvious abilities but reckoned that he was too small for the NHL. The "Black Cat" challenged him to weigh him and judge for himself. Filling his pockets with rocks, he tipped the scales at 150 lbs., at least 10 lbs. more than his actual weight. He was invited to Montreal's training camp but was farmed out to Quebec City where he spent two seasons. When his team was eliminated from the post season, he was invited to play an exhibition match in Providence for the tidy sum of $100. Because of his performance that night, the Rhode Island team arranged for the fleet-footed right winger to be loaned to the Reds for the next three years. But, when the 1930-31 season got under way, he was sporting the livery of the Flying Frenchmen.

Gagnon was fortunate enough to have the equally petit, but elusive, Aurel Joliat, and the great Howie Morenz, as his linemates. During the Stanley Cup finals of that initial campaign his father passed away. Nevertheless, after the internment he went directly to Montreal to play against Chicago in the best-of-five affair. He was extremely tired but tallied two markers and assisted on a third to win the game and tie the series at two games each. He was the hero in the deciding match, notching both markers in a 2-0 championship victory. Apart from half a season with the Bruins, and an equal amount of time with the New York Americans in his final year, the little pepper-pot stuck with the Canadiens.

He would not have been exiled to Beantown in 1935 had he been able to get along with his coach, Newsy Lalonde. Johnny always felt the former superstar picked on him, and they constantly clashed, with Gagnon losing his temper and refusing to cooperate. But when Montreal fired Lalonde, the kid from Chicoutimi was back where he belonged in the Canadiens' fold.

He concluded his career in the world's premier circuit even before the season ended in 1939-40. Because he hadn't been with the Americans the full season, Red Dutton assured him he was not going to get a full share of playoff loot. He played one game of the post season against Detroit, packed his bags, went home to Montreal, and never wore an NHL sweater again. He finished his career with Providence Reds, the team for which he had played before reaching the top. He coached one year, then scouted 13 years for the same organization, before giving the Rangers 14 years in the same capacity.
Originally Posted by
Johnny Gagnon was the fastest thing on skates in his hometown of Chicoutimi, Quebec. His dazzling performances as an amateur thrilled local crowds and news of his exciting play reached Montreal General Manager Leo Dandurand, who first laid eyes on Gagnon when he attended Georges Vézina’s funeral in the spring of 1926.

...Assigned veterans Aurčle Joliat and Howie Morenz as linemates, Gagnon found himself on the NHL’s top line and hit the ground running, scoring 18 goals in his rookie year. When the playoffs came, he lifted his game to another level. Leading all NHLers with six postseason markers, Gagnon capped his year by scoring both goals in the 2-0 final game against Chicago, making the 1930-31 Canadiens the first Habs squad to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.

Smart, fast and shifty, Gagnon became known as “Black Cat” for his lightning-fast reflexes, as he thrilled Montreal fans for the first years of his career. His speed and playmaking kept his linemates on the score sheet as he piled up the assists. Playing at a time when assists were even harder to come by than goals, Gagnon piled up 63 helpers in his first four years to go along with his 58 goals.

Traded to Boston following the 1933-34 season, Gagnon’s stay in Beantown was not a long one. He was reacquired by Montreal halfway through the next season and resumed his slot on the Habs’ first line. Morenz, who had been traded away the same summer as Gagnon, returned to the fold three years later and was reunited with his old linemates.

A rejuvenated Gagnon scored 20 goals, a career high, as he stepped up when Morenz suffered his career-ending broken leg. Traded a second time in 1939-40, this time to the New York Americans, he ended his NHL career at the end of the season.
Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
He joined the Montreal Canadiens in 1930, just as the Habs were becoming a true force in hockey. Gagnon was teamed with two of hockey's first legitimate superstars - Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat - to form one of the greatest lines in hockey history.

The trio clicked immediately. In his rookie season Gagnon scored 18 goals in 41 games, plus a league leading 6 goals in 10 playoff contests. Gagnon's heroics helped the Canadiens capture the Stanley Cup with successive 5 game series victories over Boston and Chicago. That proved to be the only Cup team Gagnon would play on.

...With his slick-backed black hair and his piercing eyes, he was astutely nicknamed "Black Cat." A small player even in his era, Gagnon played like a cat too - already to pounce on a scoring opportunity. He was as fast as a cheetah as well. A brilliant stickhandler, Gagnon also had to play with a bit of an edge because of his lack of size.
Originally Posted by The Trail Of the Stanley Cup, Vol. 2
...Johnny had another good year as a regular with Morenz and Joliat and then the Canadiens slumped. Dandurand was not happy with his first line and it appeared that Joliat and Gagnon in particular were not performing to the best of their ability. The following year he played with Pit Lepine and Armand Mondou and then was traded to Boston. This deal was not popular with the fans, and Dandurand hurriedly got him back. He then played one year with Lepine and Joliat... Morenz returned in 1937 and Gagnon, reunited with him and Joliat, had his best year, leading the team in scoring... after the death of Morenz, The Black Cat had two more good seasons, playing with Toe Blake and Paul Haynes.
Note Gagnon's really "interesting" take on Morenz.

Originally Posted by Those Were the Days
"I'll never forget when I told my mother, "Ma, someday I'll be playing for the Montreal Canadiens. She wasn't very impressed. "Leave me alone. You've been telling me that too many times."

... By the time I arrived I was very tired (from my father's funeral). Chicago scored two quick goals in that fourth game and we were in trouble. The series was a best-of-five playoff so if we lost we would be eliminated. Then, I got hot and scored twice to tie the game. Next, I gave Pit Lepine a perfect pass and he scored to put us ahead and we would up beating Chicago 4-2 to tie the series, and forcing a 5th game... Aurel Joliat fed me a perfect pass to put me in the clear; I took my time and put it in the net, giving us a 1-0 lead. With two minutes left in the 3rd period I scored again, and we won the game and the championship. And to think my father never wanted me to be a hockey player and my mother always thought I was foolish...

Sticking with the club was no problem... my style was speed, stickhandling and shooting, and I had to have a little guts to go with all that too. Someone as little as I was had to have guts; otherwise, you'd get run out of the league... at first I had a little trouble playing with Howie. He wasn't too good a playmaker so I'd play more with Aurel. He always used to get the puck and pass it to me, and I'd pass it to him. We had pretty much the same stickhandling style and I always knew what kind of moves he'd make. For instance, as soon as he'd hit the blueline he'd throw me a pass behind his back...

The best player? It wasn't Morenz. I would say Boucher, the Cooks, Charlie Conacher and Aurel. Howie wasn't the best, but he was the fastest and the biggest star. I wasn't in that class.

Newsy was a good hockey player but as a coach he was something else. He never patted me on the back, and in my case that was bad because I was the kind of guy who would stop playing if you didn't encourage me or if you hollered at me. But I got along pretty well with the other players.

...we gave the writers plenty to write about. In my case it was partly because I was such a little guy playing with the big ones and consequently I got hit a lot. Lots of times I'd come to the bench with my mouth bleeding and my teeth loose because somebody put an elbow in my face. There was nothing I could do about it though, because if I wanted to stay in the NHL I had to forget the pain.

One guy who really gave me trouble was Busher Jackson of the Leafs. We were playing them one night and Conn Smythe figured he could beat us by having the big guys on Toronto continually run the little guys on our team. Before the game, he told them, "I don't care about the puck, you hit Morenz, you hit Joliat, you Jackson, you get Gagnon." Well, that game started and those guys from Toronto didn't touch the puck at all. The second we went after the puck, we got hit. After a period and a half Jackson had knocked me down 15 times. Finally I said, "What's the matter with you guys tonight?" He looked at me and said "Sorry Johnny, that's orders from Connie Smythe." I answered, "Busher, how long are these orders gonna last? I'm getting tired." He started to laugh, he enjoyed that.

Eddie Shore of the Bruins was worse; he was sneaky. In those days there was one official and naturally he couldn't see everything. So when he wasn't looking Shore would give it to me. The first time I played against him, he knocked me cold. When I got up, he said, "Kid, next time you keep your head up." That turned out to be good advice and I got my head up after that.

...To me, the best goaltender I ever saw was Charlie Gardiner. he was a standup goalie with a good pair of hands; many thought he was the game's greatest. Somehow, though, I had his number. I'd score on him a lot but he'd still laugh; he was that kind of guy. One time I said to him, "You shouldn't be smiling at me, you should be mad." He shrugged, "What are you gonna go? You fool me a lot and that's all there is to it."
Originally Posted by Who's Who In Hockey
Johnny Gagnon was nicknamed "The Black Cat" because of his swarthy complexion and jet-black hair, which always appeared to be pasted down with a glue-like pomade, as well as his quick, darting moves and natural puck sense.
Gagnon played some of his best hockey with Morenz, but Morenz also played his best hockey with Gagnon:

Originally Posted by Howie Morenz: Hockey's First Superstar
In that month (following being reunited), Joliat, Morenz and Gagnon were terrors. "You know," said Howie, "there was something missing inside when I was away the last two seasons. I got it back again when I came back with the Canadiens. I'm going the limit now. I'm giving the fans everything I've got."
Originally Posted by Calgary Herald, October 26, 1936
It was just like old times as Howie pivoted between Joliat and Gagnon. One of the cleverest attacking lines ever assembled. Morenz can't figure out what held him back during the last couple of years - but he's destined to prove "I have an awful lot of hockey in me yet"
The following quote makes it even more interesting that Gagnon didn't think Morenz was the best:

Originally Posted by Howie Morenz: Hockey's First Superstar
"I was with my wife at home when the phone rang, telling me of his death. I just broke down and cried like a kid, and I'm not ashamed to say so because Howie was my best friend."
Originally Posted by The Official NHL 75th Anniversary Commemorative Book
Morenz' Canadiens were the first ones to be called the Flying Frenchmen. They were all speedy, Pit Lepine, Wildor Larochelle, Black Cat Gagnon, and of course... Joliat.
Gagnon was not always a shotgun-rider and was occasionally targeted by the opposition:

Originally Posted by Detroit Red Wings Greatest Moments and Players
...that was when Montreal had its terrific line of Morenz, Joliat and Gagnon. Gagnon was really hot at the time, and was wearing #14, so Jacobson announced, "$14 for every time Gagnon is knocked down!" Of course, everyone on the team liked that, especially our big defenseman, Bucko McDonald, who really knew how to bodycheck. Well, Bucko really did a job on the Black Cat that night, and when the game was over he came tromping into the dressing room to Jacobson, who said, "Bucko, I think you got him four times!" Bucko roared so loud he nearly blew Harry out the door. "Hell, I got him five times if I got him once!" So Jacobson coughed over $70...
This is a non-hockey-related book, but the author retells a meeting with an old-timer who says Gagnon used to be his hero:

Originally Posted by Return Of the Sphynx
"Remember how Johnny Gagnon would cut through a defense and when they would close in on him he could stand on his points and let them slide past?
Originally Posted by Calgary Herald, January 4th, 1940
One of hockey's picture skaters, Gagnon has never been a prolific scorer... his great individual play, however, featured by spectacular rink-length solo rushes, have made him a favourite with the fans.

Last edited by seventieslord: 08-15-2012 at 11:51 PM.
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