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11-11-2012, 10:05 PM
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Vezina and Benedict 2 - Legacies

I'm focusing on opinions of people through the early 1950s - what people who saw them play thought about them after their careers.

The belief that Vezina was the best of his era seems fairly widespread

Originally Posted by Jack Adam
When you talk about goaltenders, you have to start with Georges Vezina. By an almost unanimous vote of hockey people, he was the greatest the game has ever had. I remember him fairly well.

In 1918 when I broke into the National League with Toronto, Vezina was with Les Canadians. He was near the end of his career, but was still a marvel in the nets, as I found out the first time I skated in on him.

I thought I had him beat, I thought I had a cinch goal, but he had figured exactly what I was going to do, and brushed aside the shot, as easily as you'd strike a match.
Originally Posted by Jack Adams
Vezina was a big fellow... I'd say he was about five feet 11 inches tall, without his skates on and he looked even taller in uniform because he always wore a red and blue toque. He had big hands and he used an exceptionally long stick.
He played a stand-up game, sliding from post to post, making save that seemed impossible by outguessing the puck carriers.

That was his strong point. Like all great goalers, he studied the styles of every forward in the league. He could sense what one of them would do under a given set of circumstances and was usually prepared. He guess wrong sometimes, of course, but not often.
I played against Vezina for three or four years. Many times he broke my heart by turning back what looked like a certain score. He was a real master. He had perfect co-ordination and an uncanny instinct.
Jack Adams then went on to say that due to changes in the nature of the position, Vezina might not actually be any more effective than the best recent goalies (Charlie Gardiner, John Ross Roach, and Tiny Thompson were named). Marty Barry was present for the interview and this is his reaction:

Adams was now striking at one of the legends of hockey. Marty Barry, sitting on a rubber table next to the Honey Walker, was startled. Never before had he heard anyone question Vezina's superiority. He was too surprised to interrupt and Adams went on (about the changes in the game making a goalie's job harder since Vezina's time)
"I see what you mean," said Barry, only half convinced.
The Sunday Sun, Feb 1, 1936

I think it's clear that rightly or wrongly by 1936 - 10 years after Vezina's death - "conventional wisdom" considered him the best goalie of the era - better than Clint Benedict, Hugh Lehman, or Hap Holmes.

Later, in 1953:

Jack Adams said he thought that the only old-timer who might measure up to the to the modern goalers was the immortal Georges Vezina himself.
But Vezina played in the days of parallel passing and kitty-bar-the-door when a lot of shots were fired from far out. We doubt if he would be as successful today unless he changed his style. But we think that Vezina, Clint Benedict, George Haimsworth, Roy Worters, and other great goalers of the past would be about to adapt to the changing conditions. They were only as good as they had to be.
Montreal Gazette, Mar 9, 1953

There are some who would picked Benedict, however

The boys were talking about goaltending greats in the aftergame discussion at Cornell last night and Jim McCafffrey was firm in his stand that Benedict was tops.... JP is willing to settle for Frank Brimsek among the present-day puck stoppers and calls Jack Crawford the best defenseman of all...
Ottawa Cititzen, March 10, 1943

In 1948, Kenny McKenize, hockey journalist and co-founder of The Hockey News called Benedict the greatest goaltender of all-time. He recalled a save Benedict made on Duke Keats that made Keats "so mad that he couldn't speak for 2 hours after the game."

Vancouver Sun, Oct 13, 1948

Did Benedict's Innovative Style Cause him to be Underrated by many who watched him play?

Nobody was a more accomplished faker than Clint Benedict. When Benedict needed to drop to ice level to make a save, he simply improvised a fall and then would innocently tell the official, "Sorry, I slipped." Fans of opposing teams rightfully grew disgusted with the prostrate Benedict and his attempts to circumvent the rules. "Bring your bed, Benny." was commonly heard in arenas wherever he played.
The Record, Kitchener-Ont, Oct 12, 1995

Hard numbers tell only so much of his story, however. Where Vézina played a conventional stand-up style that left his pads dry at game's end, Benedict was the Dominik Hasek of his time, flopping in his crease like a fish out of water.
Every modern-day goaltender owes a little of their butterfly or pad-stacking technique to Benedict, whose dropping to the ice bullied the new-born NHL to introduce a rule in 1918 allowing a goaler to leave his skates.
Indeed, he had been nicknamed "Praying Benny" by sarcastic Toronto fans for his habit of falling to his knees, allegedly to thank the Lord during a scramble or after a save.
"If you did it a little bit sneaky and made it look accidental,you could fall on the puck without being penalized," Benedict said in 1964.
Montreal Gazette, June 2, 2008

It was only remembered by a few hard-case hockey fans that Benedict, who died in a hospital at the age of 82, helped to literally change the face of modern hockey.

Despite all the credit given to Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens for bringing the face mask to hockey goaltending in the 1960s, it was in fact Benedict who wore the first mask seen in the National Hockey League - in 1922.

He was also among the goalies who eventually forced NHL governors to allow them to drop to the ice to stop a shot - then forbidden by the rules.

"You had to be sneaky," Benedict once recalled. "You'd make a move, fake losing your balance or footing and put the officials on the spot - did I fall or did I intentionally go down?"

"It was fun because you were playing games with the officials."

The mask was more shortlived... "I wore it the next game and we lost. I blamed the mask and threw it away."
The Leader Post, Nov 22, 1976

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