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07-15-2007, 05:28 PM
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Johnny Gagnon (right wing)

261 points in 454 NHL games (24 points in 32 NHL playoff games). In all-star game (1937, 1939).

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.

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