Alec Connell

  (Redirected from Alex Connell)

Alexander "The Ottawa Fireman" Connell[2] (February 8, 1902[b] — May 10, 1958) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played for the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Falcons, New York Americans and Montreal Maroons teams in the National Hockey League. He is widely believed to be one of the greatest hockey goaltenders of all time.[3][4]

Alec Connell
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1958
Alec Connell - Ottawa.jpg
Born (1902-02-08)February 8, 1902
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Died May 10, 1958(1958-05-10) (aged 56)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada[1]
Height 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Weight 150 lb (68 kg; 10 st 10 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Right[a]
Played for Ottawa Senators
Detroit Falcons
New York Americans
Montreal Maroons
Playing career 1924–1937

Amateur careerEdit

While in the military in the First World War and stationed in Kingston, Ontario, Connell was recruited to play for the junior league Kingston Frontenacs in 1917. Purportedly then unable to skate, he consequently played two seasons as the backup goaltender for the team.[5]

Other than hockey, Connell starred in several sports. He was a catcher in the Interprovincial League, played lacrosse for the Ottawa team that won the Canadian championship in the 1920s, and played football with St. Brigid's of the senior-level Ottawa City Hockey League.

By then an accomplished goaltender, Connell played five seasons in the OCHL, principally for the St. Brigid's hockey team, upon being recruited by future Senator and Hall of Famer King Clancy.[6]

NHL careerEdit

1920sEdit

Connell joined the Ottawa Senators for the 1924–25 season after the Senators dealt aging star goaltender Clint Benedict to the expansion Maroons. He had an immediate impact with the Senators, guiding them to a third-place finish with a league-leading seven shutouts in 30 games, breaking the NHL record.[7][8] During that season, Connell was involved in the first 0–0 tie in NHL history, on December 14 against the Hamilton Tigers, with Jake Forbes as the opposing goalie.[9]

The 1926 season saw Connell's definite ascension to stardom, as he more than doubled his NHL record total of shutouts to 15, and set a new mark for the lowest goals-against average in league history with 1.12.[10]

In 1927 he was the first goalie to record a 30–win season.[11] In the playoffs, Connell allowed only four goals in six games, as the Senators beat the Boston Bruins in the finals. It was the Senators' eleventh and final Stanley Cup championship.[12]

In the 1927–28 season he set the NHL record—unbroken as of 2022—for the longest shutout streak at 461:29, by recording seven consecutive shutouts and another 41 minutes in the eighth game, from January 31 to February 22, 1928.[13][14] During the Stanley Cup Finals that season between the Montreal Maroons and the New York Rangers—at which Connell was a spectator—Rangers' goalie Lorne Chabot was injured, and New York coach Lester Patrick petitioned for Connell to take his place.[15] The Montreal coach refused, and Patrick took the net himself for one of the most famous incidents in league history.[16]

1930sEdit

As a small-market team and badly affected by the Great Depression, the Ottawa team fell into decline thereafter, and while the team was on hiatus for the 1932 season, Connell played for the Detroit Falcons under loan. An unusual incident took place during the season in a game against the New York Americans, owned by notorious bootlegger "Big Bill" Dwyer. After a disputed call, Connell clashed with a goal judge who was reputed to be a hit man for Dwyer's mob, and required police protection after the game to leave the arena.[17]

He returned to the Senators for 1932–33 season, and was named team captain. However, he was injured in a game on December 6, 1932, against the Chicago Black Hawks, and only played sporadically thereafter, spelled by Bill Beveridge.[18] He was pulled from a December 26 game against the Rangers after allowing four goals, and was incensed enough to announce his retirement, reportedly telling coach Cy Denneny, "Your move was the height of stupidity."[19]

After fully recovering from his injuries in January 1934, the Montreal Maroons reportedly were interested in acquiring Connell's rights, but only on a loan basis. The financially-strapped Senators demanded a straight cash deal only, and rejected the Maroons' offer.[20]

Connell was injured for most of the 1934 season and replaced in net for the Senators by Beveridge. On March 15, 1934, the Senators were playing the New York Americans, when Roy Worters, the Amerks' goaltender, was injured in the first period and could not continue. Ottawa loaned Connell, who was available, to New York for the remainder of the game, and he led the Amerks to a 3–2 win, being named the star of the game. Ironically, it was the last home game in the Senators' forty-year history, as the team would be relocated to St. Louis the following year.[21]

Connell's rights being traded by the Senators for Glenn Brydson, he returned out of semi-retirement to play for the Montreal Maroons in 1935, at the behest of new Maroons' coach Tommy Gorman, who had won the Cup with Chicago the previous season.[22] Then 33 years old, he rebounded to his old form, leading the NHL in shutouts for the fourth time and finishing second behind Chicago's Lorne Chabot for the Vezina Trophy as leading goaltender.[23] During that season, Connell allowed the first penalty shot goal in league history—it was newly instituted in that season—to Ralph Bowman of St. Louis on November 13.[24]

Connell went undefeated in the 1935 playoffs for the Maroons to lead them to the Stanley Cup, allowing only four goals in the Cup finals.[25] Gorman called his play the "greatest goalkeeping performance in the history of hockey."[26]

As he was unable to gain a leave of absence from his job as Secretary of the Ottawa Fire Department[27]—throughout his playing career, Connell held offseason administrative positions for the Ottawa Fire Department[c]—he retired again, but returned for the 1936–37 NHL season with the Maroons, to platoon with Beveridge. Fading in form, he played his last game on January 16, 1937.

Awards and achievementsEdit

At the time of his retirement, Connell was second in NHL career shutouts, and nearly ninety years later, is still in sixth place, with 81.[28] He is the only goaltender in league history to record 15 or more shutouts in two separate seasons.[29]

Connell's 1.91 career goals against average (GAA) is the lowest for any goaltender in the history of the National Hockey League, a record he has held for over ninety years.[30] He is also the career leader for playoff goals-against average for goalies playing over twenty games.[31]

Connell was also one of the first goaltenders to transition in 1927 from the cricket-style pads of the early days of hockey to the wider modern-style leather-and-kapok pads, pioneered by Hamilton harnessmaker Pop Kenesky.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, but died before his formal induction after a lengthy illness on May 10, 1958. Upon his death, former teammate King Clancy said, "To me, Alec was a grand competitor, a great fellow and a great friend -- one of the outstanding goalies of his time."[32]

The Society for International Hockey Research, in compiling a "retroactive" Conn Smythe Trophy (most valuable player in the playoffs) list, deemed that Connell would have won in 1927 had the trophy been awarded back then. Charles Coleman, in Trail of the Stanley Cup, believed that Connell would have won the Vezina Trophy in 1926, in like fashion.[33]

Career statisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
1917–18 Kingston Frontenacs OHA-Jr. 4 4 0 0 240 11 0 2.75 4 3 1 0 240 18 0 4.50
1918–19 Kingston Frontenacs OHA-Jr. 5 3 2 0 305 24 0 4.72 4 0 1 3 240 20 0 5.00
1919–20 Ottawa Cliffsides OCHL 7 4 3 0 430 8 2 1.12
1920–21 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 11 8 2 1 660 12 2 1.09 8 6 1 1 520 14 1 1.62
1921–22 Ottawa Gunners OCHL 14 10 3 1 860 18 5 1.26 6 5 1 0 360 17 0 2.83
1922–23 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 17 8 8 1 1090 26 4 1.43
1923–24 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 12 8 4 0 740 14 5 1.14
1924–25 Ottawa Senators NHL 30 17 12 1 1852 66 7 2.14
1925–26 Ottawa Senators NHL 36 24 8 4 2251 42 15 1.12 2 0 1 1 120 2 0 1.00
1926–27 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 30 10 4 2782 69 13 1.49 6 3 0 3 400 4 2 0.60
1927–28 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 20 14 10 2760 57 15 1.24 2 0 2 0 120 3 0 1.50
1928–29 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 14 17 13 2820 67 7 1.43
1929–30 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 21 15 8 2780 118 3 2.55 2 0 1 1 120 6 0 3.00
1930–31 Ottawa Senators NHL 36 10 22 4 2190 110 3 3.01
1931–32 Detroit Falcons NHL 48 18 20 10 3050 108 6 2.12 2 0 1 1 120 3 0 1.50
1932–33 Ottawa Senators NHL 15 4 8 2 845 36 1 2.56
1933–34 New York Americans NHL 1 1 0 0 40 2 0 3.00
1934–35 Montreal Maroons NHL 48 24 19 5 2970 92 9 1.86 7 5 0 2 429 8 2 1.12
1936–37 Montreal Maroons NHL 27 10 11 6 1710 63 2 2.21
NHL totals 417 193 156 67 26,050 830 81 1.91 21 8 5 8 1309 26 4 1.19

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Most sources state that he caught right.
  2. ^ Most sources claim 1902 for Connell's birthdate, but some claim 1900, and the 1901 Canadian census lists him.
  3. ^ It is erroneously reported in a number of sources that Connell was a firefighter.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Alec Connell Dies" The Miami News, May 11, 1958.
  2. ^ "Alex Connell: Biography". hhof.com. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  3. ^ Campbell, Ken (November 9, 2018). "Top 100 Goalies: No. 31 — Alec Connell". thehockeynews.com. The Hockey News. Retrieved March 13, 2022. "There are people who will tell you he was the greatest goalie of all-time," said hockey historian Eric Zweig.
  4. ^ McFarlane, Brian (1969). 50 Years of Hockey. Winnipeg, MB: Greywood Publishing Ltd. p. 29.
  5. ^ "Alex Connell: Biography". hhof.com. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  6. ^ "Alex Connell: Biography". hhof.com. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  7. ^ Coleman, Charles (1964). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol I). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. p. 472. ISBN 0-8403-2941-5.
  8. ^ "NHL Progressive Leaders and Records for Shutouts". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  9. ^ King, Tom (2010). The Legendary Game - Ultimate Hockey Trivia. Trafford Publishing. p. 40.
  10. ^ "NHL Progressive Leaders and Records for Goals Against Average". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  11. ^ "NHL Yearly Top 10 Leaders and Records for Wins". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  12. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 28.
  13. ^ "Alex Connell: Biography". hhof.com. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  14. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 40.
  15. ^ McFarlane, Brian (1969). 50 Years of Hockey. Winnipeg, MB: Greywood Publishing Ltd. p. 34.
  16. ^ "Alec 'The Ottawa Fireman' Connell". hockeygoalies.org. The Goaltender Home Page. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  17. ^ Fischler, Stan (2015). The Handy Hockey Answer Book. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 9781578595686.
  18. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 172.
  19. ^ Campbell, Ken (November 9, 2018). "Top 100 Goalies: No. 31 — Alec Connell". thehockeynews.com. The Hockey News. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  20. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 175.
  21. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 211.
  22. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 232.
  23. ^ "NHL Progressive Leaders and Records for Shutouts". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  24. ^ "Like A Bullet". Montreal Gazette. Montreal, PQ. November 14, 1934.
  25. ^ McFarlane, Brian (1969). 50 Years of Hockey. Winnipeg, MB: Greywood Publishing Ltd. p. 49.
  26. ^ "Alex Connell: Biography". hhof.com. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  27. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 258.
  28. ^ "NHL & WHA Career Leaders and Records for Shutouts". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  29. ^ "Alec Connell: #1". NHL.com. National Hockey League. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  30. ^ "NHL Progressive Leaders and Records for Goals Against Average". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  31. ^ "NHL & WHA Career Playoff Leaders and Records for Goals Against Average". hockey-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  32. ^ "Tribute Paid to Puck Great: Connell dies in Ottawa". The Leader-Post. Regina, SK. 12 May 1958. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  33. ^ Coleman, Charles (1969). Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol II). Sherbrooke, PQ: Progressive Publications. p. 738.

External linksEdit