Tiny Thompson

Cecil Ralph "Tiny" Thompson (May 31, 1903 – February 9, 1981) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender. He played 12 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL), first for the Boston Bruins, and later for the Detroit Red Wings. A four-time Vezina Trophy winner, Thompson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. He was a member of one Stanley Cup-winning team, as a rookie in the 1928–29 season with the Boston Bruins. At the start of the 1938–39 season, after ten full seasons with Boston, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, where he completed the season, and played another full one before retiring. During his NHL career, he recorded 81 shutouts, the sixth-highest of any goaltender. After retiring from playing, he coached lower-league teams before becoming a noted professional scout. Thompson helped popularize the technique of the "glove save" which was catching the puck with his hands as a method of making a save. A competent puckhandler, he was the first goaltender in the NHL to record an assist in 1936 by passing the puck with his stick to a fellow player.

Tiny Thompson
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1959
Tiny Thompson.jpg
Thompson with the Boston Bruins in the 1930s
Born (1903-05-31)May 31, 1903
Sandon, British Columbia, Canada
Died February 9, 1981(1981-02-09) (aged 77)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 160 lb (73 kg; 11 st 6 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for Boston Bruins
Detroit Red Wings
Playing career 1928–1941

Early lifeEdit

Thompson was born in the mining community of Sandon, BC. He grew up in Calgary, Alberta, where his brother, Paul—who also became a professional ice hockey player—was born in 1906.[1] As a child, he enjoyed playing baseball and ice hockey.[1] Initially, Thompson was not a goaltender, though he agreed to play the position to get into games.[2] As a teenager playing competitive ice hockey, he acquired the nickname "Tiny" as a joke, as he was the tallest player on the team, standing 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m); the nickname stuck with him for the rest of his career.[3]

Thompson began his junior career playing for the Calgary Monarchs in 1919 at the age of 16. He competed for the Memorial Cup, awarded to the Canadian junior hockey champions that year, playing in two games and surrendering 11 goals, a respectable amount in that era. After spending the 1920–21 season playing for Calgary Alberta Grain, Thompson played three seasons in Bellevue, Alberta. In the 1924–25 season, he joined the Duluth Hornets, playing 40 games, recording a shutout in 11 of them.[4] The following season, Thompson joined the Minneapolis Millers of the American Hockey Association (AHA). In his three seasons with the Millers, he appeared in 118 games, recording 33 shutouts with a 1.37 goals against average (average of goals surrendered in a span of sixty minutes).[4][5]

NHL careerEdit

Boston BruinsEdit

Thompson began his National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Boston Bruins in the 1928–29 season after his contract was purchased by Boston manager Art Ross. Despite having never seen Thompson play, Ross had heard about Thompson's good reputation in Minnesota.[3] In his first game, he posted a shutout, becoming the only Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender to accomplish this feat.[6] In his first season, he appeared in all 44 of the Bruins' games, posting 12 shutouts and a 1.15 goals-against average, the second-lowest goals-against average in NHL history to date, second to George Hainsworth's 0.98 GAA. Hainsworth set his record that same season.[4] Placing first in the American Division, the Bruins had a perfect record in the playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup victory, defeating the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers.[7] Thompson recorded three shutouts in the five playoff games, and allowed only three goals.[4]

The following season, Thompson again appeared in all of the Bruins' 44 games, posting three shutouts and a 2.19 goals-against average. The league changed its rules on forward passing, which resulted in a sharp increase in goalscoring.[4] Boston won all but six games, finishing with a 38–5–1 record, the best winning percentage for any team in a season.[8] Surrendering only 98 goals, Thompson bested Chicago goaltender Charlie Gardiner to win the first of his four Vezina Trophies.[9] The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the league's top goaltender, which was determined prior to the 1981–82 season by number of goals surrendered by goaltenders who had played a minimum number of games.[10] In the playoffs, however, they suffered their first two-game losing streak, as they were swept 2–0 by the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals.[11] Earlier in the playoffs, Thompson's winning streak of seven playoff games was snapped; it remains, as of 2014, the longest playoff winning streak to start a career.[12]

In the 1930–31 season, he played all 44 games again,[4] and was named to the Second All-Star team.[13] In the playoffs, Boston lost the semifinals to the Montreal Canadiens; during game two of the series Thompson became the first goaltender to be pulled for a sixth attacker at the end of a game to give his team a higher chance to score a goal. Even though Boston still lost, coach Art Ross' maneuver was described as "amazing" the following day, and this technique, known as "open net", caught on with the rest of the league.[14]

The Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in Thompson's career in the 1931–32 season. He won only 13 games while appearing in 43 out of Boston's 48 games, which was the only time he missed games as a member of the Bruins.[4][8] The next season, Boston made the playoffs once more, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The final game of the playoff series was described as Thompson's most memorable.[15] During that game, Toronto and Boston were tied after regulation time and over 100 minutes of overtime proceeded, with Thompson dueling Toronto's goaltender Lorne Chabot. After the end of the fifth overtime period, managers Conn Smythe of the Maple Leafs and Art Ross of the Bruins asked league president Frank Calder to suspend the game, but Calder refused. Early in the sixth overtime period, a pass from Boston defenseman Eddie Shore was intercepted, and Ken Doraty skated in on a breakaway, cleanly beating Thompson at 4:46 of the period. The losing goaltender in the second-longest NHL game, Thompson received a standing ovation from fans at the Maple Leaf Gardens.[15] Thompson finished the playoff series with 1.23 goals-against average, despite a losing record.[4]

Thompson became the second goaltender to win his second Vezina Trophy in 1932–33 since its inception in the 1926–27 season,[16] as he recorded 11 shutouts and a 1.76 goals-against average.[10] After missing the playoffs in the 1933–34 season, they rebounded to first place in the American Division the following season,[17] as Thompson was named to the Second All-Star team for the second time.[13] In the playoffs, the Bruins won only one of their four games; their only win was on the strength of Thompson's shutout, who finished the playoffs with a 1.53 goals-against average.[4]

In the 1935–36 NHL season, Thompson recorded 10 shutouts, but Boston managed to win only 22 out of their 48 games. During the season, he recorded an assist, a rarity for goaltenders.[3] At the end of the season, he was named to the First All-Star team for the first time,[13] and won the Vezina Trophy for the third time, tying George Hainsworth's all-time mark with three victories.[10][18] The ensuing two-game, total-goal playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a series of contrasts, as the Bruins lost 8–6. In the opening game, the Bruins shut out Toronto 3–0, while they lost the other game 8–3.[4] In 1937–38, his final full season with the Bruins, he won 30 out of the 48 games, but Boston lost to the Maple Leafs once again in the playoffs.[19] Thompson set a new record by winning his fourth and final Vezina Trophy.[20] He was also named to the First All-Star team for the second time.[13]

When Thompson left the Bruins, he had compiled 252 wins. This record stood for 81 years, until it was surpassed by Tuukka Rask. Thompson is also the Boston Bruins' all-time leader in regular-season shutouts with 74, far ahead of the 52 achieved by runner-up Tuukka Rask.

Detroit Red WingsEdit

Thompson appeared in only five games for the Bruins in the 1938–39 season,[4] as Boston decided to replace the aging goaltender with the substantially younger Frank Brimsek who was 12 years his junior. Brimsek would go on to lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup victory that season, earning the nickname "Mister Zero" while picking up 10 regular season shutouts, the Vezina Trophy, First All-Star Team honours, and the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is given "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition".[21][22] To make space for Brimsek, Thompson was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Normie Smith and $15,000 on November 16, 1938; Thompson also received a $1,000 bonus from Boston.[23]

Boston manager Art Ross predicted that Thompson, now 35, would play for the Red Wings for at least another five seasons; however, Thompson remained with the team for only two seasons before retiring from playing. The Red Wings posted a losing record in both of these seasons, although they made the playoffs both times. Overall, Thompson appeared in 85 regular-season games for Detroit, recording a 32–41–12 record, seven shutouts, and a 2.54 goals-against average,[23] and in 11 playoff games, posting a 5–6, with one shutout and a 2.41 goal-against average.[4]

Post-NHL careerEdit

After retiring from professional play, Thompson became the head coach of the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League (AHL) in the 1940–41 season.[23] He coached 56 games in two seasons. The Bisons missed the playoffs both times.[24] He appeared in one game as goaltender in the 1940–41 season. During World War II, Thompson served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and doubled as the coach of the Calgary RCAF Mustangs of the Alberta Senior Hockey League. He led the Mustangs to the league championship series in 1942–43 against the Calgary Currie Army team where injuries to the Mustangs' goaltenders brought him back onto the ice in March 1943. With Thompson in goal, the Mustangs defeated Currie Army 8–4 to tie the best-of-five series at two wins apiece.[25] He played the deciding game, but his team fell short of winning the Alberta title with a 3–1 loss to Currie Army.[26] After the war, Thompson became chief Western Canada scout for the Chicago Black Hawks.[15] He was one of the few scouts at the time who sought to discover a player's personality along with their playing ability. Thompson often conversed with players as part of an effort to learn about the players he was watching.[27]

Playing styleEdit

Thompson was a stand-up goaltender, rarely falling on both knees to stop a puck. He was one of the first NHL goaltenders to catch the puck with his hand to make a save, and helped popularize the technique. Using gloves that were smaller than those of other players, he was among the best puck-catchers of his era. He stood in the way of the puck with minimal padding, risking being struck when moving to catch it instead of simply deflecting it away from the net. His signature technique, very often featured in photographs of him, involved dropping to one knee with the paddle of his goalstick covering the five-hole, and extending his glove to cover the left side of the net. Although he caught the puck with his glove, the gloves he had did not have anything like the level of safety and comfort provided by the modern blocker and trapper glove combination. Thompson was described by Johnny Bower, a former goaltender who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a good puckhandler, and one of the best of his time at forward passing. In the 1935–36 season, Thompson became the first goaltender to get an assist by intentionally passing the puck with his stick to a fellow player.[1][3]


Thompson's points percentage in a season of .875, recorded in the 1929–30 season, still remains a record.[28] His 38 wins during that season was a Boston record that was eclipsed only in the 1982–83 season, by Pete Peeters (who won 40 of 62 games played); since then, no Bruins goaltender has had more than 37 wins in a season.[29] His 14 consecutive wins that regular season also set an NHL record, which has since been tied by 3 other goaltenders.[30] Thompson is the all-time Bruins leader for shutouts and goals-against average.[31] Thompson held the records for most games played (468) and wins (252) by a Bruins goaltender until 2019, when both records were surpassed by Tuukka Rask.[32][33] Throughout his entire NHL career, Thompson accrued 81 shutouts, which is sixth all-time in NHL history,[6] and was second to only George Hainsworth (who had 94) when Thompson retired.[34] He also posted seven shutouts in the playoffs.[35] He is fifth all-time in goals-against average, allowing on average only 2.08 per a 60-minute span.[36] He led all goaltenders in regular-season games played 10 times, and in regular-season wins five times.[35]

In 1959, Thompson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He died in Calgary on February 9, 1981.[37] He was survived by his wife, Edith, and his daughter, Sandra.[38]

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
1919–20 Calgary Monarchs CCJHL
1919–20 Calgary Monarchs M-Cup 2 1 0 1 120 11 0 5.50
1920–21 Calgary Alberta Grain CCSHL
1921–22 Bellevue Bulldogs ASHL
1922–23 Bellevue Bulldogs ASHL
1923–24 Bellevue Bulldogs ASHL
1923–24 Bellevue Bulldogs Al-Cup 4 1 2 1 240 10 1 2.50
1924–25 Duluth Hornets USAHA 40 17 20 3 1920 59 11 1.38
1925–26 Minneapolis Millers CHL 36 2160 59 10 1.64 3 3 0 0 180 1 2 0.33
1926–27 Minneapolis Millers AHA 38 17 11 10 2253 51 9 1.42 6 3 3 0 361 8 1 1.33
1927–28 Minneapolis Millers AHA 40 28 7 5 2475 51 12 1.23 8 4 0 4 520 3 5 0.38
1928–29* Boston Bruins NHL 44 26 13 5 2710 52 12 1.15 5 5 0 0 300 3 3 0.60
1929–30 Boston Bruins NHL 44 38 5 1 2680 98 3 2.19 6 3 3 0 432 12 0 1.67
1930–31 Boston Bruins NHL 44 28 10 6 2730 90 3 1.98 5 2 3 0 343 13 0 2.27
1931–32 Boston Bruins NHL 43 13 19 11 2698 103 9 2.29
1932–33 Boston Bruins NHL 48 25 15 8 3000 88 11 1.76 5 2 3 0 438 9 0 1.23
1933–34 Boston Bruins NHL 48 18 25 5 2980 130 5 2.62
1934–35 Boston Bruins NHL 48 26 16 6 2970 112 8 2.26 4 1 3 0 275 7 1 1.53
1935–36 Boston Bruins NHL 48 22 20 6 2930 82 10 1.68 2 1 1 0 120 8 1 4.00
1936–37 Boston Bruins NHL 48 23 18 7 2970 110 6 2.22 3 1 2 180 8 1 2.67
1937–38 Boston Bruins NHL 48 30 11 7 2970 89 7 1.80 3 0 3 212 6 0 1.70
1938–39 Boston Bruins NHL 5 3 1 1 310 8 0 1.55
1938–39 Detroit Red Wings NHL 39 16 17 6 2397 101 4 2.53 6 3 3 374 15 1 2.41
1939–40 Detroit Red Wings NHL 46 16 24 6 2830 120 3 2.54 5 2 3 300 12 0 2.40
1940–41 Buffalo Bisons AHL 1 0 0 0 40 1 0 1.50
1942–43 Calgary RCAF Mustangs CNDHL 4 11 0 3.00
NHL totals 553 284 194 75 34,175 1183 81 2.08 44 20 24 0 2974 93 7 1.88

* Stanley Cup Champion.



Award Years
Vezina Trophy 1930, 1933, 1936, 1938[4]
First All-Star Team Goaltender 1936, 1938[4]
Second All-Star Team Goaltender 1931, 1935[4]
Stanley Cup 1929[4]


  • Allen, Kevin; Duff, Bob; Bower, Johnny (2002), Without Fear: Hockey's 50 greatest goaltenders, Chicago: Triumph Books, ISBN 978-1-57243-484-4
  • Duplacey, James; Diamond, Dan (2000), The Official Rules of Hockey, Globe Pequot, ISBN 978-1-58574-052-9
  • Fischler, Stan (2001), Boston Bruins: Greatest Moments and Players, Sports Publishing LLC, ISBN 978-1-58261-374-1
  • Fischler, Stan (2003), Who's Who in Hockey, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-7407-1904-1
  • Weekes, Don (2005), The Big Book of Hockey Trivia, Greystone Books, ISBN 978-1-55365-119-2
  • Weekes, Don; Banks, Kerry (2004), The Unofficial Guide to Even More of Hockey's Most Unusual Records, Greystone Books, ISBN 978-1-55365-062-1


  1. ^ a b c Allen, Duff & Bower 2002, p. 50
  2. ^ Fischler 2001, p. 133
  3. ^ a b c d Allen, Duff & Bower 2002, p. 51
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Tiny Thompson—Career statistics, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2008-08-25
  5. ^ Tiny Thompson—Biography, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2008-08-25
  6. ^ a b Allen, Duff & Bower 2002, p. 49
  7. ^ 1928–29 Boston Bruins statistics, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  8. ^ a b Boston Bruins season, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  9. ^ 1929–30 Vezina Trophy Winner—Tiny Thompson, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2009-05-02
  10. ^ a b c Vezina Trophy, NHL, archived from the original on 2006-04-23, retrieved 2008-08-25
  11. ^ 1929–30 Boston Bruins statistics, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  12. ^ Weekes & Banks 2004, p. 187
  13. ^ a b c d Tiny Thompson: Notes, NHL, retrieved 2008-12-07
  14. ^ Duplacey & Diamond 2000, p. 187
  15. ^ a b c Fischler 2001, p. 134
  16. ^ 1932–33 Vezina Trophy Winner—Tiny Thompson, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2009-05-02
  17. ^ 1934–35 Boston Bruins statistics, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  18. ^ 1935–36 Vezina Trophy Winner—Tiny Thompson, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2009-05-02
  19. ^ 1937–38 Boston Bruins statistics, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  20. ^ 1937–38 Vezina Trophy Winner—Tiny Thompson, Hockey Hall of Fame, retrieved 2009-05-02
  21. ^ Calder Memorial Trophy, nhl.com, archived from the original on 2006-04-23, retrieved 2007-08-21
  22. ^ Fischler 2003, p. 45
  23. ^ a b c Cecil (Tiny) Thompson 1939–40, Detroit Red Wings, retrieved 2008-08-25
  24. ^ Cecil "Tiny" Thompson, hockeydb.com, retrieved 2008-08-25
  25. ^ "Mustangs flying high for 8–4 victory to deadlock series", Calgary Herald, p. 14, 1943-03-18
  26. ^ "Currie gives classy display to win provincial title", Calgary Herald, p. 12, 1943-03-19
  27. ^ Tennant, Jack (1981-02-13), "In memory of Tiny Thompson", Calgary Sun, p. 5
  28. ^ Season Leaders and Records for Points Percentage (Goalie), Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-12-19
  29. ^ Boston Bruins Season Leaders, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-12-19
  30. ^ https://records.nhl.com/records/goaltender-records/winning-streaks/longest-winning-streak-one-season
  31. ^ Boston Bruins Career Leaders, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-12-19
  32. ^ McMahon, Michael (January 1, 2019). "Bruins Notes: Tuukka Rask Stands Tall In Bruins' Winter Classic Win". nesn.com. NESN. Retrieved January 1, 2019. No one has played more games between the pipes in a Boston Bruins sweater than Tuukka Rask...Rask’s franchise-leading 469th appearance in the Black and Gold is sure to be one that he will not soon forget, as he swatted away 36 shots in the Bruins’ 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium
  33. ^ Valentine, Harvey (February 3, 2019). "Rask sets Bruins wins record with shutout against Capitals". nhl.com. Retrieved February 3, 2019. Tuukka Rask became the Boston Bruins all-time leader in wins by a goalie, making 24 saves in a 1-0 victory against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Sunday...Rask (253 wins) passed Cecil "Tiny" Thompson for the Bruins lead. It was Rask's second shutout of the season and the 43rd in the NHL.
  34. ^ Career Leaders and Records for Shutouts, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-12-19
  35. ^ a b Tiny Thompson, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-08-25
  36. ^ Career Leaders and Records for Goals Against Average, Sports Reference, LCC, retrieved 2008-12-19
  37. ^ "Cecil (Tiny) Thompson", New York Times, 1981-02-12, retrieved 2008-08-25
    The article was published on Thursday, February 12, 1981, with a dateline of February 11; the article reports his death as having occurred on Monday, making it February 9, which agrees with the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  38. ^ "Obituaries", Calgary Sun, p. 44, 1981-02-11

External linksEdit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Winner of the Vezina Trophy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Vezina Trophy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Vezina Trophy
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Preceded by Winner of the Vezina Trophy
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