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Player Biography: "Phantom" Joe Malone


ScottM

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                Joe Malone probably isn’t a name that’s familiar to most casual hockey fans today. The fact that his hockey career ended nearly two decades before the beginning of the “Original Six” era is no doubt the primary reason for that. In fact, his professional career began eight years before the NHL was even established. According to the journalists of his day, Malone was very modest, and this modesty may also play a role in his “forgotten” status. However, one look at his eye-popping career statistics would leave someone scratching his head as to why Malone isn’t better known than he is today.

 

                Maurice Joseph Cletus Malone was born on February 28, 1890 in Quebec City. He was one of the game’s earliest superstars, and was as well known for his courteous, gentlemanly play as he was for his goal scoring exploits. He began in 1909 with the Quebec Bulldogs of the Eastern Canada Hockey Association. He played in twelve games that year, scoring twelve goals. The next year, the National Hockey Association – the forerunner of the NHL – was formed, but the Bulldogs were excluded. Malone would play two games with the Bulldogs in the Canadian Hockey Association before joining the Waterloo Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.

 

                “Phantom Joe” rejoined his original squad the next year, and the Bulldogs joined the NHA. It wouldn’t take Malone long to begin posting the gaudy numbers that would turn him into a legend. The Bulldogs would win the Stanley Cup in 1912 and 1913, with Malone serving as captain of the 1913 team. That squad would square off against the Sydney Millionaires of the Maritime Professional Hockey League in a two-game total goals series. In one of those games, Malone exploded for a career-high nine goals.

 

                The 1912-13 season was the first of three seasons in Malone’s career in which he scored over 40 goals. That year, he score an astounding 43 goals in just 20 games. He would play with the Bulldogs for the remainder of the existence of the NHA. In the 1916-17 season – the league’s last – he proved that his 43 goal season was no fluke, by piling up 41 goals in 19 games.

 

                When the NHL replaced the NHA for the 1917-18 season, Quebec was once again left out. The league wanted to have a major star to draw headlines, and the Montreal Canadiens signed the perfect man to achieve the task: Joe Malone. If there was any doubt that Malone was the perfect headliner, he dispelled it on opening night. The Habs opened the season on the road against the Ottawa Senators. Malone would find the net five times that night, a stat that is still a club record for a road game. The Phantom would post two more five-goal games that season. No other player in NHL history has ever managed more than one five-goal game in any season.

 

                Malone would lead the NHL in goal scoring in its inaugural season, by scoring a career-high 44 goals. That record would stand until 1945, when Maurice “Rocket” Richard would become the league’s first 50-50 player. The 1917-18 NHL season was 20 games long, meaning that Malone scored 2.20 goals per game, which is easily the highest average in league history. The modern-era single season goals per game average belongs to Wayne Gretzky who averaged “just” 1.18 goals per game in 1983-84 when he scored 87 goals in 74 games. To give Malone’s numbers some perspective, consider this: if a player were to average 2.2 goals per game over the course of a modern 82-game season, he would need 180 goals, which is nearly double Gretzky’s record of 92.

 

                Malone would spend one more year with the Canadiens, but he would only play in eight games that year due to the fact that he had a well-paying job in Quebec City. As Malone himself said, “I had hooked on to a good job in Quebec City which promised a secure future, something hockey in those days couldn't.” Malone would have his third opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup that year, as the Canadiens represented the NHL in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Seattle Metropolitans, the champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. However, after five games, with the series tied 2-2-1, most of the Canadiens’ players fell ill as a result of the influenza epidemic. The year 1919 is one of only two years in the history of the Stanley Cup in which the trophy would not be awarded.

 

                Joe would leave the Canadiens the next season, joining the newly re-formed Quebec Bulldogs for the 1919-20 season. The Bulldogs were absolutely dreadful in the season of their rebirth. The team would post a 4-20 record, and their goalie “earned” a goals-against average of 7.13, which is the worst mark in NHL history. Malone was the one bright spot on the team, scoring 39 goals, and on one historic performance on January 31, 1920, Malone put the puck home seven times during a 10-6 win over the Toronto St. Pats. That seven goal outburst is still an NHL record. On March 10, Malone would light the lamp six times in a 10-4 victory over Ottawa. By comparison, only two players post World War II – Red Berenson in 1968 and Darryl Sittler in 1976 – have managed six goals in a single game. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Malone’s seven-goal game or multiple six-goal games ever being matched.

 

                The Bulldogs would move to Hamilton and be renamed as the Tigers the next year. Malone would spend two more seasons with the club, scoring 28 and 24 goals. He would return to the Canadiens for two more seasons, but the now ill Malone could only manage one goal in 30 games. Malone once explained when he knew it was time for him to retire. “I took a look at a new kid in our training camp at Grimsby, Ontario and knew right then I was ready for the easy chair. He was Howie Morenz. In practice he moved past me so fast I thought I was standing still. I knew it was time to quit. Besides I was bothered by a throat ailment. I didn't want to grow old on the Canadiens' bench. I had a good job as a tool maker. So I said goodbye. I didn't stay long enough in 1923-24 to get a goal. Morenz had taken over.” However, his career didn’t end without one final exploit: in 1924, he became a three-time Stanley Cup champion when the Canadiens swept the Calgary Tigers of the West Coast Hockey League in the Cup Finals 2-0. He would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950.

 

                In his fourteen seasons in the NHA and NHL, Malone scored a whopping 322 goals in 249 games. He established multiple single game and season records that seem nearly impossible to break. While not nearly as well-known as he should be, “Phantom” Joe Malone is – and always will be – a hockey legend. 

 

Further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Malone_(ice_hockey)

http://habslegends.blogspot.com/2006/06/phantom-joe-malone.html

http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/m/malonjo01.html

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Great write-up Scott. It's really strange Malone isn't a legend of babe Ruth proportions...at least in the hockey world.

More of the Ty Cobb era, i always think of Malone and Cobb together and Ruth and old Howie Morentz are to me, of the same cloth. Not saying Malone was anything like Cobb who was barely human, but both came from the pre-television and radio era and relied on print to make their legends.

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@ScottM  Excellent job Scott!  Joe really was the Gretzky of his era. It might even be accurate to say that Wayne was the Joe Malone of modern day hockey, if you consider the amazing stats that he posted. As you said, even the great Gretzky's stats pale in comparison to what Joe pulled off, and that was WAY before the NHL talent pool was watered down to the point where it was embarrassing. Gretz pulled off his stats in the watered down 80's era, where borderline iffy players like Blane Stoughton put up 50 goals, ditto for Al Secord etc.

 

  I love the way you touched on Joe being humble, that was one of his best qualities. He was never bigger than the game or his teammates. Just a quality person who just happened to be the most talented athlete to be alive during his era.

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Point-form thoughts...

 

-It's not quite accurate to say the Malone's career began eight years before the NHL was established. The NHL was really just the NHA with a different name, re-formed because the rest of the owners could no longer put up with the antics of Toronto Shamrocks owner Eddie Livingstone.

-It's important to place Malone's numbers in perspective. When Malone posted his crooked numbers, EVERYBODY was posting crooked numbers. There were 9.5 goals being scored per game in 1918 and 9.7 in 1918. When you have almost 10 goals being scored in a game, there's enough to go around to the point that in 1918, 30% of the players in the league were point-per-game men.

-The talent pool was as shallow as Kim Kardashian in Malone's time compared to any in the modern era: The NHL had not yet consolidated its place as the true leader of Major League hockey, and was one of three which could lay claim at the time. The hockey world drew it talent from one country with a small and spread out population, missing as much (if not more) talent than it found, and had no system for funelling talent towards the best leagues.

-The NHL may not have even been the best league of its time in any given year, considering that the PCHA had guys like Cyclone Taylor, Frank and Lester Patrick (yes, those Patricks), Tom Dunderdale, Smokey Harris, Mickey Mackay, Frank Foyston, Bernie Morris, Hap Holmes, Hugh Lehman. The WCHA had players like Duke Keats, Bill Cook, Harry Oliver, Dick Irvin, George Hainsworth, Hal Winkler. The NHL had no lock on the star players.

 

Thanks for sharing the write-up, Scott!

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Point-form thoughts...

 

-It's not quite accurate to say the Malone's career began eight years before the NHL was established. The NHL was really just the NHA with a different name, re-formed because the rest of the owners could no longer put up with the antics of Toronto Shamrocks owner Eddie Livingstone.

-It's important to place Malone's numbers in perspective. When Malone posted his crooked numbers, EVERYBODY was posting crooked numbers. There were 9.5 goals being scored per game in 1918 and 9.7 in 1918. When you have almost 10 goals being scored in a game, there's enough to go around to the point that in 1918, 30% of the players in the league were point-per-game men.

-The talent pool was as shallow as Kim Kardashian in Malone's time compared to any in the modern era: The NHL had not yet consolidated its place as the true leader of Major League hockey, and was one of three which could lay claim at the time. The hockey world drew it talent from one country with a small and spread out population, missing as much (if not more) talent than it found, and had no system for funelling talent towards the best leagues.

-The NHL may not have even been the best league of its time in any given year, considering that the PCHA had guys like Cyclone Taylor, Frank and Lester Patrick (yes, those Patricks), Tom Dunderdale, Smokey Harris, Mickey Mackay, Frank Foyston, Bernie Morris, Hap Holmes, Hugh Lehman. The WCHA had players like Duke Keats, Bill Cook, Harry Oliver, Dick Irvin, George Hainsworth, Hal Winkler. The NHL had no lock on the star players.

 

Thanks for sharing the write-up, Scott!

 

There's definitely something to a lot of that, so let me explain some of what I said. The reason I separated the NHL from the NHA is that the stats for the two leagues are typically kept separate, and the NHA seems to be all but forgotten. If they were combined, Malone's career numbers would look bigger. I did try to show that the two leagues were related by saying that the NHL replaced the NHA.

 

The second point is very true, but even in that context, some of Malone's numbers are still eye-popping. The other players of his age still couldn't put up the number of 5 and 6 goals games that he did or his 40+ goal seasons.

 

The third point is absolutely true. That's one thing you have to love about today's game.

 

There is one thing that's a plus for the last point you made: the fact that the Stanley Cup was a challenge cup between the two leagues. That did at least theoretically have the "best" team win. That said, it's absolutely true that no league had a monopoly on talent at the time.

 

Thanks for the input and the added context. Hopefully I explained myself a bit better there.

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Did goalies not wear pads back then? that many goals per game sounds ridiculous.

 

Not nearly as many as now. Plus, at the time, it was illegal for goalies to drop to the ice. They were supposed to stay on their feet. That changed after Clint Benedict started "accidentally" falling so much.

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@ScottM   Was there not a ridiculously stupid rule that you could not pass the puck backwards at one point?

It seems I remember reading something similar to that, but I'll have to get back to you on that. I'll try to look it up when I get home from church tonight.

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Not nearly as many as now. Plus, at the time, it was illegal for goalies to drop to the ice. They were supposed to stay on their feet. That changed after Clint Benedict started "accidentally" falling so much.

rofl. Sounds like something I would have done "Whoops".

 

Then again, what quality of rinks did they have in those days? Wobbly wavy ice similar to the pond I used to play on? because that ice made the puck fly in weird directions lol

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@ScottM   Was there not a ridiculously stupid rule that you could not pass the puck backwards at one point?

 

Depends on which league you're talking about. Frank and Lester Patrick, running the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, along with numerous other innovations, introduced the forward pass in 1914, also eliminating off-sides in the neutral zone. The NHL didn't adopt the forward pass until 1929. Prior to this rule change, the game was as much rugby on ice as it was anything else.

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Depends on which league you're talking about. Frank and Lester Patrick, running the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, along with numerous other innovations, introduced the forward pass in 1914, also eliminating off-sides in the neutral zone. The NHL didn't adopt the forward pass until 1929. Prior to this rule change, the game was as much rugby on ice as it was anything else.

 

I have a feeling that if we could somehow go back in time to watch a game from that era, we wouldn't recognize it. I'm not making any promises, but I might study and try to tackle writing a brief history of the development of the game at some point.

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I have a feeling that if we could somehow go back in time to watch a game from that era, we wouldn't recognize it. I'm not making any promises, but I might study and try to tackle writing a brief history of the development of the game at some point.

Yeah, it's sort of like being able to watch a Major League ballgame in 1870... It would probably be closer to a game of fastball than modern baseball.

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@JR Ewing  Funny, huh....how a few forward thinking minds (pun intended....lol) could possibly envision such a massive rule change and have the foresight to implement it. I have no doubt the news of this rule change had to have rubbed many wrong way.....but they had the perseverance to press onward and help form the game we enjoy so much today. Some amazing foresight right there.

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