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1950s hockey history question


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Got a question...how many lines did 1950s hockey teams use and what was their shift length?  Also wondering about roster size.  (I know the traveling team only took one goalie and would use the home team backup in case of injury)


thanks in advance.

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@majordill Welcome aboard! I'll give you a some links and make some comments on them that I hope will answer your question.


First, here's one that deals with rule changes, including roster sizes: http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/hockey/nhlhistory/nhlrules.html


In case you don't want to go through all of that, here's the pertinent information:


"1949-50 - Clubs allowed to dress 17 players exclusive of goaltenders.

1952-53 - Teams permitted to dress 15 skaters on the road and 16 at home.

1953-54 - Number of players in uniform set at 16 plus goaltenders.

1954-55 - Number of players in uniform set at 18 plus goaltenders up to  December 1 and 16 plus goaltenders thereafter."

Now a few links to rosters on hockey-reference.com to show how they would set up.


The 1949-50 Detroit Red Wings: http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/DET/1950.html

The 1954-55 Detroit Red Wings: http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/DET/1955.html

The 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens: http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/MTL/1956.html


Based on those stats, it appears that when could dress 17 skaters, they went with five defensemen, leaving enough forward slots to make four full lines. When they were allowed 16 or 15 skaters, they went with four defensemen. With 16 skaters, that was still enough forwards for four full lines, but with 15, they were one short.


As for shift length, as far as I know, there are no stats available for that, but it is fair to say that they would have been significantly longer than today. In the NHL's early years, players would play the full 60 minutes. As rosters grew, that obviously decreased, but they were certainly longer than today's 45 second shifts. I remember hearing Phil Esposito talk about playing through line changes and staying out for up to 3 or 4 minutes. Most guys didn't do that, but since he mentioned playing through 2 or 3 sets of wingers, I'd guess that the shifts would have been in the neighborhood of a minute and a half. If that were the case in the late 60's and early 70's, it seem like a fair guess that the 50's would have had at least slightly longer shifts. As far as the defensemen go, with only four or five guys playing, they would have to have stayed out there much longer.


Anyway, I know some of that is conjecture, but I hope it helps, and I hope I haven't bored you with a long explanation.

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