Friday, May 16, 2014

Trivia Tag-up: Canadiens, Rangers Both Have Past Providence Alliances

The NHL’s 2014 Eastern Conference Final will not feature 11 one-time Providence Bruins, much less the rest of Boston’s active roster. But with the Montreal Canadiens seizing the right to confront the New York Rangers for the Prince of Wales Trophy, the matchup is permeated with distant, historic Providence partnerships.

According to the Internet Hockey Database, the Providence Reds spent their first decade of operation in the Canadian-American League. For half of that time, they partnered with the Habs as their first parent club.

That alliance lasted from 1928-29 to 1932-33 and featured a pair of Fontaine Cups titles (1930 and 1932) for Providence. Montreal concomitantly stamped back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1930 and 1931.

In their 41 years under the AHL heading, the Reds variously served as the primary feeder base of seven NHL and WHA franchises. The Blueshirts served as their major-league affiliate for two stints: 1955-58 and 1971-76. The first season of that first stint witnessed the Divine City’s last professional playoff hockey title until the P-Bruins nabbed the 1999 Calder Cup.

In addition, the Rangers’ current Triple-A club in Hartford is a distant reincarnation of the Reds. The franchise in question spent two decades in Binghamton, N.Y. as the Dusters, Whalers and Rangers until transferring to Connecticut in 1997.

While Bruins buffs lick their wounds and the current Canadiens and Rangers prepare to lock twigs, there is a way to service the fans of all three franchises at once. On that note, here is a look back on the latter two franchise’s historic connections to Providence. (Note: Only those who played for both Providence and the parent club when the affiliations were active are eligible for mention.)

5 Key Reds-Canadiens Connections

Gerald Carson, D: Carson’s first NHL season in 1928-29 saw him transfer via trade from the Rangers to the Canadiens. The next year, he spent a six-game conditioning stint in Providence, but otherwise remained north of the border. As it happened, both the Reds and the Habs won their respective playoff titles that spring.  

Carson spent the entire 1930-31 and 1931-32 seasons in the Ocean State, winning a Fontaine Cup in the latter year before permanently returning to The Show. He dressed for every game with the Canadiens in each of the three campaigns from 1932 to 1935, then tacked on a 42-game ride with the intramural rival Maroons in 1936-37.

Johnny Gagnon, RW: Gagnon’s final CAHL season yielded 20 goals and the 1930 Fontaine Cup. In each of the next two seasons, he placed second on Montreal’s goal-scoring leaderboard only to Howie Morenz. As a rookie, he added six goals and eight points in 10 playoff games to help the 1931 Canadiens repeat as champions.

Gagnon later topped Montreal’s charts with 20-16-36 scoring totals in 1936-37. His final NHL transcript reads 454 games and a 120-141-261 production log.

Art Giroux, RW: To cap off his second full season in Providence, Giroux co-led the team with a 3-1-4 playoff scoring log en route to the 1932 Fontaine Cup. The next season, he broke in with the Canadiens, seeing action in 40 of his eventual 54 NHL games.

Wildor Larochelle, RW: A decade-plus with the Habs (1925-35) sandwiched a 39-game stay in Rhode Island during the first year of the affiliation. Larochelle pitched in eight goals and 12 points, then returned to Montreal for six-plus additional seasons.

Following his refinement with the Reds, he cracked double digits in the goal column four times and partook in the 1930 and 1931 Stanley Cup. The Canadiens ultimately dealt him to the Blackhawks early in the 1935-36 campaign.

Armand Mondou, LW: In a 14-year playing career (1926 to 1940), Mondou made only three cities his place of employment. Leading up to and whilst logging 385 games and two Stanley Cup rings with Montreal, he saw multiple minor-league stints in Providence and New Haven.

5 Key Reds-Rangers Connections 

Johnny Bower, G: Before he built his “China Wall” persona in Toronto, Bower was on the Providence-New York shuttle. Between 1954 and 1957, he scraped the blue paint for the Rangers 77 times, the Reds 118. That does not even count his 14 playoff appearances, including nine for the Reds’ last Calder Cup run in 1956.

Camille Henry, LW: In his lone full-length AHL season, Henry led the Calder Cup-winning Reds with 50 regular-season and 10 playoff goals. He buried another 31 strikes in 29 games before earning a permanent promotion to Manhattan. 

For the next eight-and-a-half seasons, leading up to a 1965 trade to Chicago, Henry donned nothing but Blueshirt attire, thrice leading the team in goals. His final NHL totals: 727 games played, 279 goals, 249 assists and 528 points.

Dave Maloney, D: Maloney stepped into the pros months after the Rangers drafted him 14th overall in 1974. He mustered four NHL appearances in his rookie season, otherwise devoting 58 games to Providence. He subsequently averaged an assist per game in six contests in the 1975 Calder Cup playoffs. 

After another 26 AHL twirls in 1975-76, the two-way blueliner became a permanent NHLer for the 10-year balance of his career. His plus-18 rating topped the team chart in 1977-78 and his career-high plus-24 rating led all Blueshirt skaters in 1980-81.

Rick Middleton, RW: Bruins buffs knew him as “Nifty” by the time Middleton had finished his career with a prolific 12-year ride in Boston. But he spent his first three professional seasons in New York’s organization, devoting his first to minor-league development in 1973-74.

All he did that year was endear himself to a more selective sector of New England puckheads with a team-leading 36-48-84 scoring log in 63 games. He followed that with a point-per-game average (9-6-15) in the 1974 playoffs, co-piloting the Reds to their last Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Hershey in five. 

On the heels of that output, Middleton collected the AHL’s top rookie laurel, broke in with the Rangers the next fall and never looked back. His first 90 of 988 points in The Show benefitted the Blueshirts.

Gump Worsley, G: With two exceptions, the colorful Hall of Fame netminder was consistently in The Show with New York from 1954 to 1963. The first of those exceptions was a 25-game stint with the Reds during the 1957-58 season.