Not many players from the earliest years of the NHL are well known, but if there is any player who is, it’s Joe Malone. A Quebec native born in 1890, Malone joined the Quebec Bulldogs at the age of 18 in 1908. He impressed immediately, scoring 8 goals in 12 games. In 1911, Malone joined the Quebec Bulldogs in the NHA and continued to be one of their star players. In the 1912-13 season, Malone began to truly establish himself as not just another star, but one of the best players in the League, scoring an amazing 43 goals in just 20 games with the Bulldogs.
Malone continued to reign terror in the NHA, especially in 1916-17, his best NHA season, when he scored 41 goals and added 8 assists for 49 points in just 19 games. Malone’s swift skating and aptitude for scoring goals made him a coveted player for NHL teams when the NHL was formed in 1917. The Bulldogs didn’t immediately join the NHL, so Malone found himself joining the Montreal Canadiens for the 1917-18 season.
Paired with Newsy Lalonde, Malone and Lalonde helped form what was undoubtedly the most dominant line in the NHL’s inaugural season. Malone scored 44 goals in just 20 games, scoring at a rate of 2.20 goals-per-game, a record that he still holds today. Malone played a shortened amount of games in the 1918-19 season before joining the Bulldogs again for the 1919-20 season. It was in this season that Malone again dominated, scoring 39 goals (again leading the league) and adding 10 assists for 49 points, which also lead the league. Perhaps most impressive was another record that Malone set in this season, scoring seven goals in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, an NHL record that has never been broken or tied.
Malone’s numbers began to dip a little bit as he moved on to the Hamilton Tigers for two years, but he still proved a prolific scorer with seasons of 28 and 24 goals in 20 and 24 games, respectively. Not only that, but in those years, he also was also the coach of the team, assuming the roles of a player and a coach, something occasionally done in those days.
After refusing to show up for the training camp of the Tigers, Malone returned to the Canadiens, where was used as a substitute for two seasons before retiring at the age of 34 in 1924. When Malone retired, he held both the first and second highest single-season point total records (49 and 48) and the first and second single-season goal records (44 and 39). Even though he had played two seasons as a substitute for the Canadiens with almost no production, he was still 3rd all-time in points and 2nd in goals. Malone was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950 and is still widely regarded as the greatest player of the early days of the NHL.