Howie Morenz is known by many as the NHL’s first true superstar. Born in Stratford, Ontario in 1902, the “Stratford Streak” began his amateur career in 1919 with the Stratford Midgets. The centreman dominated at every level in his amateur career. Morenz was often known as the fastest player in his leagues and used that speed to score a plethora of points for his teams. Morenz was among the first players to be highly sought after by several teams and had several offers to consider when he became pro in 1923 at 21 years old. Morenz ending up making the historic choice to join the Montreal Canadiens.
After a solid rookie campaign in which the Canadiens won their first NHL Stanley Cup, Morenz broke out into stardom, scoring 39 points in just 30 games, finishing 4th in the league and ending up 2nd in Hart trophy voting. Morenz continued to be a premier player in the NHL before exploding with an offensive season to a calibre not seen before in 1927-28. Morenz led the league in all three main offensive categories, goals (33 goals), assists (18 assists), and points (51 points) in 43 games. Needless to say, Morenz won the Hart trophy and also finished third in voting for the Lady Byng.
When offense exploded for the 1929-30 season, Morenz exploded with it, scoring a career-high 40 goals in just 44 games. Morenz again helped the Canadiens win a Stanley Cup despite a mediocre regular season. The subsequent season was different, though with the same end result. While most players suffered notable dips in their offensive production, Morenz’ actually increased, leading the league with 51 points in 39 games, a production rate that he would never surpass in his career. Morenz won his second Hart and was on the first All-Star team. The Canadiens won their third Stanley Cup and fourth total cup in the 1930-31 season to top it all off. Morenz scored the second goal in the final playoff game despite playing with an injured shoulder.
With another strong all-around season, Morenz finished third in scoring during the 1931-32 season and was awarded his third Hart trophy for scoring 49 points in 48 games. At 30 years old, Morenz’ offensive numbers finally began to drop a little, though he still had respectable numbers. It was the following season when his numbers dropped to 21 points in 39 games that it was clear that Morenz wasn’t quite the same in his 30s as he was in his 20s. In a trade that shook many Canadiens fans to the core, Morenz was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks before the 1934-35 season. While Morenz didn’t regain his goal-scoring touch, he did have a notable uptick in his assist count, improving from 13 assists to 26 assists in just 9 more games.
Morenz started similarly in the 1935-36 season before being traded to the New York Rangers and having a rough 19 games there. Morenz made a triumphant return to Montreal for the 1936-37 season with the Canadiens. The Canadiens were excited to see their old hero return and their record showed it. Morenz had 20 points in 30 games before tragedy struck, and during a game, Morenz crashed hard into the boards, breaking his leg in four places. The hockey world was shocked by his sudden passing a few weeks later due to complications with his injury.
Morenz retired as the all-time point leader in the NHL but was passed by Nels Stewart two years later. In November of 1937, Morenz became the first Canadien ever to have his number retired and his No. 7 still hangs from the rafters in Montreal today. Morenz was among the first group of Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in 1945.