Every now and then, you get a goaltender who doesn’t really catch fire until later in life, such as Tim Thomas, who won two Vezinas in his mid 30s. Hainsworth spent many of his 20s playing in the OHA Sr. League. Hainsworth moved to the WCHL at 28 years old and continued to play there with the Saskatoon Crescents for three seasons before finally beginning his NHL career at 31 when he signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
Hainsworth immediately burst onto the scene, fitting right in with the league’s best tenders, leading the NHL in shutouts with 14 and winning the first ever Vezina trophy in the 1926-27 season. The following season, Hainsworth set a new record with a GAA of 1.05, dominating the league. He also led the league in wins and won his second consecutive Vezina trophy.
The legendary season that Hainsworth is most known for took place in the low-scoring 1928-29 season. Hainsworth played in all 44 games and had an astounding 22 shutouts and a 0.92 GAA, both NHL records that have not been beaten to this day. Needless to say, Hainsworth won his third consecutive Vezina trophy. By the time the 1929-30 season rolled around, Hainsworth was 34 years old and already defying the age standards of the NHL. The high scoring 1929-30 season didn’t phase him though, and Hainsworth still finished 2nd in shutouts with four and third in GAA. More importantly, Hainsworth led the Canadiens to their fourth Stanley Cup.
Hainsworth remained among the NHL’s top goaltenders in the 1930-31 season and once again helped his team to a second consecutive Stanley Cup, only the second NHL team to do so after the Senators. After leading the league in wins during the 1931-32 season, Hainsworth’s Canadiens had a troublesome 1932-33 season, and Hainsworth led the league in losses, despite finishing third in shutouts with eight.
In 1933, Hainsworth was traded to the Leafs for fellow goaltending star, Lorne Chabot. The Leafs were a much stronger team at this time and Hainsworth, despite now being 38 years old, led the league in wins again. It was clear, however, that the Leafs’ offense was what drove them for the 1933-34 season. It was not as clear in the 1934-35 season, when Hainsworth again led the league in wins, this time with a career-high 30 wins. Astoundingly, at 39 years old, Hainsworth tied for second place with 8 shutouts, tied with Tiny Thompson and one behind Alec Connell, both of whom were in their early 30s.
The Leafs performed a little less impressively in the 1935-36 season, though not as much the fault of Hainsworth, who still managed 8 shutouts, now at 40 years old. In the 1937-38 season, Hainsworth was replaced by Turk Broda, who was nearly 20 years younger than Hainsworth. Hainsworth signed with the Canadiens to play four final games before retiring at the age of 41. Hainsworth retired with a stunning 94 shutouts, a mark that would not be passed for over 25 years until Terry Sawchuk finally surpassed it. Hainsworth was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.