Canadiens great Tom Johnson dies at 79

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Tom Johnson, remembered here by The Gazette’s Red Fisher, at a National Hockey League function last June in Ottawa.
Dave Sandford, Getty Images

Hockey Hall of Famer Tom Johnson, a member of all five Canadiens Stanley Cup champions from 1956-60, on the clubs that won a record five consecutive NHL titles, has died at age 79.

A Norris Trophy winner, the steady defenceman won six Cups with the Canadiens before finishing his career as a player, then an executive, with the Boston Bruins.

Remembered here in a marvelous piece by the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont, Tom’s memory will be cherished especially by the Canadiens and Bruins families.

Here’s a wonderful interview with Tom written about a year ago by Jim Barber of the Barrie Advance.

And a little anecdote, as borrowed from Dick Irvin’s 1991 book The Habs, with Johnson explaining how he played anonymously his first season wearing No. 10: "When I first came up we would play a lot of exhibition games all around Quebec, even during the season. They would introduce the players in the order of their numbers, and of course Rocket was number nine. The cheer he got would last a long time. I always say I used to skate out at the end of the Rocket’s cheer. They could never hear my name, so not too many people in those towns ever found out who I was."

From top:

Tom Johnson in a 1950s Canadiens team photo.
David Bier, Gazette files

Johnson behind the bench of the Bruins. He coached Boston to the Stanley Cup in 1971-72.
Allan Leishman, Montreal Star

Johnson arrives at Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil’s crease to help foil a Chicago rush.
Courtesy Gerry McNeil

Johnson in the Canadiens 1955-56 team photo, the first of five consecutive Stanley Cup champions. He’s second from right in the middle row, between Kenny Mosdell and goalie Gerry McNeil.
Erle Schneidman, canadiensmemorabilia.com

19 Comments

  1. Lee Hayes says:

    Wow, great personal touch, this site is all the richer.
    Thank you for the intimate insight.

    Go Habs Go

  2. Peter Young says:

    Tom Johnson partnered Butch Bouchard at first and then Jean-Guy Talbot. He was known as a stay-at-home defenceman, but he was entirely capable of becoming more offensive. Doug Harvey was injured for a good part of fhe season, 1958-59, in which Johnson won the Norris trophy and first all-star team honours (and was not himself for another good part of the same season). Johnson filled in for him admirably on the power play.

    There is a video tape somewhere on the web–I tried to find the link but couldn’t–of the last couple of minutes of the Canadiens’ 1-0 overtime game five victory over the Bruins that won the Stanley Cup in 1953. Watching it a few months ago I was impressed by how much Johnson was in the thick of things and controlling play.

    The last time I saw Johnson, he was in a Bruins uniform. The Bruins had claimed him on waivers and he had given them two good years before an injury ended his career at the close of the 1964-65 season. I had relocated to Boston for school at the start of the 1965-66 season, and I went down to the old Boston Garden to buy a ticket to the next game against the Canadiens. The ticketseller told me the Bruins were practicing at that very moment and I could go in and watch them. And there was Tom Johnson, apparently trying a comeback (which was to no avail) along with the other Bruins on the Garden ice.

    A group of boys, about 12 years old, were also watching the practice, and one of them told me they regularly cut class from nearby schools to attend the practices. Johnson was having a great time, laughing it up with his former teammates. At the end of the session, he skated to the boards and flipped over several NHL pucks for the boys. The boy I talked to insisted on giving me one when I asked to look at it; he said he had plenty more at home and that Johnson was always good to the young fans. I left with new appreciation for Johnson’s consideration for the fans (and for the generosity of youth).

    Johnson stayed in Boston because the Bruins treated him well. They put him in the front office and he coached the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 1972.

    Thanks, Tom Johnson, for all the great memories and for those six Stanley Cups you helped bring to Montreal.

  3. habsguy says:

    I remember seeing him along with all the other greats..Great player, great man !!!!!!

  4. Lee Hayes says:

    I think from now on when I look up to the rafters at the bell center, and I see #10 hanging there, I’ll think about TJ as well, sure sounds as though he deserved it.

    Go Habs Go

  5. sholi2000.com says:

    Sad to see all the ol time players pass away. Say hi to my mom Tom. You’ll always be a hockey legend.

    Shane

    sholi2000.com
    God Bless Our Infantry

  6. Keith says:

    Another Hab great passes away. Seems like alot of Hab greats have been leaving us lately. Very sad day, my deepest condolences to the Johnson family.

  7. Thomas Le Fan says:

    Another of the greats passes. Farewell Tom.

  8. 24 Cups says:

    There were so many stars back in those days (Plante, Harvey, Beliveau, the Richards, Moore, Geoffrion) but Tom Johnson was the steadying influence back on defense alongside the devil may care Doug Harvey. Harvey won the Norris trophy 7 out of 8 years, with Johnson winning it the other time. Harvey was Bobby Orr and Tom Johnson was Dallas Smith. I remember collecting his hockey card and watching him play on our black and white TV when I was a boy. He wore #10 on the ice and a bow tie off the ice. A true champion and hall of famer. Just think of how many players have come and gone in the NHL and never won a Cup. Johnson won six of them while displaying true sportsmanship and class. Gone but not forgotten.

  9. Chuck says:

    Before Guy Lafleur, when you said number 10 there was no question who you were talking about.

    Rest in peace, Tom.
    .
    .
    .

    ______________________________________________
    “Vote Saku for All-Star… or little Timmy gets it!!!”

  10. A. Berke says:

    My deepest condolences to Johnson Family.

    Too bad I never got to see him play.

    RIP

    Ali B.

  11. J.T. says:

    Another player for the rink of dreams. May he rest in peace.

  12. Mr.Hazard says:

    “News” (as in, NEW). As in, minutes old.

    Ex nihilo nihil fit

  13. netninja says:

    Always sad to see the one of the greats go…

  14. The Teacher says:

    My condolences to the Johnson family.

    He was by all accounts an integral part of the championships we won.

    Godspeed

  15. The Ian Cobb says:

    Damn, Not too many people talked about Tommy Johnson, but quietly played the best kind of defence. Steady steady defenceman. Cups would have been a lot harder to obtain without him. Where did he live in retirement??

  16. Ed says:

    He was a great hockey player, and coach. I had forgotten about the coaching part. It also sound like he was a great human being.

  17. Naila Jinnah says:

    Just saw this on NHL.com. What a sad time to pass away, Thanksgiving.

  18. habfan53 says:

    RDS had him I think #8 among the all time Hab defencemen.
    Can you imagine the year he had to win the Norris in Harvey’s hay day.

  19. RetroMikey says:

    Truly, one of our unsung heros from the 50′s and early 60′s on defence.

    My deepest condolences to the Johnson family. Amen.

    “We will win the Cup only with Carey Price in the nets”


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