Ninety candles for Canadiens legend Lach

Canadiens Hall of Famer Elmer Lach, centreman for Hector (Toe) Blake and Maurice (Rocket) Richard on the legendary Punch Line of the 1940s, turned 90 on Tuesday. Elmer’s still going strong in the suburbs of Montreal, truly an original from the glory days of the Canadiens. Check out the classic photo of Elmer below.
Canadiens centreman Elmer Lach (right) is photographed on January 10, 1941, with teammates Jack Adams (left) and Tony Demers, mugging at the Mount Royal Hotel’s Alexandor Furs store with a couple of stuffed bear cubs climbing a tree trunk. The Boston Bruins were in town the following night, hence the teammates’ joking, and the visitors had the last laugh, beating the Canadiens 2-1 at the Forum. (Seems like it was the last time the Bruins beat the Habs.)
Montreal Standard


  1. RetroMikey says:

    Happy Birthday Mr. Elmer Lach! We, the fans, will never ever forget you and others who were the cornerstone of our franchise and our our role models for future Habs players as well as the fans of today and tomorros! God bless you and your family! You are always cherished in our hearts!

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

  2. Peter Young says:

    I don’t think we are diluting in any way the standards for jersey number retirement in urging the same for Lach’s No. 16. Granted, it is not enough to be a star or even a super star to warrant that honour; hall of fame selection is not enough. The player has to have earned the status of a real legend–not the loose version of the term that’s tossed around elsewhere on the web–and he has to have done so while earning great honour for himself and for the club. He has to be a legend among legends, if you will, a star among stars.

    Of players whose careers came primarily before 1950, only Howie Morenz has had his number retired. (Maurice Richard’s career began in 1942 but did not end until 1960.) As the club approaches its century mark in 2009, there are a few gaps that should be filled.

    I think that the legends who warrant consideration from before the mid-century mark–from the Canadiens’ first 40 years of existence–are Newsy Lalonde, Didier Pitre, Georges Vezina, Aurele Joliat, Toe Blake and Bill Durnan as well as Elmer Lach.

    The Canadiens careers of three of these players–Lalonde, Pitre and Vezina–came in substantial part before the advent of the NHL in 1917, but that should make no difference. It’s a Montreal Canadiens commemoration, not an NHL thing.

    There are a few other players post-1950 who also deserve the honour, but I leave that to others.

  3. ebeaune says:

    Happy Birthday Mr. Lach, I had the privilege of sitting down for a couple meals with this great man in 2003 at the Hab’s Fantasy Camp. He is a true gentleman and a world class individual. Keep swinging those golf clubs Elmer. All the best.

  4. Bean says:

    Happy Birthday Mr. Lach!! It would have been an honour to have seen you play live, as it stands the archive footage of you and the Punch Line is already a treat.

  5. The Teacher says:

    Lach’s number should definitely be retired. It is a mystery why it has not already been done. How can two thirds of the infamous Punch Line not have their numbers retired?

  6. Robert L says:

    Happy Birthday Elmer!

    As Peter Young states – that #16 ought to be hanging alongside the one with H. Richard on it.

    When I think of the Habs greats and oldtimers, a little story from Henri Richard always brings a smile to my face.

    In the mid eighties, when there were a bevy of 50 goal scorers in the NHL, Pocket was asked how many goals the Rocket would score in today’s NHL.

    Henri paused for a moment and said “Maybe 10 or 15!”

    The reporter was slightly stunned at the response, and said “Henri, we’re talking about the Rocket, one of the greatest goal scorers the game has seen. Why do you think he’d only score 15 goals?”

    “That’s not bad, I think, I mean he’s almost 65 years old!”

    For all the fans that are interested in Canadiens memorabilia, I was just informed of a bargain of an offer.

    Dr. Erle Schneidman, an author and collector of Montreal Canadiens memorabilia is offering his 130 page book “The Memorabilia Of The Montreal Canadiens” at a bargain price. The book was initially published in 2000, and Erle recently discovered a case of 50 books that he has offered fans for a low $5 plus shipping.

    I can’t post the entire review of the book here, but if anyone wants more info, they need just follow this link.

    Act quickly because I doubt Erle will have any left by tomorrow night.

  7. habfan53 says:

    Happy Birthday Mr. Lach as I used to call you when I caddied for you at the old Malborough golf club.
    Although I as always a huge Pocket Rocket fan I felt they should have also honored Elmer Lach when they retired number 16. What a great gentleman he is.

  8. Athenian says:

    I wish you a happy birthday and many more to come Mr. Lach and I agree with you habfan53 that Mr. Lach’s name should also have been added to the retired number.

  9. Ian G Cobb says:

    I remember very well the dress code of the 40s and 50s. As a kid around the forum in those days, i always wanted one of those hats. With a hat band on it so i could look cool wearing my hockey ticket stub in the band on the hat like all the fans did in those days. Goose bumps just thinking of living around the forum and my hockey team in those days.

    Happy Birthday Elmer, being around you guys gave me the motivation to make it, and I did !!

  10. Peter Young says:

    Slightly belated many happy returns of the day to Elmer Lach, one of the greatest of the stars who have played for the Montreal Canadiens. He fully deserves retirement of his jersey number. We have two No. 12 jerseys retired, those of Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer, so why not two No. 16s?

    Lach’s credentials are plainly sufficient for the honour.

    He played 13 seasons in the NHL, all for the Canadiens (14 if another season in which he played only one game is counted). He scored a career 215 goals and 408 assists for 623 points in 664 games (plus in the playoffs 19 goals and 45 assists for 64 points in 74 games). He compiled these numbers at a time when seasons were much shorter and, at least in part, during an era when goals were much harder to come by. For the time, they are superb numbers.

    Lach played on three Stanley Cup winning teams. He played on the Canadiens team that won four consecutive league titles, then a record and a feat accomplished when the league title was deemed much more important than it is now.

    He was named to the first all-star team three times and the second all-star team twice at a time when Bill Cowley, Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, Milt Schmidt, Sid Abel and Max and Doug Bentley were his competitors at that position. He won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player. He led the league in points scoring twice.

    He played on the most famous Canadiens line of all-time, the Punch Line, with Toe Blake and Maurice Richard. He remains loyal to the only club he has known. He was elected to hockey’s Hall of Fame.

    What is keeping the Montreal Canadiens from conferring this well-deserved honour? Is the club once again going to wait too long? Lach is 90, after all. The club should act now. And while it is at it, it should retire Toe Blake’s No. 6 as well.

  11. Jay in PA says:

    Thanks for the informative post. Given the attention paid to other stars of his era, I never knew much about Lach. I agree, based on your information, he would merit retirement of his jersey. And, as you say, it’s not like it puts another sweater number out of circulation.

  12. Peter Young says:

    Hmm, I mentioned Lach’s competition for a position on the all-star team without mentioning the position. I suppose there are those who don’t know it since we’re talking half a century ago, so let me point out Lach was played at centre ice.

  13. Shobud says:

    Lets all push to get this done I remember the days when he played and he was never the hero but the guy that helped make other heros His number should be up there

  14. johnnyhab says:

    Happy Birthday Mr. Lach!!!!

    How do we start a petition to get his jersey retired by the best sports organization in the world?

  15. Chuck says:

    I too wish to pass on best wishes to Mr. Lach, and you can add my name to the list of those who feel that he his deserving of the ultimate honour that can be bestowed upon him by the Habs.

    And while they’re at it, they can add a banner for Vezina too.

    “All bow down before the Komisaurus Rex!”

  16. Higgins21 says:

    Happy Birthday Elmer. Great memories. But isn’t the proper number 6?

  17. Chuck says:

    Elmer wore #16.

    “All bow down before the Komisaurus Rex!”

  18. Chuck says:

    And while you’re at it, can you please ask them why their stats page only goes back to 1917? I understand that’s when the NHL was formed, but are the Habs so tied to the NHL template for their website that they’re not allowed to aknowledge their pre-1917 history?

    “All bow down before the Komisaurus Rex!”

  19. A. Berke says:

    Best wishes and a very Happy Birthday Mr. Lach (and many more).

    I also support retiring his #16.

    Ali B.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.