Friday, 4 January 2013

Skinner Poulin: The Habs First Overtime Hero

 

There have been many memorable overtime goals in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. While many names an moments have graced team’s 103 year history, the name George “Skinner” Poulin is not as commonly mentioned among those memorable goals that feature names such as Lach, Richard or Lafleur.

A native of Smith Falls, Ontario, Poulin was recruited by the newly formed Montreal Canadiens of the NHA. He had been a prominent player in the professional leagues in Manitoba, and had moved to play for Galt in the Ontario Professional Hockey League (OPHL) to start the 1909-10 season. he had a couple games under his belt, when Canadiens player-coach and general manager Jack Laviolette drew him to Montreal.

On January 5, 1910 the Canadiens took to the ice for the first time. Far from the rosters in today’s NHL, the “Flying Frenchmen,” were a seven-man squad with Poulin, Laviolette, Newsy Lalonde, Didier Pitre, Ed Decarie, Art Bernier  and goaltender Joe Cattarinich.

A capacity crowd of 3200 spectators took in the game at the Jubilee Rink, with several people turned away at the gates, hoping to get a glimpse of this new, francophone hockey club in Montreal. Their opponents on the night were the Colbat Silver Kings. At one time the Kings boasted a roster that featured new Canadiens, and future Hockey Hall of Fame members, Lalonde and Pitre. But the visiting squad on this night was a hastily formed one, that hadn’t even had a chance to practice together.

The fans settled in and the game was underway, with the puck dropping at 8:40 pm. There wouldn’t be a goal until 17 minutes into the first 30-minute half, when Lalonde, falling and sliding on his back, put the puck behind Kings goalie Joseph “Chief” Jones.

Lalonde assisted on the Canadiens’ second goal by Poulin and put them ahead 3-0 with his second goal on the night. Cobalt replied with a goal late in the first half.

With Lalonde forced to retire for the night with an ankle injury, the Kings battled back with three unanswered goals in the second half. Art Bernier stopped the bleeding briefly for Montreal, but the visitors tallied two more goals to take a 6-4 lead.

The Canadiens took advantage of some ill-timed Colbalt penalties late in the game to tie things at six goals apiece. The clock ran down, and there seemed to be no format, during the league formation, on what to do in the event of a tie. The officials sent the teams to their respective dressing rooms, but after cries of “Fake!, Fake!, Fake!,” from the crowd they recalled them back to the ice.

The game was restarted and Poulin closed out what was later described in the Montreal Gazette as, “a wild hurrah from start to finish,”  with the game-winner 5:35 into the overtime period.

Montreal had won it’s first game, but it wouldn’t hold up in the official record for long. When the NHA’s rival, the Canadian Hockey League (CHA), folded after just a few weeks, the NHA absorbed the surviving teams and the league was restarted on January 19.

Poulin finished his first season in Montreal with eight goals in a dozen games. He returned the next year, before playing in the Pacific West Coast League for four seasons. When the 1915-16 NHA season started up, Poulin was back with the Canadiens and took part in the team’s first Stanley Cup championship. He retired  in 1921, after playing two seasons in Saskatoon

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