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Blackhawks History 101: Dick Irvin

 

After a busy news day yesterday, it’s back to another slow summer day in the NHL.  That means it is time for another Blackhawks history lesson featuring Dick Irvin.  Irvin was one of the first superstars in professional hockey and he was the first ever team captain in Chicago Blackhawks history.

 

Irvin was known for his heavy handed slap shot and his tough style of play.  He started his professional career with the Portland Rosebuds of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association after a successful junior and amateur career in Winnipeg.  He scored 35 goals in his rookie campaign in Portland.  I guess when you play for a team called the Rosebuds you need to have an element of toughness to your game.  Irvin left Portland to serve in the Canadian Army but returned to the professional ranks in 1921 for the Regina Capitals of the Western Canadian Hockey League.  He scored 21 goals in 20 games for the Capitals that season.

 

In 1926 the newly formed Chicago Blackhawks were ready for their first season in the NHL.  They signed Irvin to a contract and named him team captain.  He went on to score 18 goals and have 18 assists in 43 games during Chicago’s inaugural season. The Blackhawks were the highest scoring team in the NHL that season.  Irvin suffered a fractured skull the following season and he never was the same player again.  The injury forced him to retire of the the 1928-29 season.  He was hired as the Blackhawks head coach in 1930 and lead the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 1931.  After that season, Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe convinced Irvin to come coach his Leafs.  The move paid off as he lead the Leafs to a Stanley Cup victory in 1932.  That was the only title he won in Toronto but he took  the Leafs to six more Stanley Cup Finals between 1933 and 1940.  Irvin moved on to coach the Montreal Canadiens in 1940 where he great success.  He took the Habs to eight Stanley Cup Finals where he won 3 Cups in 1944, 1946 and 1953.  He returned to coach the Blackhawks for one final year in the 1955-56 season where they failed to qualify for the playoffs.  Irvin was to coach the Blackhawks again in 1956–57, but he became so ill with bone cancer that he had to retire before the season began.  He died a few months later at age 64.  A year later, Irvin was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  His coaching career included four Stanley Cups with 692 regular season wins, results surpassed only by Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman.  His son, Dick Irvin, Jr., is a noted Canadian television sports announcer.

 

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