One year to the day of the declaration of a global pandemic, I’m using the somewhat flimsy pretext of an overlooked anniversary (of sorts) from last week as an excuse for running this story today. Really, it’s just another old incident I may have figured out something new about…
This past Sunday, March 7, marked the 115th anniversary of Fred Brophy of the Montreal AAA hockey team scoring a goal on Nathan Frye of the Montreal Victorias. What makes this goal noteworthy is that Brophy himself was a goalie! What makes the pretext somewhat flimsy is that this was actually the second time Brophy the goalie had scored a goal … and it’s his first goal — a little more than a year earlier, on February 18, 1905 — that I’m actually writing about.
That Fred Brophy scored a goal more than 80 years before Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall shot a puck the length of the ice into an open net on December 8, 1987, is not unknown to hockey historians. It’s more than likely it first game to light in Volume 1 of Charles L. Coleman’s seminal work The Trail of the Stanley Cup, published around 1966.
In writing about the 1905 hockey season, Coleman (who had poured over old newspapers for years to compile his three-volume set) stated: “Another unusual record was established by Brophy, the Westmount goaler, who on February 18th rushed the length of the ice and scored a goal against Paddy Moran of Quebec.”
Of his goal the next year, Coleman writes: “Brophy, the Montreal goaler, duplicated his performance of the previous year by scoring a goal against Victorias in the game on March 7th. In doing so, he stickhandled his way past the stars Bowie, Eveleigh and Bellingham.”
Brophy’s scoring ability got more play on December 24, 1969, in a Canadian Press story that appeared in numerous Canadian newspapers.
The CP story gives basically the same scant details that Coleman had provided. But somewhere along the line, more information about Brophy’s first goal surfaced. Wikipedia has this to say:
“The first recorded goal in competitive play, scored by a goaltender, was in 1905. According to a Montreal Star report, poor officiating resulted in only the goaltenders left on the ice in a February 18 game between the Montreal Westmounts and Quebec Bulldogs of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL). Fred Brophy (Montreal) and Hall of Famer Paddy Moran (Quebec) exchanged scoring attempts, before Brophy beat Moran, while the latter and most of the spectators “convulsed in laughter.”
Now, I know that in the early days of the NHL, there was no rule limiting the number of players serving a penalty at one time. Still, I’ve had difficulty envisioning a situation in which the referees would call so many penalties that only the goalies were left on the ice.
Wikipedia credits the book Without Fear: Hockey’s 50 Greatest Goaltenders by Kevin Allen, Bob Duff, and Johnny Bower as the source of its information. So, I asked Bob Duff if he had that Montreal Star report. Bob said he’d only read about it, and thought it might have been in a book by Brian McFarlane.
So, I got in touch with Brian McFarlane … who could only recall the story from what he’d read in Charles Coleman. Who (if anyone) found that Montreal Star story? At this point, who knows!
Unfortunately, the Montreal Star has never been digitized and is not easily accessible (especially these days) via microfilm. But plenty of other newspapers are online. So, I got busy. And if there was a story in the Star, it was either inaccurate at the time … or was transcribed inaccurately later.
English accounts of the game from Montreal are scarce. The Gazette has very little to say about it. Westmount had its own paper (as I discovered when doing my research on Art Ross — both Ross and Lester Patrick played with Brophy on the Westmount team this year, and in this game) but the Westmount News either doesn’t exist before 1907, or no copies have survived.
The 1905 game was played in Quebec City, and perhaps that’s the reason the best accounts I could find were in French. So, I sent a copy of the story in Montreal’s La Presse to Society for International Hockey Research colleagues Jean-Patrice Martel and Marc Durand. Marc has a special interest in the history of the Quebec Bulldogs, and was readily available to read the story … and provide me with translations.
The English-language accounts I’d seen had made it pretty clear that Paddy Moran had tried to score before Brophy did, and that there were a lot of penalties called in a very one-sided game that Quebec won 17–5. As Marc explained, the score was already 12–4 Quebec at the time, and it was getting to be late in the game. According to his translation:
“Paddy Moran played his typical game. He went the extra mile by taking advantage of the moment when Quebec had just one forward on the ice to try and score himself. The situation amused the public. Brophy, to not be left behind, returned the compliment by scoring, after a superb race, helped by a lot of goodwill on the part of the Quebec defense.”
No explanation as to what that “goodwill” entailed, but it was clear that Brophy and Moran were not the only players on the ice. Quebec only had one forward who wasn’t in the penalty box at the time, but Moran had him and his two defensemen with him. Westmount had only one player in the box.
Marc and I both agree that, from what we know of Paddy Moran, he doesn’t seem like the type who would just let Brophy score on him, no matter what the score. (Especially after Brophy had just stopped him!) Goalies in this era didn’t have all the equipment they wear today. Their gloves weren’t all that different from other players; the pads on their legs were flimsy; and their sticks were only marginally wider than other players. Still, there’s no record of any other goalies doing what Brophy did at the game’s highest level in this era.
The fact that he did it again the next season shows it couldn’t have been a complete fluke.
And for people who haven’t see it already, I was one of those who Ken Dryden reached out to yesterday to share his message that we still need to be careful. Even with the vaccine rollout picking up the pace, Ken’s is a reminder that we still need to wear a mask…