Part of the hype for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Hockey League involves the release of what has been described as the “Top 100 Players” in NHL history. The list, to be revealed on January 27 as part of the All-Star weekend, will have some all-time greats – Orr, Gretzky, Howe, Lemieux, Richard, Hull, Hull, Plante and…..
Those and the other 92 on that top 100 list will be profiled.
So, here we want to remember some who may have just missed being on the list or should have been included.
We can only guess what a challenge it was for the selection panel to arrive at their list.
A first group of the top 100, those from the pre-1967 period (first 50 years), was released at the Centennial Classic outdoor game on January 1 in Toronto. But we here don’t want other worthy names to be overlooked. We will periodically be describing their careers and honoring them here:
Aurèle Émile “Mighty Atom, Little Giant” Joliat (August 29, 1901 in Ottawa, Ontario – June 2, 1986 in Ottawa, Ontario) was a left winger who played 16 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. He was one of hockey’s first stars.
Joliat began his organized hockey career in 1916, playing for several Canadian amateur teams in Ottawa and Iroquois Falls, Ontario. In 1922, however, Joliat was awarded to the Montreal Canadiens in compensation for the Saskatoon Sheiks of the Western Canada Hockey League signing aging superstar Newsy Lalonde. At first, the deal of an unknown for the greatest player in the game was wildly unpopular with Habs fans, but the “Little Giant” proved an immediate success on the ice. The following season, Joliat helped the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1924 over the WCHL’s Calgary Tigers. He helped the Canadiens win two more cups in 1930 and 1931.
Joliat proved noteworthy as a two-way forward, particularly for the ability to counterattack after a breakup. Despite his lack of size—at 5′7″ and 136 lbs, Joliat was one of the smallest players in the game—he was also notable for a refusal to back off from on-ice confrontations.
His breakout season was 1925, when teamed with Howie Morenz and Billy Boucher, Joliat scored 29 goals to lead the NHL, and his 41 points would be a career high. He would remain an impact scorer for the Habs through the 1938 season, and retired the following year, reportedly devastated by Morenz’s recent death.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947. In 1985, Joliat skated around the Montreal Forum to a huge ovation as a “special treat” for the fans. Despite falling twice, he quickly stood up and finished his skate, the trademark black cap he wore back in his playing days held in his hand.
Joliat continued to skate along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal well into his 80s and died at the age of 84 in 1986; after seeing his beloved Canadiens win their 23rd Stanley Cup earlier that year and was buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario.
More about Joliat: At the time of his retirement, Joliat was third, behind Nels Stewart and his teammate Howie Morenz, for goals scored in NHL history to that date…..Ranked 65th on The Hockey News list of the 100 greatest NHL players of all time….Named to the inaugural NHL First All-Star Team at left wing in 1931….Named a Second Team All-Star in 1932, 1934 and 1935…Won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 1934….Despite playing in an era where seasons totaled no more than 48 games, Joliat remains in ninth place all-time on the Canadiens’ career goal-scoring list and second among left wingers to Steve Shutt….Named to the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team by the Canadiens in 1984….His number 4 jersey was “co-retired” in 1984, having been previously retired in Jean Béliveau’s honour.