Ken Reardon

"I couldn't skate, I couldn't shoot, and I wasn't very intelligent. But I was spectacular" - Ken Reardon

Sad news today. Former Montreal Canadiens defenceman and Hockey Hall of Famer Kenny Reardon has passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 86.

Reardon played seven seasons with the Canadiens between 1940 and 1950, scoring 122 points in 341 games. Playing with greats like Maurice Richard, Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard, Reardon helped the Canadiens win two Stanley Cups. He was also selected to the NHL's First All-Star Team twice and the Second All-Star Team three times in his career.

He is best remembered by modern fans as Don Cherry's boyhood hero. "Grapes" has mentioned that fact numerous times on "Coach's Corner," and undoubtedly he will have a tribute to him tonight.

Cherry's Boyhood Idol

The fact that Don Cherry grew up idolizing Ken Reardon should pretty much tell you what kind of a player Reardon was.

His fearless, reckless abandon accounted for his many injuries, and even more fans. He was a fan favorite during his entire NHL career. He would barge down the ice in the most direct line to either the opponent's net or his check, and he loved the body-contact game. Reardon came to the Montreal Canadiens as a rookie determined to succeed, not on skill, but on hard work. And he did.

Reardon's hard work paid off when he made the Canadiens in 1941 and played two full seasons before his career was interrupted by World War II.

Ken would play on army teams while at battle, and returned to the Canadiens for the 1945-46 season and for the next five seasons, paired with fellow Hall of Famer Butch Bouchard, he was named to NHL All-Star teams. He made the first team in 1946-47 and 1949-50, the second team in the other three seasons. He played on a Stanley Cup winner in 1945-46.

It was all in a time when hockey was extremely rough and tough, and no player was tougher than Kenny Reardon. A throw back to the Red Horner days, the game's evolution has made modern day comparisons extremely difficult. Perhaps you could say Derian Hatcher had a little Kenny Reardon in him in his prime with Dallas.

The Cal Gardner "Bond" Incident

As the bad man of pro hockey, Reardon was certainly no stranger to hot water. He had several feuds around the league, but none more intense than with Cal Gardner.

Gardner wasn't noted to be a particularly dirty player, but he inadvertently triggered their feud when he crosschecked Reardon in the mouth late in the 1947 season. A donnybrook ensued, with a New York Rangers fan even getting involved and taking a swipe at the bleeding Reardon. Mayhem erupted as the Canadiens attacked the fans as police tried to break it all up.

The vengeful Reardon promised retaliation on Gardner every time they played again, although nothing noteworthy would happen until November, 1949. Gardner, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had his jaw broken by Reardon in a game at the Forum. Desperately hoping to end the feud, NHL president Clarence Campbell forced Reardon while he was on the ice to post a $1,000 bond against future violence! Campbell had had enough, especially since earlier in the month Reardon and teammate Leo Gravelle were arrested and jailed for hours in Chicago after Hawks fans claimed they attacked them with their sticks. The case was dismissed by a judge.

Nothing more would happen between Gardner and Reardon, though legend has it that time failed to heal the wounds. Supposedly the two carried ill will to each other long after their careers on the ice ended.

Retires To Front Office

Reardon would never have to pay money for a violent act. He would retired at the conclusion of another all star season in 1950. He said his body could no longer withstand his violent style of game, but that his heart and mind would never let him tone down his game.

Reardon moved into Montreal front office and became the assistant to Canadiens general manager Frank Selke. Specifically he was asked to revamp the team's scouting system in Western Canada. Reardon helped find future Canadiens such as Terry Harper, Dave Balon, Bill Hicke, and Red Berenson.

Reardon was also said to be instrumental in the Canadiens decision to hire Toe Blake as coach to start the 1955-56 season. Blake of course went on to guide the Habs to 5 consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Despite his front office success, Reardon was passed over for the Habs GM job when Selke retired in 1964. The Habs chose another bright hockey man who worked under Selke - Sam Pollock.

Reardon would remain with the Canadiens until 1966, the same year he enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Derek 10:43 AM  

Great article per usual Joe. Here is a bit about he and his brother Terry.

A half dozen years ago two husky Irish brothers spent the energy of their early teens playing hockey on Winnipeg’s corner-lot rinks. One – the elder brother – was much better than the other, who seldom looked any better than average.
In passage of time that elder brother, Terry Reardon, worked up quite a reputation as a hockey player. The younger one, Ken, was no ball of fire. As a midget, he couldn’t make a regular berth on the team that had him signed. His juvenile season was no more successful. His greatest claim to fame was that he was Terry Reardon’s brother, for Terry was getting to be big stuff in Manitoba junior ranks.
When Terry went to Hershey Bears as property of the Boston Bruins, while he was still of junior age, there was much interest. Much more than was created when Ken got a job in Edmonton and turned up as a seldom used 5th defenseman for Edmonton Roamers.
Terry progressed at Hershey, and suddenly at Edmonton in the 1939-40 season, Ken found himself. He was an overnight sensation. Folks began to figure that he might turn out almost as well as Terry, after all.

Tonight, when Boston meets Canadiens in Montreal in a NHL game, the Reardon brothers will get a chance to prove which one is the better hockey player. For Ken will be at his regular defense post with Canadiens and Terry will be at center for one of Boston’s front lines.
The ugly duckling, Ken, went the fastest. He rose to Canadiens this year (40-41) while still a junior. Meanwhile, Terry, the child wonder three years ago, is getting his first real shot at the big time.

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