Wednesday

Pit Lepine

Pit Lepine was a tall and rangy player who broke in with the Montreal Canadiens 1925 and played his whole 13 year career with the Habitants. He was a good-looking man whose premature gray hair gave him a distinguished appearance and he was an idol of many fans.

Lepine was a very competent center who, in addition to his playmaking ability, was very adept with a sweeping poke-check. However, he was destined to play for many years under the shadow of the great Howie Morenz who centered the first line.

Canadiens manager Frank Selke Sr. was a big fan of Lepine's.

"Lepine brought to the game a polish seldom seen before. On any other team Pit would have been a blazing meteor, but he was doomed to play all his hockey in the shadow of the truculent Morenz, who at the time, was the fiercest competitor in all of hockey."

At the outset the native of St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, was the center for Gizzy Hart and Wildor Larochelle but missed half the 1927-28 schedule with a broken collarbone. He returned to action fully recovered the following year with Armand Mondou and Georges Mantha as line mates.

He was very prominent when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup the next two years, playing with Mantha and Larochelle but frequently relieving Morenz on the first line. He had the distinction of scoring 5 goals in a game against Ottawa in 1929-30.

When Morenz was traded to Chicago, Pit became the center for Aurel Joliat and Larochelle and led the team in scoring points in 1934-35. He missed many games in 1935-36 when he broke his thumb, and with the return of Morenz in 1936-37 was dropped to second line with Mantha and Toe Blake.

In January of 1937 he suffered a ruptured leg artery and missed many games. He slowed considerably in 1937-38 and left the NHL, playing for New Haven of the AHL the next season and then retiring as a player.

Babe Siebert had been named the coach of the Canadiens for 1939-40, but then a double tragedy struck when Siebert drowned trying unsuccessfully to save his daughter who had fallen off an inner tube into Lake Huron. As a result, Lepine was named coach. He got the Canadiens off to a good start in 1939-40, but the Habs were playing on borrowed time. Their success was short term, as the forwards stopped scoring and the defense crumbled, ending up the worst in the NHL. The Canadiens finished last and Lepine was out of a job.

Pit Lepine died in 1955. He had been suffering from the after-effects of several serious strokes in the previous few years.

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