Marcel Bonin

Marcel Bonin enjoyed his best years in Montreal, scoring 68 goals and 205 points in 280 games between 1957 and 1962 while winning 4 Stanley Cups. Often playing the role of mucker and defensive conscience on a line with Jean Beliveau and Boom Boom Geoffrion, it is often forgotten that Bonin started his career jumping between the minor leagues and the NHL with both the Detroit and Boston organizations.

Marcel Bonin was a very solid player, but not a true front-liner. He was feisty and physical, good at retrieving pucks in corners and scrums. Though he never had dominating scoring statistics, he had decent enough hands to make a nice pass after securing the puck from a battle. He was very versatile, able to play either wing and a nice fit with several line combinations.

Bonin averaged about 15 goals a season, but he could have scored more. Interestingly, the following Bonin quote suggests he didn't really want to score more.

"I reached my yearly average. I scored 15 goals like in the previous years. If I score 19, they will expect 25 for next year. I don't want to get into that. So...for the next 7 or 8 games, I'll be the playmaker but you score the goals. It's over for me."

That definitely wasn't the case in the 1959 playoffs. The left-winger had the greatest moments of his career as he led the playoffs in goals with 10, four more than anyone else, in 11 games. Three of his goals were game winners. He scored 7 goals in the first round against Chicago and added another three, including the championship winning goal, in round two against Toronto.

Bonin had a reputation as a solid playoff performer, but his scoring outbreak was nothing short of incredible. Much like a modern day John Druce or Chris Kontos, Bonin's hot streak was a blip. Though he was a nice piece of 4 Stanley Cup championships, Marcel Bonin would only score 1 goal and 10 assists in 39 other career NHL playoff games.

The tenacious Marcel Bonin is fondly remembered for one other "sport" besides hockey. "L'ours de Joliette" - "the bear of Joliette," his hometown, was known to wrestle bears for show. Bonin told the story to Brian McFarlane for his book "The Habs."

"When Joe Louis, the heavyweight boxing champion, retired, he went with the circus because even after all those big fights he had no money. He was a kind of referee, a guy who talked people into wrestling this bear. He said he'd give $1000 to anyone who could put the bear down. And lots of people came and tried.

"Well, I was about 16 and I said, 'I'm gonna go.' So I left my home in Joliette and I wrestled that bear. But he was big and strong and I couldn't put him down.

"But I wouldn't give up. I went to Three Rivers and a lot of other places and I wrestled that bear lots of times. After a while I got to be buddies with that bear. He was a big brown bear with a muzzle and no claws. In lots of towns in Quebec people still remember Marcel the bear wrestler.

"When I got into hockey with Detroit, Marcel Pronovost told a lot of people about my bear-wrestling and they made a big story about it.


Frédéric Dénommé 4:23 PM  

I'm from Joliette where the ice rink arena is named after him. Used to play there as a teenager. Thank you for these stories about him.

John F. leslie,  4:26 PM  

I remembered that Marcel wrestled bears when I was a kid. A great player. None like him today.

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