Didier Pitre

French Canadiens have a long storied history of producing great hockey talent. The long list begins with Didier Pitre.

Pitre, who Hall of Famer Cy Denneny calls "one of the fastest skaters of all time," was nicknamed "Cannonball" because of his dynamic wrist shot. His perfected shot and superior skating made Pitre a hot commodity in hockey's early days when pioneers routinely joined teams for even just one game. That was just how it was done in early frontier hockey.

Pitre joined the Montreal Canadiens as the team made its debut in the NHL. In fact, he was the very first pro player signed by Jack Laviolette in 1909. After a long legal dispute with Pitre's former team, the Ottawa Nationals, Pitre joined the Montreal Canadiens. His case went to court where, in a precedent setting decision, the judge ruled that under Quebec law no man could be forced to act against his will. Pitre, the man reported to skate as fast backwards as he could forwards, was coming to Montreal.

Pitre's classy play graced Montreal until 1923. He played 13 seasons with the Canadiens, with a single season in Vancouver with the Pacific Coast League. Pitre was a large man at over 200lbs, and he learned to use his size to his advantage, especially when shooting. When he put every pound of muscle into his shot, players tried to get out of the way. He once had a goal contested because the puck went right through the net. Despite his size advantage, however, he was never a noted physical player.

Pitre was a member of the 1915-16 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens and led the NHA in scoring that year with 39 points in 24 games. He was also a member of the Montreal squad that participated in the finals of 1919 that were cancelled because of the influenza epidemic. He played over 300 professional games in his career before retiring in 1923.

Didier Pitre was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.


Unknown 10:43 AM  

Just a minor correction, Joe. The dispute involving Pitre was between the Canadiens and the Montreal Nationals. Pitre had played for them before being signed by the Michigan Soo team in the International Hockey League.

The man who signed him to the IHL contract was Jack Laviolette, the same player/manager who was in charge of the Canadiens in 1909-10.

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