Newsy Lalonde was born Edouard Cyrille Lalonde on October 31, 1887 in Cornwall, Ontario. He would grow to be perhaps the best all-around hockey and lacrosse player of the early 20th century. Lalonde played as a professional in both sports, actually making more money at lacrosse than hockey. It must be remembered that in the early decades of the 20th century, lacrosse was at least as popular as hockey in Canada, and Lalonde was a hero to fans of both sports.
Lalonde worked in a newspaper print shop as a boy, earning him his nickname, a name that would stick with him throughout his life. Like most Canadian boys of the time, work was work and hockey was hockey and Lalonde never let the former get in the way of the latter.
Lalonde started with hockey though, joining the local Cornwall Hockey Club in 1904 as an amateur. Lalonde was only 15 years old, but was already a star on the rise and one year later he joined the senior league, playing for the Woodstock Seniors. By 1906 he had been lured by his friend Jack Laviolette to join the professionals in the International Hockey League to play for the Soo Indians. He only played a single season there, but Lalonde was named to the all-star team. Phenom does not quite capture the impact of Lalonde.
Jump to 1907 and Lalonde was back in Canada as a member of the Ontario Professional Hockey League’s Toronto Professionals. Lalonde was the leading scorer in the league with an amazing – I mean seriously, think about this - 29 goals in just nine games. Lalonde’s team met the powerful Montreal Wanderers for the Stanley Cup. losing 6-4 in the championship match. In the game, Lalonde netted two goals.
After Jack Laviolette was charged with forming the Montreal Canadiens in 1910 for the new National Hockey Association he reached out to Lalonde to get him onto the all-French roster. Lalonde would add “trivia question answer” to his resume by scoring the first goal in Canadiens history, putting two pucks in net in a 7-6 win over the Cobalt Silver Kings.
The NHA was interesting in part because J. Ambrose O’Brien owned not just the Canadiens, but four of the five teams in the league. With the Canadiens not doing well in their inaugural season, O’Brien “traded” Lalonde to his Renfrew Creamery Kings to aid them in making a run at the Cup. After scoring 16 goals in his six games with Montreal, Lalonde bettered it by scoring 22 goals in the five remaining games. Part of that bloated total came in a single game when Lalonde scored a record nine goals in one game, a 17-2 win where Lalonde played at center. It cannot be a surprise then that Lalonde won the first NHA scoring title. I mean, this guy was seriously potent with the puck.
Lalonde’s stay with Renfrew was brief and he returned to Montreal the next season. His offense actually dropped off and he only managed 19 goals in 16 games. Yeah…only. Lalonde was a true professional and by that I mean he was not unaware of his skill and importance to the Canadiens. When he did not get the contract he thought he deserved, he decided to jump west and became a member of the Vancouver Millionaires. Once again he lit it up on the ice, winning the Pacific Coast Hockey League scoring championship with 27 goals in just 15 games.
This takes us to 1912 when the Canadiens, perhaps admitting their mistake in letting Lalonde escape, sent the then-princely sum of 750.00 and Didier Pitre to Vancouver to get their star back. Lalonde returned and resumed his captaincy, leading Les Canadiens on the ice and finding himself in a much-improved league.
Let’s pause for a moment to consider Lalonde in the context of his times. Hockey in the early 1900s was not the same game we know today. First of all, there were seven players per side – all the players we know now plus on rover. Hockey, which emerged from rougher games like rugby and shinny, was well known for the assaults on the ice with and without sticks. Lalonde once told of an incident with Joe Hall who hit him in the neck with his stick, nearly crushing Lalonde’s throat. Substitutions were rare in those days, so Lalonde’s absence from the ice was short. Lalonde skated off for a bit before returning and whacking Hall so hard he broke the man’s collarbone.
Now that Lalonde was back with Montreal, he had found his home for the next ten years. Lalonde brought his, shall we say, unkind temperament to his old/new team, making enemies on the ice and with opposing team’s fans. In 1914 he led Les Canadiens to the Stanley Cup finals against the Seattle Metropolitans, a final that found Newsy slapped with five penalties and a game misconduct. Why the misconduct? He hit a referee in the face with the knob end of his stick. Lalonde was not interested in making friends.
By the 1914 season, Lalonde was once again unhappy with his monetary rewards and held out. Yeah, that stuff happened even back then. Six games into the season he finally returned, only to suffer a freak injury in a game against the rival Montreal Wanderers. With an opposing player down on his knees, Lalonde fell, landing with his leg right on the skates, ripping into the leg and severing part of the artery. He had to have emergency surgery and was lucky to recover.
But recover he did and in 1915 scored 28 goals in the now-24 game NHA season to capture the scoring title. More importantly for Lalonde – and us – he led Montreal to a Stanley Cup victory over the Portland Rosebuds, the first championship in club history.
Of course, in 1917 the NHA dissolved and the National Hockey League was formed. Les Canadiens were admitted into the new league but even with Lalonde continuing to light it up, his club finished dead last. Things would not get much better until 1919, when Montreal once again found themselves vying for the Stanley Cup, this time against the Seattle Metropolitans. Seattle won the first game, Montreal the second, Seattles the third, Montreal the fifth. The fourth game went to double overtime before the game was called due to the horrid ice conditions. Still, the Canadiens were well on their way to their second Stanley Cup.
Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde
Sadly, not long after the conclusion of game five, many players on both squads came down with the Spanish influenza which was devastating the world. Along with players like Bill Couture, Joe Hall (yeah, the same one Newsy tangled with years before), and Jack McDonald, Lalonde was simply too sick to continue playing. As a result, the 1919 Stanley Cup finals were canceled and no champion was named that season.
Lalonde continued playing for Montreal until 1922. That season, three new owners took over the club – Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich. Lalonde had some major issues with Dandurand and walked out of the club. He walk out lasted four games, but when he returned the bad blood was too much for Dandurand to accept and he traded Newsy to Saskatoon for Aurel Joliat. Given Lalonde was 36 years old and declining in goal production, along with his attitude with the team, this is one of the many lopsided trades made in Montreal history. Joliat, of course, would be a superstar for Les Canadiens well into the 1930s.
Lalonde is a legend in Canadiens history, there is no doubt of that. However, if we ask ourselves why, it has to include his demeanor on the ice and his fearless abandon when it came to fighting. This same mindset, however, led to one of the darkest moments in Canadiens history as well. Completely pissed off at Dandurand and the Canadiens for the trade to Saskatoon and possibly envious of the love Joliat received from the Montreal fans, Lalonde took his first opportunity when facing Montreal on the ice by crosschecking Joliat in the face.
Lalonde’s career continued as player-coach for Saskatoon until 1926 when he joined the New York Americans as a pure coach. Well, almost pure. In one game he did suit up again to play, but that would be his last dance on the ice and he officially retired as a player in 1926. He did continue as head coach of the Americans until 1929, took over as coach of the Ottawa Senators until 1932 and finally returned home, so to speak, and coached the Montreal Canadiens into the 1934-1935 season.
Lest we forget that Lalonde was a star in two sports during his life, he was not only inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, but in the same year was voted the greatest lacrosse player of the first fifty years of the 20th century. He ended up being inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965.
Lalonde died in 1970 and is remembered for his toughness, his dominance on the ice, his scoring prowess and his mean disposition. Not only opposing players, but some of his own team members through the years detested Newsy. This is a guy who attacked anyone he felt like on the ice and as a head coach once punched a player in the face for back talking. No nonsense on or off the ice was Lalonde’s way of life.
Newsy Lalonde finished his playing career with 125 goals and 41 assists in 99 games. In those 99 games he has 183 penalty minutes. Impressively, in his seven postseason games, Lalonde scored 15 goals and added 4 assists. He played largely at center, but also took on roles as a rover and a forward throughout his career.