Birth: Lindsay, Ontario, January 29, 1906
Died: May 14, 1989
Career Highlights1927-36 - Played for Toronto Maple Leafs
1932 - Stanley Cup—Toronto Maple Leafs
1945-51 - Coached teams to three major championships—Memorial, Allan, Stanley Cups
Joe Primeau was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as an Athlete, but he could have been inducted as a Builder without any fuss because his coaching career was almost as spectacular as his amazing playing career.
He was admired by Conn Smythe when Smythe was manager of the New York Rangers, but after being fired and returning to Toronto, Smythe signed Primeau to the Leafs, and it was there the centreman played his entire nine-year career.
Primeau played two games for the Leafs in ’27-’28 and six more the following season while he developed his skills in the minors. He joined the Leafs for good in 1929, and by that Christmas he was centring a line with Charlie Conacher and Harvey Jackson. The three young players were dubbed the Kid Line, and this trio proved to be the most exciting and effective lines in the NHL in the early 1930s.
Primeau, as the centre, was the playmaker. He brought the puck up ice or over the blueline, and he had a knack for making the right pass at the right time to his speedy and skilled wingers. As a result, he didn’t score as much as Conacher and Jackson, but Primeau did lead the league in assists three times in four years (1930-34). More important, he helped the Leafs win the 1932 Stanley Cup, the team’s first year at newly-built Maple Leaf Gardens.
Primeau retired in 1936 after playing just 310 NHL games, a low total even for that era. He was just 30 years old but business interests had become so successful he couldn’t afford not to quit the game. He returned to coaching in 1944 and led the St. Mike’s Majors to a Memorial Cup the following spring, lost the next year, and won again in ’47. In 1950, he guided the senior Marlies to an Allan Cup after which he took over the Leafs. A year later, his magic touch had arrived in the NHL as he was celebrating a Stanley Cup win at Maple Leaf Gardens. Primeau became one of a select few to coach teams to the three major championships—Memorial Cup, Allan Cup, Stanley Cup.
He retired in 1953, again for business reasons, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.