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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member Stories

Honoured Member

BILL DURNAN

Inducted in 1986

Member Details

Date of Birth: January 22, 1916
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario
Date of Passing: October 31, 1972
Sport: Ice Hockey
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1943-44
First rookie to win Vezina Trophy
1943-50
Won Vezina Trophy six times in seven years

Stanley Cup - Montreal Canadiens

First Team All-Star six of seven years
Honoured Member BILL DURNAN
Inspire

Story

Born and raised in Toronto, there was every reason to believe Bill Durnan was going to play for the Maple Leafs one day. However, in 1932, he suffered a knee injury that took an inordinate amount of time to heal, and the Leafs felt this augured poorly for a goalie's career. They gave up on him. Durnan moved up to Kirkland Lake and played there for several years, helping the local Blue Devils win the Allan Cup in 1940. He played in Montreal during the early part of the war and in 1943 the Canadiens thought highly enough of him that he was brought up to replace Paul Bibeault as the main goalie. Although Durnan played just seven full seasons in the NHL, his record was beyond compare. As a rookie, he played every minute of every one of the team's 50 games, leading the league in wins with 38 and goals-against average (2.18). He became the first rookie ever to win the Vezina Trophy, a trophy he won six of his seven years in the NHL. He capped his first year by leading the Habs to a Stanley Cup victory. His next year was more of the same. Another 50 games, another league-leading 38 wins and lowest GAA at 2.42, another Vezina Trophy. Durnan won his second and last Cup the next year and continued to play virtually every minute of the year for the team. Although his record was impeccable, it was his style that was as noteworthy. Durnan was ambidextrous, and in the days before a formalized catching glove and blocker, goalies wore large mitten-like gloves on their stick side to go with a small catching mitt. Durnan could shift his stick from one hand to the other so he wore two mittens for gloves so that he could deflect the puck or catch it from either side. He was also the last goalie-captain in the NHL. By the time he retired in 1950 at age 34, the game had taken its toll on his nerves. The pressure of playing every night, of being expected to win every game, of being booed when he allowed a goal, was all too much for him, so after just seven years he left the NHL and settled into more conservative employment in Montreal working for an insurance company.


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