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Elmer James Lach (born January 22, 1918) is a retired Canadian professional ice hockey centre who played 14 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League. He was part of the Punch line, along with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake. He led the league in scoring twice, and was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1945 as the league's Most Valuable Player. Lach won three Stanley Cups with Montreal. He retired as the league's all-time leading scorer in 1954, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Famemarker 12 years later.

Early life

He was born in Nokomismarker, Saskatchewanmarker, a small town north of Reginamarker. He began playing junior ice hockey for with the Regina Abbotts in the 1935–36. He played the two following seasons with the senior Weyburn Beavers of the Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League (SSHL). In the 1938–369 season, Lach joined the Moose Jaw Millers of the SSHL. In his first season with the Millers, he led them in assists, with 20, and was the leading playoff scorer. He also scored 17 regular-season goals. The next season, he scored 15 goals and 29 assists, and led in playoff scoring again. Lach was also noted for his defensive contributions.

Career

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Lach signed with the Montreal Canadiens on October 24, 1940. He came to the Canadiens' training camp with only an overnight bag, not expecting to be offered a contract. In his NHL season, Lach played 43 games, scoring seven goals and adding 14 assists. He was limited to only one game the following season, after suffering an elbow injury in the first game. He returned the following season to score 58 points in 45 games. He set a still-standing Canadiens records by scoring six assists in one game on February 6, 1943.

In the 1943–44 season, Montreal head coach Dick Irvin tried a line combination of Lach at centre, Maurice Richard on the right wing, and Toe Blake at left. This line became known as the Punch line and dominated the NHL for four seasons. In the first season of the Punch line, Lach played 48 games, scoring on average an assist per game; he also added 24 goals. At the conclusion of the season, Lach was named to the Second All-Star team. He also won his first Stanley Cup, helping sweep the Chicago Black Hawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the 1944–45 season, Lach played in all 50 games, picking up a league-leading 80 points, of which 26 were goals and 54 were assists. That season, linemate Maurice Richard became the first player in the NHL to score 50 goals in 50 games. That season, the Punch line amassed 220 points in total, a NHL record until the 1960s. Lach was presented the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player, and was named to the First All-Star team. Lach was also presented with the Hart Trophy and voted to the NHL First All-Star Team.

After being eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the semi-finals in the previous season, Lach and the Canadiens won another Stanley Cup in the 1945–46 season. Lach led all players with 34 regular season assists, and was named once more to the Second All-Star team. In the 1947–48 season, Lach became the first recipient of the Art Ross Trophy, after leading the league in points, with 61. The Punch line ceased to exist after Blake retired at the end of the season. Lach led the league in assists for the last time in the 1951–52 season, with 50. In the 1952–53 season, Lach won his third and final Stanley Cup in a memorable finish. At 1:22 of overtime, he scored the Cup-winning goal against the Boston Bruins; however, in the on-ice celebration immediately after the goal, Maurice Richard accidentally broke Lach's nose with his stick.

Retirement

Lach retired in 1954 as the league's leading scorer, having played 664 regular season games, scoring 215 goals and 408 assists for 623 points, as well as 76 postseason games, where he scored 19 goals and 45 assists for 64 points. He retired as he had accepted an offer to coach the Montreal Junior Canadiens. He also stood behind the bench for the Montreal Royals for two seasons, before pursuing business interests. He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Famemarker in 1966. In 1998, he was ranked number 68 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1940–41 Montreal Canadiens NHL 43 7 14 21 16 3 1 0 1 0
1941–42 Montreal Canadiens NHL 1 0 1 1 0
1942–43 Montreal Canadiens NHL 45 18 40 58 14 5 2 4 6 6
1943–44 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 24 48 72 23 9 2 11 13 4
1944–45 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 26 54 80 37 6 4 4 8 2
1945–46 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 13 34 47 34 9 5 12 17 4
1946–47 Montreal Canadiens NHL 31 14 16 30 22
1947–48 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 30 31 61 72
1948–49 Montreal Canadiens NHL 36 11 18 29 59 1 0 0 0 4
1949–50 Montreal Canadiens NHL 64 15 33 48 33 5 1 2 3 4
1950–51 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 21 24 45 48 11 2 2 4 2
1951–52 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 15 50 65 36 11 1 2 3 4
1952–53 Montreal Canadiens NHL 53 16 25 41 56 12 1 6 7 6
1953–54 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 5 20 25 28 4 0 2 2 0
NHL totals 664 215 408 623 478 76 19 45 64 36


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