Long before Billy Smith, there was Harry Lumley. And long before the emergence of the prototypical neurotic, superstitious and brooding goaltender, there was also Lumley. In fact, Lumley earned his famous nickname ‘Apple Cheeks’ due to his proclivity for losing his temper when a puck got past him. “He would get so angry when he was scored on that his cheeks would turn red,” said hockey historian Bob Duff.
But his fiery temper also manifested itself in other very real, very painful ways. Lumley was known for wielding his stick like a scythe, cutting down opponents who dared to come too close. Gordie Howe once said Lumley would even take his stick to teammates in practice. And while Lumley was considered a great guy and teammate off the ice, those same teammates who steered clear of him in practice knew full well to do the same on game days. Lumley didn’t want much to do with anyone in the dressing room prior to games, and part of his pre-game ritual would include laying his equipment out on the floor in front of his stall and putting it on in a very specific order. “Nobody could touch it,” Duff said. “(Former Wings teammate) Red Kelly told me that if you came by and bumped into his equipment while he was putting it on, he would take it all off and start all over again. Kelly told me a lot of guys would come by and touch it deliberately just to piss him off.”
Whatever Lumley did, it worked brilliantly for him. Despite winning just one Stanley Cup, in 1949-50 with Detroit, his stats are right up there with the game’s all-time greats. He was the first goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300-win plateau, and his 330 wins when he retired in 1960 stood as the all-time high-water mark. Lumley led the NHL in wins twice and shutouts three times, including 1953-54 when he recorded 13 shutouts, still a franchise record for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lumley’s legacy was altered by the emergence of Terry Sawchuk in Detroit. After winning the Cup in 1950, Lumley was traded to make room for the rookie Sawchuk. Compounding matters, Lumley was traded to Chicago, an awful team he backstopped for two seasons before being dealt to Toronto in 1952. The Red Wings went on to win three Cups in four years with Sawchuk in net, so it’s hard to argue they made a mistake, but Howe also said there’s a good chance the Wings would’ve won all those Cups with Lumley in the crease.
Lumley won only 29 games in two seasons with Chicago, suppressing his career win total. “He had some huge numbers for some Leaf teams that weren’t very good,” said hockey historian Eric Zweig. “He won a ton of games, but he seems to get bounced around. I don’t know if there was something about him where teams said, ‘We can do better than this.’ ”
Born: Nov. 11, 1926, Owen Sound, Ont.
NHL Career: 1943-60
Teams: NYR, Det, Chi, Tor, Bos
Stats: 330-329-142, 2.74 GAA, 71 SO
Awards: 1 (Vezina-1)all-star 2 (First-2)
Stanley Cups: 1
DID YOU KNOW?
There are some records certain never to be broken – Wayne Gretzky’s scoring totals, Bill Mosienko’s three goals in 21 seconds and Glenn Hall’s 502 consecutive games in net. But there’s one mark for goalies belonging to Lumley that can never be broken unless the NHL lowers the age of its players. Lumley was 17 years and 38 days old when he made his big-league debut in a 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 19, 1943.