Normie Smith’s eight-season NHL career was essentially five seasons, with just a smattering of starts in the final three years, so he sure accomplished a lot in a brief period of time. As a rookie with the Montreal Maroons in 1931-32, his days as a pro goalie almost ended as soon as they began after a devastating mid-season collision with the Montreal Canadiens’ Howie Morenz. Severely injured, Smith didn’t play again that year and had to work his way back up from the minors for two seasons.
Smith ended up traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1934. A year later, he embarked on one of the greatest two-year stretches by a goalie in NHL history. Smith played every game both seasons, led the league in wins both seasons and, in 1936-37, won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s stingiest stopper and was named a first-team all-star. He backstopped the Wings to Stanley Cups in both those seasons, too.
During the first Cup run in 1936, Smith played arguably the greatest game of all-time by any goalie before or since. Remember Mud Bruneteau’s legendary six-overtime winner to end the longest NHL game of all-time? It came at 2:25 a.m. after 176 minutes of game time. The winning goalie: Smith, who stopped 92 shots for the shutout. He reportedly lost 12 pounds during the game. Afterward, he went to a bar for a drink. He fell over and was mistaken for a drunk when he was actually just too weak to stand. Smith still holds the record for saves in an NHL game.
Smith played in a less-publicized era before the birth of the modern Original Six, so he’s rarely mentioned among the legends of the game, but he sure was good for a short amount of time, and he holds one record that will likely stand forever.
Born: March 18, 1908, Toronto, Ont.
NHL Career: 1931-45
Teams: MtM, Det
Stats: 81-82-35, 2.33 GAA, 17 SO
Awards: 1 (Vezina-1)
All-Star: 1 (First-1)
Stanley Cups: 2
DID YOU KNOW?
Smith’s trademark was the peaked cap he wore during games. He didn’t like the glare of overhead lights in arenas, so he wore the cap to block them out. He started doing it in the minors before joining Detroit.