Montreal Canadiens legend Elmer Lach passes away at 97

Legendary Montreal Canadien Elmer Lach passed away Saturday at the age of 97. Lach was the center of the Canadiens’ famed Punch Line, where he played alongside Toe Blake and Maurice Richard. When he retired in 1953-54, Lach was the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 215 goals and 623 points. He was ranked as the 68th greatest player of all-time on THN’s 100 Greatest Players list.

Saturday morning, the Montreal Canadiens lost one of the legendary players in the franchise’s history. Elmer Lach, who centered the Canadiens’ famed Punch Line, passed away at 97 in Montreal.

Lach, a native of Nokomis, Sask., began his NHL career in 1940-41 with the Canadiens, scoring seven goals and 21 points in 43 games. Over the next several seasons, however, Lach would become a prolific scorer. In 1944-45, Lach led the league in scoring with 26 goals and 80 points in 50 games and captured the Hart Trophy for his efforts. In 1947-48, Lach would again lead the league in scoring with 30 goals and 61 points in 60 games. Over the course of his career, Lach tallied 215 goals and 623 points in 664 games.

“Every member of the Canadiens organization is profoundly saddened and touched by the death of Mr. Lach. Elmer Lach was a determined player who enjoyed a great career with the Canadiens and who became an important part of the community in Montreal. On behalf of the Molson family and all members of the organization, I offer my sincere condolences to the members of his family,” said Canadiens president Geoff Molson in a release.

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Upon his retirement in 1953-54, Lach stood as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer. However, he would be surpassed shortly thereafter by teammate Maurice Richard, who completed the next season with 651 points.

With Montreal, Lach won three Stanley Cups — in 1944, 1946 and 1953 — and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966, 12 years after retiring from the league. In THN’s 1998 ranking of the 100 best players of all time, Lach ranked 68th, two spots behind his famous Punch Line linemate Toe Blake. Richard, the final third of the Punch Line, ranked fifth.

His No. 16 jersey was retired by the Canadiens in December 2009, becoming one of only 19 players to have their number hung from the rafters by the organization.

Upon the completion of his playing career, Lach took a job behind the bench for the Montreal Junior Canadiens. However, he only lasted two seasons behind the Junior Canadiens bench before leaving to pursue a business career.