It should come as no surprise Dollard St-Laurent, who passed away at 85 today, was one of the driving forces behind the formation of a union that evolved into the NHL Players’ Association.
In fact, St-Laurent could have joined the Canadiens in 1951, but refused to accept what was essentially a two-way contract, which would have allowed the Canadiens to farm him out to the minors at a severely reduced wage. Only when the Canadiens relented and guaranteed him an NHL salary did he sign with the team.
Even casual fans know Ted Lindsay was exiled to Chicago for his involvement in the union, but so was St-Laurent, who was dealt to the Black Hawks in 1958 for a minor-leaguer and cash, despite the fact he was coming off his best season and the Canadiens were in the midst of their run of five straight Stanley Cups.
He did, however, manage to add another Cup in Chicago in 1961 to the four he had won in Montreal.
“I think we did the right thing at the time,” St-Laurent told the Montreal Gazette in 2003. “We wanted to know what pension plans there were for our group. We found out baseball and football and many other sports had better pension plans than us.”
On the ice, St-Laurent spent much of his career with the Canadiens as Doug Harvey’s defense partner and was seen at the time as a throwback to Kenny Reardon, another physical, two-way presence on the blueline.
The former stickboy for the Montreal Jr. Canadiens earned a tryout with the junior team in 1947 and was given skates that belonged to Butch Bouchard that were three sizes too big.
“But I was so proud to be wearing Bouchard’s skates that I put on several pairs of extra stocking and said nothing about it,” St-Laurent told THN years later. “You see Bouchard has been my boyhood idol and I figured that his skates would give wings to my feet.”