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Toe Blake

A Pro Stock Hockey Top 9 Coach

Toe Blake (1912-1995) was a stellar amateur hockey player who went on to have a legendary playing career with the Montreal Canadiens. Despite his accomplishments on the ice, Joseph Hector Blake will be remembered for his coaching achievements as long as the game of hockey is being played.

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The Punch Line (Front row, left to right: Maurice Richard, Elmer Lach, Toe Blake)

Toe Blake Player Highlights

Born in Victoria Mines, Ontario, Blake participated in junior and senior hockey in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and played on championship teams. After a season with the NHL Montreal Maroons in 1934-35 (the Maroons won the Stanley Cup that year, though Blake did not play) and the CAHL Providence Reds the following year, he joined the Canadiens in 1935 as a left winger. His 13 seasons playing for the Canadiens were remarkable:

  • 235 regular-season goals and 25 playoff goals
  • Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 1938-39
  • NHL scoring champion in 1938-39
  • Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner in 1945-46
  • Team captain for eight years with two Stanley Cups (1943-44 and 1945-46)
  • Member of the famous “Punch Line,” along with Elmer Lach and Maurice Richard 

An injury forced Blake to retire in 1948. He immediately went into the Montreal system as a coach for its various minor-league affiliates. In 1955-56, he became head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Toe Blake Coaching Highlights

Blake’s record behind the Canadiens bench was nothing short of spectacular. In his 13 seasons as head coach, the Canadiens brought home eight Stanley Cup championships. Blake didn’t need any warmup exercises, either: In his first five years as head coach, he won five consecutive Stanley Cup championships. No coach has yet equaled that achievement. On his watch, the Canadiens made the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year and his teams never had a losing record in the regular season. Among his incredible stats:

  • A regular-season record of 500-255-159 (.634 winning percentage)
  • A playoff record of 82-37 (.689 winning percentage)
  • 8 Stanley Cup championships (second behind Scotty Bowman’s 9)
  • 500 regular-season wins, first among Montreal coaches
  • 82 playoff wins, first among Montreal coaches
  • 914 regular-season games coached, first among Montreal coaches
  • 119 playoff games coached, first among Montreal coaches

Toe Blake Trivia

  • Toe got his nickname as a child — his younger sister pronounced his name as “Hec-toe.”
  • Blake was the first Montreal Canadiens player to win the Lady Byng Trophy. He had only one minor penalty the entire season (1945-46).
  • As a player, Blake averaged two points per playoff game, a record that remained on the books until Wayne Gretzky came along.
  • In 1944-45, the Punch Line of Blake, Lach and Richard went 1-2-3 in NHL scoring. Lach had 80 points, Richard had 73 and Blake had 67. (That was also the season Richard recording his epic 50-goal regular season.)
  • Blake was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, helping to remind us how great a player he was.

Toe Blake’s Coaching Style

All things considered, Blake sounds a lot like a hockey version of Bobby Knight. Blake was a decisive leader and was known for being tough on his players. Although he had a sense of humor and generally treated players with respect, he could lash out and had no problem embarrassing a player publicly if circumstances required it. He constantly pushed himself and everyone around him to do better, and he had a tremendous work ethic. He was also respected by players and opposing teams for being highly intelligent and a crafty tactician.

Blake inherited a great team and organization when he became head coach of the Canadiens, but there’s no doubt he got the most out of his talent. In sports, it’s often the case that great individual talent doesn’t always add up to championship teams — it takes a world-class coach to make that happen.

(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)