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Vezina Trophy Seasons Revisited: George Hainsworth’s 1926-27 Season – The Hockey Writers – Canadiens History

This trophy was created by former Montreal Canadiens owners Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich in memory of Canadiens goalkeeper Georges Vezina during the 1926–27 season.

Vezina collapsed during a game on November 28, 1925, and died of tuberculosis just a few months later. The trophy was originally awarded to the goaltender who played at least 25 regular season games and allowed the fewest goals (sometimes resulting in more than one win). This changed in 1980–81, when it was voted on by NHL general managers and awarded to the “goalie considered best at that position”.

Vezina Trophy Season Revisited
Vezina Trophy Season Revisited (The Hockey Writers)

The first Vezina Trophy was awarded in 1926-27, which was the season with the fewest goals conceded. Ironically, it was the Canadiens goalie who won the first award that season.

Meet George Hainsworth.

Hainsworth Wins First Vezina Trophy

As a 31-year-old NHL rookie, Hainsworth made his debut with the Montreal Canadiens in 1926-27. Coached by Cecil Hart and led offensively by Howie Morenz, this Canadiens team was bound to make its mark on the league.

At the beginning of the year, not everyone knew that the Stanley Cup-winning team would make history — as they would lose to the Ottawa Senators in the semifinals. Instead, it was Hainsworth who would go on to leave his mark in the league’s history books as the first goaltender in NHL history to win the Vezina Trophy.

Hainsworth started the season with a loss against the Boston Bruins on November 16, 1926. It was a game in which he conceded four goals, and if you had predicted that he would be the best goalie in the league that season, it would have surprised everyone at the time.

He then played two more games (both losses) and conceded two goals in each game, before things took a turn for the worse.

Hainsworth got his first NHL win against the New York Americans on November 23, 1926. It was also the first shutout of his career and the start of something special for Hainsworth and the Canadiens.

George Hainsworth
George Hainsworth

His rookie season ended with a 28-14-2 regular season record, a 1.47 goals-against average (GAA) and 67 goals against. He also tied for the NHL with 14 shutouts that season — definitely a helping hand in his year-end awards.

This was a close race. The Montreal Maroons had only allowed 68 goals and the Ottawa Senators had only allowed 69, so one more bad game for Hainsworth and the Canadiens goalie could have had a different story. Still, he finished the year as the best goaltender and took home his first Vezina Trophy.

Hainsworth Starts a Trend for Canadians

Ironically, the award was first presented by the Canadiens in memory of a former Canadiens player. Since its inception, a Canadiens player has won the award 29 times in the NHL. The first, of course, was Hainsworth.

Unlike the Calder Trophy — we’ve also revisited Calder seasons — the Vezina Trophy rarely goes to a player who falls behind after winning the award, and Hainsworth was no different.

Related: Calder Cup Seasons Revisited – Carl Voss’ 1932-33 Season

As we will discuss later, Hainsworth continued to have Vezina-caliber seasons, earning two more wins to sit in ninth place on the list of all career Vezina Trophy winners.

Hainsworth remains one of only eight goaltenders to serve as team captain — he did so with the Canadiens during the 1932-33 season. He was only the second person to do so at the time.

Hainsworth Remains Among NHL’s Record Books

Hainsworth not only had a playoff shutout streak of 270 minutes and 8 seconds in 1929–30, but also ranks second all-time in goals-against average, and finished his NHL career with a 1.93 GAA, just one percentage point behind Alex Connell (1.92).

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Hainsworth helped the Canadiens win two Stanley Cups during his tenure as a goaltender in 1930 and 1931. Despite his best efforts, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1933 for Lorne Chabot, a French-Canadian the Canadiens wanted to sign to increase recruitment.

Hainsworth was eventually released by Conn Smythe on November 25, 1936, and subsequently returned to the Canadiens to play four more games. He was eventually inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously in 1961 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Although his career didn’t end the way Hainsworth planned, he will always be remembered as the first player to win the Vezina Trophy, the first rookie to win the award and the first to do it twice in a row.