Gerry McNeil's family shares rare photos of Habs in 1950s

The children of Gerry McNeil, a goaltender who spent six seasons with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940s and '50s, share rare photographs of their father, along with Elmer Lach, Doug Harvey and Maurice Richard, with CBC.

Children of Habs goaltender from NHL team's glory years share late father's story with CBC Montreal

A ring supposedly belonging to former Montreal Canadiens centre Elmer Lach was found this week by a boy in Campbellton, N.B. 

No one knows how it got there, but David McNeil — the son of the late Gerry McNeil, a Habs goaltender in the NHL team's glory years — has some ideas.

McNeil and his brother Shannon contacted CBC News after hearing about Lach's recovered ring.

"First, players from the 1940s and '50s did not receive Stanley Cup rings at the time. I don't know when, exactly, the tradition started. However, I do know that when Ron Corey was president of the Canadiens in the early 1990s, he arranged to have all the surviving players who had won Cups from that era get a special-issue ring," McNeil said.

The ring appeared to be identical to his father's Stanley Cup championship ring, McNeil said.

He pointed to an auction site's entry for an Elmer Lach ring that lists the jewelry piece as having been sold in 2011 for $2,197.

The auction site's description said the Lach ring was stamped "replica" because it was created years after his time with the Habs. The ring represents the Montreal Canadiens' 1945-46 Stanley Cup win.

McNeil suspects the person who bought the ring on auction lost it in the Restigouche River, which is where seven-year-old Anthony Thériault found it — a ring engraved with 1945-46 and featuring images of the Montreal Forum, the Stanley Cup and the Canadiens' CH logo.

McNeil remembers his father's glory years

McNeil spent the last years of his father's life writing his biography, focusing on his time in net for the Canadiens, from 1947 to 1954.  

He had many long conversations with Gerry McNeil leading up to his 2004 passing. He has been trying to get the resulting biography published for several years.

McNeil was scouted by the Habs in 1943 at age 17, playing for its farm team, the Montreal Royals, until 1947. 

He went on to develop a friendship with Lach and Richard that spanned the years, with the former Habs players and their wives vacationing together in Florida.

"Friendships were made when they were teammates. They had this real fierce loyalty to the team — these are the days well before free agency or anything like that — so your team owned you for as long as they wanted to own you and that's why the idea of being traded was considered an insult," McNeil said.

When his father was replaced by Jacques Plante, he vowed never to play for another team again.

Habs go fishing

McNeil shared with CBC News rare photographs and an excerpt of a film made by Columbia Pictures' World of Sports called Angling Around, featuring a Canadiens fishing trip.

Lach, Richard, Doug Harvey and McNeil are seen out on the water near the O'Connell Lodge in Lac-des-Loups, Que., in the Laurentian Mountains.

A screen capture of Doug Harvey and Gerry McNeil on their 1952 fishing trip. Watch the video for more outtakes from the Columbia Pictures' World In Sports feature. (Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of David McNeil)
McNeil said Richard — an excellent fisherman who loved the sport — got angry because he felt rushed during the shooting of the film. He stormed off, McNeil said, leaving him absent from some of the film and photos taken during the shoot.

Lach is the only living member of the group that went fishing. Richard died in 2000; McNeil in 2004 and Harvey in 1989. Lach's number, 16, was retired at the Bell Centre in 2009.

Lach, 96, currently lives in a Beaconsfield retirement home. His family declined an interview request from CBC News.

Check out the photogallery and video, dated circa 1952, to catch a glimpse of Canadiens history.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.