Monday, June 13, 2016


A Tribute to Jack Laviolette

Jean-Baptiste Laviolette was born in Belleville in 1879. His father was in the lumber business. At that time, lumbering was important in the city. Logs were floated down the Moira, to be processed in one of the mills located near the area at the mouth of the river.

The family moved to Valleyfield, Quebec when Jack was ten years old. He excelled at hockey and lacrosse, and was also right at home on the motorcycle track. He played his amateur hockey in Montreal, then departed to play in the International League for the American Soo. Four years later, he returned to Montreal to play hockey for the Shamrocks, and lacrosse for the Nationales. Two other stars on his lacrosse club were Newsy Lalonde and Didier Pitre.

In 1909, Laviolette was given the responsibility of establishing a team in Montreal in the newly-formed National Hockey Association. In a book written about members of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, it states: “He was responsible, more than any other man, for the formation of the Canadiens.” He was hired to be the playing manager and the coach. Known at that time as “The Speed Merchant”, he moved up to forward to play with Pitre and Lalonde, the greatest line at that time. They won the Stanley Cup in 1916.

He played with the Habs in their first year in the NHL in 1917. In the summer of 1918, Laviolette was involved in a serious accident at a track while tuning a car. He lost his right foot, ending his hockey career. In 1921, Leo Dandurand arranged a benefit hockey game for Laviolette. The former Habs star had a special artificial foot designed, laced up his skates, and refereed the game! Those who watched him said he could skate better than most men with two legs!

He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame for his prowess as a lacrosse player, and in 1962 into the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the great early players.

On June 23rd, at 11:00 am, the Ontario Heritage Trust is honouring Laviolette. One of their historic plaques will be unveiled in Belleville at the Sports and Wellness Centre. For history buffs, and sports fans, this will be an event you will not want to miss.

                                              Lalonde          Laviolette              Pitre

“Newsy” Lalonde was born in Cornwall. Didier “Cannonball” Pitre was born in Valleyfield, and spent 13 years with the Canadiens. All three are to be recognized for their contributions to hockey.

The statement from the Heritage Trust: “In honour of their contribution to the early history of the Montreal Canadiens hockey franchise, Laviolette is one of four players born in Ontario being recognized this year in various locations throughout Ontario by the Ontario Heritage Trust.”

Laviolette was inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. He died in Montreal on January 10, 1960.

James Hurst

June 13, 2016   

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