Over the next few months, newyorkrangers.com looks back at all the players who have worn the Rangers uniform. Each Friday, BlueshirtsUnited.com will highlight someone noted in the previous week. Today, we look back at the 137th Blueshirt, Harry Lumley.
One of the most famous moments in Rangers history happened during the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals, when 44-year-old head coach Lester Patrick strapped on the pads and took over in net for an injured Lorne Chabot.
On that day, Patrick became the first Hockey Hall of Famer to play goal for the Rangers. More than 15 years would pass before another Hall of Famer took his place in the Blueshirts crease, and it would come in an equally unlikely fashion.
The second Hall of Famer to play goal for the Rangers was Harry Lumley on Dec. 23, 1943. What makes the story so odd, however, is that Lumley was only 17 years old and not even on the Rangers roster at the time.
Just one month after turning 17, Lumley shouldn't have been playing in the NHL at all. But 1943 was a unique time in history, as most of the regular NHL players had been called to military service in World War II. This created many opportunities for players who were too old or too young for military service. Lumley, an outstanding junior goaltender in Galt, Ontario, was in the latter category, and the Detroit Red Wings added him to their roster after the 1943-44 season was under way.
On Dec. 19, just four days before he "became" a Ranger, Lumley appeared in net for the Wings at Madison Square Garden and made history as the youngest goaltender ever to play in the NHL -- a record that still stands. The Rangers routed the Wings 6-2 in Lumley's debut, and the young netminder was not going to start again for the Wings in the home-and-home rematch on Dec. 23 at Detroit's Olympia.
In the early years of the NHL and for much of the Original Six era, teams dressed only one goaltender per game and kept a backup goalie in the stands in case of injury. The backup goalie was usually not an NHL regular and was often the team's practice goaltender. On the night of Dec. 23, young Harry Lumley was in the stands as Detroit's backup, while the Rangers had none available.
During the second period, Rangers starter Ken McAuley took a series of pucks to the face. NHL goaltenders did not wear masks back then, so McAuley was shaken up by each shot. The final blow -- a 40-foot drive by the Wings' Carl Liscombe -- was too much even for a rugged old-time hockey netminder. Liscombe's shot caught McAuley in the jaw, briefly knocking him unconscious. McAuley was taken off the ice and the game was stopped for 15 minutes while he regained his composure. He finished the period, but his face was a mess.
During the second intermission, the Rangers decided to take McAuley to a hospital for X-Rays. They were already trailing in the game and had nobody to replace McAuley. In that situation, the Wings were obliged to offer Lumley's services for the third period. The 17-year-old pulled on McAuley's No. 1 jersey and finished the game without allowing any goals in the 5-3 loss. After the game, Lumley returned to the Wings, and that was that. For 20 minutes, he became the youngest goaltender and player in Rangers history.
This was hardly the end of Lumley's story. The goaltender known as "Apple Cheeks" played once more for Detroit before returning to the AHL with the Indianapolis Capitals. By the 1944-45 season, he was an NHL regular and went on to a legendary career.
Lumley would go on to play for three other Original Six teams -- Chicago, Toronto and Boston. His numerous accomplishments incuded a 1950 Stanley Cup championship, the 1953-54 Vezina Trophy, three seasons as the NHL's shutout leader, and two as the leader in goals-against average. His 71 career shutouts rank 12th in NHL history and he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 alongside yet another former Rangers goalie, Gump Worsley.