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Former New York Rangers player Edgar Laprade, 92, watches a afternoon skate at Grandview Arena near his Thunder Bay home Nov. 10th/2011. Brent Linton for The Globe and Mail (Brent Linton For The Globe and Mail)
Former New York Rangers player Edgar Laprade, 92, watches a afternoon skate at Grandview Arena near his Thunder Bay home Nov. 10th/2011. Brent Linton for The Globe and Mail (Brent Linton For The Globe and Mail)

Obituary

Edgar Laprade was known as ‘Beaver’ on the ice Add to ...

The Laprade brothers were fêted by fans with a night in their honour on Feb. 5, 1941. The brothers were presented a silver tea service. The Laprades then led the Bearcats to a 5-2 victory over the Fort William Hurricanes, bitter Lakehead rivals. The brothers made their night all the more memorable by both engaging in fisticuffs, punished with rare (for them) five-minute fighting majors.

Edgar Laprade’s scoring prowess led to his being placed on a negotiating list by the Rangers, whose entreaties to turn professional he turned down every season. The Montreal Canadiens also sought to sign him, getting permission from the Rangers to contact the star amateur, but he turned them down, too, by which time he was the most desirable prospect in the Dominion.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, playing hockey in Winnipeg. At the end of the Second World War, he at last relented to appeals from the Rangers. He was a 26-year-old rookie, old by NHL standards, but a poised player whose specialty was the poke check and whose suffocating defensive style drove opponents to distraction. “Eager Edgar,” as he was called, was a fast skater who made rushes seem effortless.

Mr. Laprade recorded a hat trick against the Maple Leafs in his rookie campaign by scoring two goals against Turk Broda before adding an empty-netter.

He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year at the end of the first postwar season by a narrow margin over George Gee of Chicago, a navy man. (Mr. Meeker, who was born in Kitchener, Ont., won it the following year.)

The centre also played in four consecutive NHL all-star games.

His graceful style was favoured by Frank Boucher, New York’s coach and general manager, who had won the Lady Byng trophy for sportsmanlike play seven times in eight seasons in his own tenure as a player, the NHL awarding him permanent possession of the original silverware in 1936. Unfortunately for the Rangers, teams with ruffians such as Jack (Black Jack) Stewart and Ted (Terrible Ted) Lindsay seemed to do better in the standings.

“The Rangers finished last because they lacked experience in a game which puts brawn before brain,” Mr. Laprade once said. “It’s just a case of throwing the puck in and then scrambling for possession.”

The closest he came to winning the Stanley Cup came in 1950, when Pete Babando of the Detroit Red Wings scored against Rangers goalie Chuck Rayner in double overtime of Game 7.

The Rangers had played all seven games on the road – two in Toronto and five in Detroit – because the circus had been booked into their home arena, Madison Square Garden.

Back home in Port Arthur, Mr. Laprade operated a clothing and sporting goods store with Guy Perciante, a local sportsman. The business partners also owned and managed the local arena.

Mr. Laprade was first elected to Port Arthur city council in 1959, winning re-election six times. After Port Arthur amalgamated with neighbouring Fort William in 1970, he served on the first council for Thunder Bay. He resigned on Feb. 15, 1972, after being ruled disqualified to serve on council for having done business with the city. He then won re-election in a May 29 by-election.

Mr. Laprade was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993. He was named to the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in Thunder Bay in 1982.

Mr. Laprade leaves three daughters, seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and a sister. He was predeceased by his wife Arline (née Whear), who died in 1987; four brothers, including Bearcats teammate Burt, who died in 2013 at the age of 94; two sisters; and two grandsons.

Despite his reputation, Mr. Laprade was not always placid. He traded punches with Toronto’s Harry Taylor in a 1949 game (both players were assessed roughing minors) and once landed a right cross on the cheek of Boston’s Gus Kyle, who outweighed him by 45 pounds.

Asked if his behaviour might cost him the sportsmanship trophy and a $1,000 prize, he replied, “Who can think about the Lady Byng Trophy when there is a stick in your face?”

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