Monday, March 17, 2008

Kenneth Joseph "Kenny" Reardon, 1921 – 2008


Kenny Reardon, Hockey Hall of Famer, World War Two veteran and Stanley Cup-winning Habs defenceman, passed away Saturday at the age of 86.

In many ways, the forties were like the bizarro-version of today's NHL: the Maple Leafs were a powerhouse, while the Habs were cellar-dwellers. In the 1939-40 season, the Habs finished seventh in the then 7-team NHL. Any trepidation Reardon may have had about joining such a lackluster squad were likely tempered by the rebuilding of the Habs roster overseen by former Maple Leafs coach Dick Irvin Sr. (Irvin had been brought over from the Leafs after a falling out with Leafs GM and huge asshole Conn Smythe. The Habs went on to win 3 Cups under Irvin.) The following year, the Habs acquired Reardon's brother, Terry, a winger, from the Stanley-Cup winning Bruins (yet more 'bizarro' evidence).

In 1943-44, the Rocket became the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games. However, Reardon played no part in that accomplishment: in late 1942, Reardon entered the army and spent the following two seasons, like many NHLers, playing hockey on stacked military teams. Reardon even won an Allen Cup with the Ottawa Commandos in 1943, a championship still awarded to Canada's top adult men's amateur team. Reardon was by no means unique in his wartime career path: in those days, many military hockey squads were as good, if not better, than their NHL counterparts - with many military commanders competing to recruit former professional players to help stack their base's hockey team.

After the relative comfort of a military life spent playing hockey, Reardon was sent overseas as one of the waves of troops pouring into Britain in preparation for D-Day. Reardon saw action on the front lines in Europe, and was awarded Field Marshall Montgomery’s Certificate of Merit for several acts of bravery during battle. He returned home in 1945 and rejoined the Canadiens the following season, winning a Cup along side the likes of Bill Durnan, Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach in 1945-46. He retired in 1950 having played seven seasons in the NHL before teh age of 30 - his great career cut short partly as a result of his fighting in the War. He continued to work for the Habs through the '50s and '60s as a Vice-President, linking him with the great Habs teams of those decades. He also got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup 5 straight years as part of the Habs record-setting run in the late '50s.

Reardon was one of the young Canadian men that set foot into Europe for the first time not as tourists, but as soldiers - unlike pretty much everyone who reads this blog. We owe him, and all those men and women with whom he served, our respect and gratitude - for much more than his contributions to the game of ice hockey.

Rest in Peace, Ken. All Canadians owe you our thanks.

5 comments:

HabsFan29 said...

well said, Panger. and thanks for the history lesson. I really had no idea.

Thanks and peace, Ken.

Habsfan10 said...

Well said, Panger. Remembered as a Canadien and Canadian. Methinks Kenny would have bludgeoned the Nazis into submission himself if need be.

lawyergirl77 said...

Well done Panger! It's too bad they couldn't have read your post out loud last Sat. night so that people would have known who he was (and to STFU accordingly...)

HabsFan33 said...

Beautiful post Panger.

Rest in peace, Ken.

chuck said...

lawyergirl77, I was at the game on Saturday, and was dismayed to hear a teenage girl in the row in front of me chatting on the phone DURING the moment of silence: "Yeah, I'm at the game. We're in the seats. Right now they're doing something about some guy that died today."

In hindsight, I should have smacked her in the back of the head...