Last time in Pucks from the Past, we took a mythbustery approach to the idea that Odie Cleghorn introduced the use of set forward lines to the NHL. We looked at whether the Pirates used set forward lines in 1925-26, and whether they used two lines or three. This time, we focus on where Cleghorn might have gotten the idea to use set lines.
Did the Cougars Use Rapid Line Changes Specifically to Counter the Canadiens?
The 1924-25 edition of the Montreal Canadiens were led by their dynamic forward line of Howie Morenz, Aurel Joliat and Billy Boucher. This line, featuring two future Hall of Famers in Morenz and Joliat, brought great amounts of skill and speed to bear on their opponents. Odie Cleghorn was one of three substitute forwards on the team along with Johnny Matz and Fern Headley, but they didn't expect to play much in the 1925 Stanley Cup finals against the WCHL champion Victoria Cougars.
Although the Cougars had three future Hall of Famers amongst their forwards (Frank Fredrickson, Frank Foyston and Jack Walker), their legends were aging and could not match the Habs forwards for speed. Coach Lester Patrick, so the story goes, devised a strategy to nullify Montreal's speed advantage. He would rotate two forward lines regularly, which would ensure his men always had fresh legs while the Canadiens played more traditional iron man hockey. Victoria won the Cup in five games, so it appears that this strategy worked.