In the forty-first edition of “Legends of the Game” we look at the career of Édouard Cyrille “Newsy” Lalonde.
Édouard Cyrille “Newsy” Lalonde (October 31, 1887 – November 21, 1970) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward in the National Hockey League (NHL) and a professional lacrosse player.
Lalonde is regarded as one of hockey’s and lacrosse’s greatest players of the first half of the 20th century and one of Canadian sport’s most colourful characters. He played for the Montreal Canadiens – considered to be the original “Flying Frenchman” – in the National Hockey Association and the NHL. He also played for the WCHL’s Saskatoon Sheiks.
Although Lalonde is best-remembered today as a hockey player, he was just as prominent in lacrosse, which in the early years of the 20th century was one of the most popular professional sports in Canada. Lalonde earned more in lacrosse than he did in hockey. He started play in 1905 as a goaltender, but moved to the attack position in 1910, becoming the sport’s greatest star.
He would break the scoring record for his Montreal team in 1910 with 31 goals. In 1912, he was signed to be player-manager of the Toronto Lacrosse Club, but almost immediately changed his mind and joined the exodus of players heading west for big contracts. He was signed by Con Jones to play for Vancouver for $5,000 for one season. In comparison, as a hockey player, his salary in 1910–11 for the Montreal Canadiens was $1,300, which was considered high for the time. As late as 1920 he could not get more than $2,000 a year playing hockey. Lalonde scored an incredible 66 goals for the Montreal Nationals in 1914.
After coming west in 1909 as a hired-hand with the Regina Capitals to compete against the New Westminster Salmonbellies in their challenge for the Minto Cup, playing as a defenceman, Lalonde then decided to remain in British Columbia when Vancouver Lacrosse Club president Con Jones offered him a fortune of a contract rumoured in the range of $3,500 (or $72,000 in modern currency); this was more than double what he was earning with the Montréal Nationals the previous season. To compete against that perennial powerhouse squad of legends and hated rivals, New Westminster Salmonbellies, Con Jones went out and bought the best player in Canada that money could buy: Newsy Lalonde.
Lalonde would pay off Jones by helping lead Vancouver to three Minto Cup pro championships – in 1911, 1918, and 1920. He played what was back then called the inside home position – basically an attacking forward who played on the crease as the primary threat against the opposing goaltender – and his goal-scoring prowess was critically important to the success of his Vancouver team as Lalonde constantly went up against some of the finest New Westminster goaltenders of the day, stalwarts such as Alex “Sandy” Gray and then later the legendary Alban “Bun” Clark.
During his nine seasons spent playing for the Vancouver Lacrosse Club and Vancouver Terminals, Lalonde finished 11th in overall career games played (2nd with the Vancouver club) and 3rd overall in career goal-scoring with 147 goals in 93 games.
However, what is more impressive is in five of those nine seasons with Vancouver, he led the league in goal-scoring (and in 1911, also in penalties). During a ten-season period from 1910 through 1918, and regardless whether he was playing out west in the professional British Columbia Lacrosse Association with Vancouver or back east in the National Lacrosse Union or Dominion Lacrosse Union with the Montréal Nationals, Lalonde would lead the respective league for goals in all seasons but one.
In an era when lacrosse was notably rough and tumble and players wore no padding, all the while swinging wooden sticks, Lalonde was one never to back down from the toughness aspect of the game. His favourite tactic was to crowd his check and bull his way through opposition. Along with all his goals, the intensely competitive Lalonde also amassed 45 penalties and 356 penalty minutes during his career on the West Coast.
In 1950, he was selected by a panel of Canadian sports journalists as the greatest lacrosse player of the first half of the 20th century. He received an impressive 13 votes compared to his next two challengers, Billy Fitzgerald (6 votes) and Henry Hoobin (5 votes).
As a fitting, final tribute to his career, Lalonde was an obvious choice for the initial inductees to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965 in the “field player” category.
From the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame:
Was voted the outstanding lacrosse player of the first half century.
He started out as a goaltender but Joe Lally (Charter) switched him to the home position. He played with the Montrea, Quebec, Nationals before coming west to play for Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1911.
A rugged competitor he had many a duel with hard rock Willis Patchell (inducted 1976) of the famed New Westminster Salmonbellies.
He is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.