Hockey's true originals

Senators fans cheer on their favourite team on Elgin Street earlier in the week. (Sun Media/Blair...

Senators fans cheer on their favourite team on Elgin Street earlier in the week. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

ALEX HEBERT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

You've been lied to, folks.

The Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks are not the original six NHL hockey teams.

They were wrongfully given this title in 1942 when they were the last teams left standing from the Great Depression.

Many hockey clubs played in the NHL long before the Original Six, including the original Ottawa Senators -- one of the most dominant teams before and after the NHL was founded in 1917.

Trust me, I know. My grandfather played for them.

NO MASK, HELMET

That's right. Standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 145 lbs., 24-year-old Samuel "Sammy" J. Hebert -- born and raised in Ottawa -- stood in nets for the Sens in their 1917-18 inaugural NHL season.

He didn't wear a facemask, certainly no helmet, and his thin leather pads weren't going to protect him from much.

His red, white and black striped wool sweater chafed and his flimsy leather skates offered little support.

He didn't have a cup for protection either, although my existence suggests he dodged a bullet in that department.

Here's another kicker -- he wasn't allowed to leave his feet to make a save. That wasn't made legal in the NHL until Jan. 9, 1918.

In those days, seven players were allowed on the ice -- a goalie, three forwards, two defencemen and a rover. Multiple leagues (NHL, West Coast Hockey League, Pacific Coast Hockey League and others) fought for the Cup, pitting their best teams against one another at the end of every season.

Sammy won the Stanley Cup in 1918 -- the first for an NHL team.

But it wasn't with the Sens. It was with, I hate to say, the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Arenas as they were called in those days. He'd changed teams mid-season.

RETIRED AT 30

Sammy was minding the net for the Saskatoon Crescents during the Sens' real glory days, when they were the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons (1920 and '21). They won two more times (1923 and '27) before moving to St. Louis in 1934.

Sammy retired from hockey in 1923 at the age of 30.

NHL players made little money back then, so Sammy used his musical talent to make ends meet, selling and tuning pianos and organs.

Known as a fun-loving guy, he was close to 50 when he finally settled down, married and had three kids.

And here's an omen for Anaheim -- aside from hockey, Sammy's passion was duck hunting.

While you've probably never heard of Sammy Hebert, you'd recognize the name of one of his rivals. Georges Vezina ring a bell?

Vezina recorded the league's first-ever shutout on Feb. 18, 1918 with a 9-0 win over my grandfather.

If the tables were turned and ol' Sammy stood on his head that night, the NHL might be handing out the Hebert Trophy, rather than the Vezina, to the top goalie each season.


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