So it is with the late 13-game NHL center Connie Broden, who died at age 81 nine years ago Wednesday at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
It is unlikely that Broden’s historic feat of winning an IIHF World Championship and the Stanley Cup in the same calendar year — in his case, 42 days apart — will ever be duplicated. With Canada’s team to the Worlds now stocked mostly with players whose NHL teams have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Broden’s quirky 1958 achievement seems almost certainly to be safe for all time.
The Montreal-district native played six regular-season games with the Montreal Canadiens, three in 1955-56 and three more in 1957-58. He appeared in seven more playoff games, six in 1956-57, one more the following season.
His NHL statistics are quick to recite: two goals and an assist with two penalty minutes in the regular season — all three points in the same 7-4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 20, 1958 — and one assist in the postseason.
But a player’s stats are not inscribed with his name on the Stanley Cup, where Connell Broden was twice tapped into the presentation trophy, Connie Broden twice on the replica.
The sterling band on which Broden’s name appeared, among champions from 1953-54 through 1964-65, was removed in 2018, retired to a display in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto; it made way for a fresh band on the bottom whose first engraving was that of the 2017-18 Washington Capitals.
But history should remember Broden as something more than the answer to a trivia question.
In Dick Irvin Jr.’s 1991 book “The Habs: An Oral History of the Montreal Canadiens 1940-1980,” Broden recalled being a young fan who would line up outside the Montreal Forum to buy a 50-cent “rush-end” ticket, scrambling into the arena for the best seat he could get.
He would play as a teenager with the Montreal junior Royals then junior Canadiens, having been a fine all-around minor-sports athlete. Broden turned pro in 1952 with the Cincinnati Mohawks of the International League, and it was while in the IHL, enjoying seasons of 29 and 32 goals, that he finished courses to complete his degree with Montreal’s Loyola College.
Broden won the IHL title each year and played in what is the league’s only known doubleheader: on Jan. 25, 1953, Cincinnati defeated the Troy (Ohio) Bruins 3-0 in the matinee opener, the Bruins then defeated the Mohawks 2-1 in the nightcap back in Cincinnati, a 75-mile bus ride to the south.
The 1957-58 Ontario Senior A Whitby Dunlop, winners of the 1958 IIHF World Championship. Bottom row, from left: Ted O’Connor, Ed Redmond, GM Wren Blair, Sid Smith, liaison officer Bill Hannah, Tom O’Connor, Bob Attersley. Middle row: Fred Etcher, Roy Edwards, Gord Myles, Frank Bonello, future Boston Bruins GM and coach Harry Sinden, Sandy Air, John Henderson, assistant manager Wally Brabin. Back row: trainer Jack Donlevy, George Samolenko, Alf Treen, Bus Gagnon, Don McBeth, George Gosselin, Connie Broden, trainer Stan Waylett.
With the Mohawks, he was a teammate of future Canadiens goalie Charlie Hodge and forward Don Marshall.
Broden’s career returned him to Quebec for three seasons of senior hockey in Shawinigan, from where in 1955-56 he had his first three-game taste of the NHL.
Up to the Canadiens he came again for the 1956-57 playoffs, dressing six times for his first Stanley Cup victory, then back to Shawinigan he went.
Unprotected by the Canadiens following that title, Broden was claimed by the Boston Bruins in June 1957 and assigned to their farm club in Springfield. Another stint in the minors was of no appeal, especially under whip-cracking coach Eddie Shore, so Broden retired and set off into a career with Molson Brewery, invited into the company by Canadiens owner Senator Hartland de Montarville Molson.
Still in playing shape, he was summoned by the Ontario Hockey Association’s Whitby Dunlop, the Ontario Senior A club that would represent Canada at the 25th IIHF World Championship in Oslo, Norway, from February into March of 1958.
“The Dunlops were adding players but I wasn’t one of the guys they were looking for,” Broden told the Montreal Gazette in a 2003 profile. “They wanted some hot-shot junior (who would be Ralph Backstrom) but the Canadiens said no.”
Montreal general manager Sam Pollock had another idea, enthusiastically endorsed by Senator Molson.
Connie Broden (left), Frank Bonello and Gord Myles of the Whitby Dunlop at Upper Canada College in Toronto on Jan. 15, 1958, as the team prepares for the 1958 IIHF World Championship in Oslo, and Broden in a Dunlop portrait. Michael Sr. Burns/Hockey Hall of Fame
“(Pollock) conned the Dunlop into taking me,” Broden joked, “saying that I’d fit the international style of play and would be a good addition.”
The Dunlop had no idea just how good. Broden led Whitby to a 7-0 record at the Worlds and the gold medal awarded on March 9, 1958, the tournament’s leading scorer with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists).
He returned home and hung up his skates again, preparing to resume work with the brewery, when the Canadiens invited him back.
Still “retired,” Broden played three games for Montreal while drawing the praise of coach Toe Blake.
“One time, Toe pointed to me between periods and told the guys that I was really eager to play and had the kind of spirit he wanted everyone to have,” he recalled in Irvin Jr.’s book.
What Blake didn’t know was Broden’s salary structure — he was paid $100 per game for dressing and an additional $25 if he actually got on the ice.
“So when a player would limp off after being hit by a shot or something, I wouldn’t wait,” Broden said. “I’d jump on the ice right away so I could get credit for playing in a game. Little did (Blake) know that I did what I did so my pay for the night would go up by 25 percent.”
The 1957-58 Stanley Cup-champion Montreal Canadiens. Bottom row, from left: Gerry McNeil, Dickie Moore, assistant GM Ken Reardon, president Hartland Molson, Maurice Richard, GM Frank Selke, coach Toe Blake, Henri Richard, Jacques Plante. Middle row: PR director Camil Desroches, Floyd Curry, Doug Harvey, Dollard St. Laurent, Jean Beliveau, Tom Johnson, Jean-Guy Talbot, Bernie Geoffrion, PR assistant Frank Selke Jr. Top row: Trainer Larry Aubut, Don Marshall, Claude Provost, Bob Turner, Phil Goyette, Andre Pronovost, Connie Broden, trainer Hec Dubois. Macdonald Stewart/Hockey Hall of Fame
Broden skated in one playoff game in 1958, a 3-2 overtime win against the Bruins in Game 5 of a six-game Final. That victory, in his last NHL game, was played at the Montreal Forum, where he’d cheered the Canadiens as a boy. He would soon have his name tapped into the Stanley Cup a second time to complete his historic double.
Broden settled back at Molson’s for 32 years, moving up to become Quebec’s brewmaster, then took on increased responsibility in Ontario which led to the presidency of the company’s Alberta operations.
Following yet another “retirement” in 1990, Broden did some scouting for the Winnipeg Jets and Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes.
He died on Nov. 23, 2013
Broden is but a dot on the sprawling map of the Canadiens’ 113-year history, but he won two more Stanley Cup titles than the vast majority of the thousands of men who have played in the NHL.
Better yet, his hockey legacy – winning a world championship and a Stanley Cup less than two months apart – is a feat for the ages.
Top photo: Connie Broden skating with the Whitby Dunlop, and in a Montreal Canadiens portrait, both in 1958. Michael Sr. Burns/Hockey Hall of Fame; David Bier, Montreal Canadiens