This is the time of year when Stanley Cup overtime games often make headlines, and the longer the overtime the greater the chance that somebody will remember Mud Bruneteau. It was his goal that ended the longest game in history, three minutes and 30 seconds before the sixth overtime period expired — a night of (almost) three games in one.
By the way, Bruneteau scored the game’s only goal.
Earlier this month, Florida beat Carolina in five overtimes (now the sixth- longest ever) and with it came cries for NHL to change the rules to avoid such one-night marathons in this instant gratification world. That makes it worth revisiting the night of the longest game, which pretty much nobody is old enough to remember…not even me (although I did once meet one of its players, Baldy Northcott).
That night in Montreal, it took five hours and 55 minutes in real time to play six overtimes. This month’s Carolina-Florida game, with TV commercials and in-house celebrations, took five hours, 44 minutes to play four overtimes. The difference: two more periods, 11 more minutes.
History recorded some interesting anecdotes about Bruneteau and his career night. He scored on his first overtime shift in his first NHL playoff game, so he’d been on the bench for five consecutive periods. Fresh legs, perhaps? The puck he shot wedged in the netting and was retrieved by Montreal Maroons goalie Lorne Chabot, who sent it to Bruneteau in the visitors’ dressing room. Chabot was among four players that night who played in the previous longest game (Toronto vs Boston) and none of them were winners both times.
That game, still the second-longest, was also decided in the sixth overtime and also finished 1-0.
If today’s players think playing multiple overtimes is tough, check this out. In 1936, there was no Zamboni and the ice was only swept between periods, so it had to be bumpy. The goalies’ pads, already heavier than today’s, were soaked with sweat and even heavier. Detroit goalie Normie Smith, with a 90-save shutout, stood five-foot-seven and weighed 165 pounds…when the game started. “I really found out how tired I was afterwards, when we went to the Lumberjacks Club and I had one bottle of ale,” he told reporters the next day. “That set me right back on my heels.”
For him, the winning goal was an act of mercy.
Mud Bruneteau might be considered a journeyman player. He wasn’t. While this was his first playoff game after being called up from the minors two weeks earlier, he was only 22. He played most of 11 seasons with the Wings and one season scored 35 goals in 39 games, three fewer than the NHL leader and three more than Rocket Richard. The next year, Richard set the standard for super stardom with 50 goals in 50 games.
Bruneteau also has his name on the Stanley Cup three times and in nine playoff seasons he scored 23 goals, including another overtime winner. Yet it was at 2:30 in the morning on a Tuesday in March that made him forever famous.
Just not famous enough to be in the Hockey Hall of “Fame”…but that’s another story, isn’t it?