Still Chasing the Stratford Streak, 80 Years After He Left the Ice

Chicago visited the Forum late in January. A big Black Hawk defenseman, Earl Seibert, caught Morenz on a rush, forced him behind the net. Morenz went down; the tip of his left skate dug into the boards and got stuck. When Seibert came crashing in, Morenz’s leg snapped. The Montreal newspaper La Patrie noted “un sinistre craquement” — a sinister crack.

“I’m all through,” Morenz is reported to have said.

A photograph on La Patrie’s front page the next morning showed him peering up from his hospital bed. Inside the paper, readers could examine radiographs of his fractures. “Rarely has surgery seen such a severe break,” Dr. Hector Forgues said.

A few days later, Morenz told reporters, “Don’t count me out yet.” In the weeks that followed, his room was filled with well-wishers, and an air of optimism. He was said to be mending well.

Then something happened.

Columnists mentioned “a violent nervous breakdown.” Vague at the time, the story hasn’t become clearer. Morenz was restrained in a straitjacket, a friend later said. Visitors were barred, and a guard stood at the door.

Morenz died on March 8: pulmonary embolism. The papers said “heart attack” and left it at that.

Three days later, some 10,000 mourners attended Morenz’s Forum funeral. Montrealers thronged the streets as the body was borne to Mount Royal Cemetery.

Photo

The Morenz funeral in 1937.

Credit
Archives Canada

The Canadiens vowed no one would ever wear Morenz’s No. 7 again — not until his elder son, 10-year-old Howie Jr., was ready to join the team. A benefit game later in 1937 raised nearly $30,000 for the family, but other parts of the story’s epilogue are grim.

Kidnappers threatened the family. Later, an anguished Mary Morenz entrusted her three children to the care of an orphanage. Donald, 6, died of pleurisy before she remarried in 1939 and brought home Howie Jr….

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