Hockey’s ‘Babe Ruth’ and His Seven-Goal Game

By Mark Weisenmiller


If North American hockey had one player in the early 20th century who was as big to his sport as Babe Ruth was to baseball, that skater was “Phantom” Joe Malone.
The affable Irishman, whose good looks made him popular with the ladies, was an exceptionally swift skater with shifty moves and a master stick-handler with an assortment of shots.

It’s difficult to come up with a player in today’s NHL whose skill set and intangibles are comparable to Malone’s. Imagine the sportsmanship of Joe Sakic, the speed of Martin St. Louis, the finishing ability of Mike Modano, the leadership of Daniel Alfredsson, the stick-handling ability of Daniel Briere and the strength of Joe Thorton – all in one package. That would be “Phantom” Joe Malone.

Even though he played only seven professional seasons, from 1917 to 1924, Malone remains the most prolific scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. In 125 career NHL games, Malone scored 146 goals. No other superstar in league history has comes close to Malone’s per-game productivity – not Mike Bossy, not Wayne Gretzky, not Gordie Howe, nor Mario Lemieux.
What makes his achievement even more noteworthy is that Malone was not a big guy. He stood 5-feet-10 and weighed just 150 pounds. Yet, he racked up better than a goal a game in an era in which dirty play was the norm. Still, Malone was so respected that not even the biggest goons of the day took cheap shots at him.

Malone played eight seasons in other leagues before beginning his NHL career. Born in 1890 in Quebec City, he could play both wings and scored an incredible 43 goals in 20 games for the Quebec Bulldogs in 1912-13, in the old NHA. But the best was yet to come.
His first NHL season was the 1917-18 campaign, when he skated for the Montreal Canadiens. In 20 games, he scored 44 goals, including five  — yes, five — in each of his first three NHL games.

Malone would have scored more than 44 times that season had the team’s home arena not burned to the ground.
With the Quebec Bulldogs, of the NHL, for the 1919-20 season, Malone’s production tailed off to “just” 39 markers in 24 games, but his star was rising throughout Canada, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver.

Always modest during newspaper interviews, on Jan. 31, 1920 against the Toronto St. Patricks, the “Phantom” did something that no other NHL player has ever done. He scored seven goals in a single game, all of them against one goalie, Ivan Mitchell. His Bulldogs won 10-6 and Malone became the first true superstar of the NHL. Not surprising, in a non-NHL game in 1913 he had scored nine goals.

When the Bulldogs relocated, Malone was transferred to the Hamilton Tigers, a rag-tag club for which he starred for two years, recording 28 and 24 goals, respectively.
“Phantom” Joe Malone finished his NHL career in Montreal. He retired in 1924, at age 34, after two seasons there. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, and died in 1969.

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