Didier Pitre - Les Canadiens / Le Club de Hockey Le Canadien / Montreal Canadiens 1909
Joseph George Didier "Cannonball" Pitre - Born September 1, 1883 in Valleyfield, Quebec — Died July 29, 1934 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was a Canadian professional Ice Hockey player.
Didier Pitre's first major Hockey league was in an early IHL playing with the Michigan Soo Indians, who played in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He joined the Soo team in 1904. By 1905/06, he was the already the top scorer in the league scoring 41 goals in 22 games played. Pitre was on the IHL all-star first team that year in 1906 and again in 1907.
The next season, he left as a free agent and played with the Montreal Shamrocks in the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. He lasted only one year before leaving to play with the Edmonton Eskimos. He stayed three years with the Eskimos before jumping contract and coming back to eastern Canada where he played with the Renfrew Creamery Kings for the remainder of 1908.
Pitre joined the Montreal Canadiens in 1909. He stayed for four years, before leaving for the west again. Pitre scored 11 goals during the Les Canadiens first season.
Pitre spent a year playing with the Vancouver Hockey Club / Vancouver Millionaires. Pitre returned to Montreal the next year. In 1916, Pitre led the National Hockey Association in regular season assists and points. He scored 24 goals, 15 assists (assists in those days were one per goal and only if the official scorer thought it contributed to the goal being scored) for 39 points. He also helped lead the Canadiens to their first ever Stanley Cup. He led the playoffs in goals as well. In the 1919 Stanley Cup playoffs, which were never completed due to the influenza epidemic, he led the playoffs in points. By 1921, the Canadiens had so much depth at forward, and an opening on defence due to the death of future Hall of Famer Joe Hall in the influenza epidemic, so they decided to try Pitre as a defenceman; not as difficult a transition as one might think, because he had previously been a "Rover" during the days of "seven man" Hockey. He remained with Montreal through the formation of the NHL and into 1923.
Pitre played essentially his entire career as a forward. At age 38, however, Pitre for the first time regularly played as a defenceman. He played defence for his final two seasons before retiring.
Didier Pitre was also a member of the great line called "The Flying Frenchmen" alongside of Jack Laviolette and Edouard "Newsy" Lalonde.
Didier Pitre was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
The 1909–1910 Montreal Canadiens season was the team's inaugural season and also the first season of the National Hockey Association (NHA). The 1910 Montreal Canadiens operated as 'Les Canadiens' and were owned by Ambrose O'Brien of Renfrew, Ontario as one of four franchises he owned in the NHA. After the season, the franchise was suspended and a NHA franchise was sold to George Kennedy (Georges Kendall). All of the players of 'Les Canadiens' went to Kennedy's organization.
After the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) turned down Ambrose O'Brien's Renfrew Creamery Kings application for membership on November 25, 1909, O'Brien, along with Jimmy Gardner of the (also rejected) Montreal Wanderers organized the new National Hockey Association. The Wanderers desired a competitor team based in Montreal and Gardner suggested a team of francophone players to O'Brien to play on the rivalry between francophones and anglophones in Montreal. Gardner suggested that it be named 'Les Canadiens.
The new team was founded at the new NHA's meeting on December 4, 1909. O'Brien put up $5000 security for the new franchise on the "condition that it would be transferred to Montreal French sportsmen as soon as practicable." Jack Laviolette was hired to organize the new team, its official name Le Club de Hockey Le Canadien.
Laviolette was given free rein by the NHA owners to sign all francophone players. The others would not sign any until the Canadien team was set. His first signing was his old friend Didier "Cannonball" Pitre. Pitre was working in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario when he received a telegram from Laviolette outlining the team and to come to Montreal. At the train in North Bay, Ontario Pitre was met by an official of the CHA's Montreal Le National, who signed him on the spot for $1100, however Pitre had thought he was signing a contract with Laviolette. When Pitre arrived in Ottawa, Laviolette was there to meet him. Laviolette explained that it was the other French-Canadien team that Laviolette was managing. Pitre signed with Laviolette for a guaranteed $1700. Before the first game, legal action was initiated by the Nationals and an injunction was only lifted on the day of the first Canadien game. Laviolette's other signings went much easier. Newsy Lalonde signed on December 14 and he reported the next day to complete the roster.
When the CHA folded in January 1910, the franchise was offered by O'Brien to Le National but they declined to purchase the franchise. The Nationals turned down the offer, not willing to take on the contract to play in the Jubilee Rink, the cost of the player contracts of $6200 and debts of $1400. Le National, an established organization of some 14 years, instead folded their team.
The team had a record of 2–10–0 to finish last in the league. The team's first game was a win against Cobalt at home 7–6 in overtime, on January 5, 1910. The result was nullified when the NHA absorbed the CHA teams and created a new schedule. Cobalt later defeated Les Canadiens at Montreal 6–4. The team's first official win took place on February 7, 1910 against the Haileybury Hockey Club. The team did not win a game away from its home rink.
The Canadiens would finish out the schedule in last place with a record of 2-10, scoring 59 goals and allowing an even 100. The following season, only Lalonde, Pitre, Laviolette, Bernier and Poulin would return.