Claude Joseph Antoine Provost - Born September 17, 1933 in Montreal, Quebec – Died April 17, 1984 in Broward County, Florida was a Canadian professional ice Hockey right winger.
Provost played his junior Hockey with the Montreal Junior Canadiens from 1952 to 1954.
Provost started his professional Hockey career with the Shawinigan Falls Cataracts in the Quebec Hockey League in 1954-55 season.
In 1955 Toe Blake took over as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, replacing Dick Irvin Sr. Blake was hired with one goal in mind, and that was bringing the Stanley Cup back to Montreal after a two year absence. Realizing that the team was loaded with offensive firepower, Blake was looking for a few defensive forwards to make the team more complete.
Provost was able to make the team in 1955, in large part due to his checking skills. Playing in 60 games that year, Provost scored 13 goals and 29 points. In the playoff’s he contributed 3 goals and added 3 assists, as the Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup in Claude’s rookie year.
As with all great checkers Provost possessed a keen understanding of the nuances of the game. He wasn’t a great skater, and he didn’t have a powerful shot, but he was always in position thanks to his quick bursts of speed. He was able to use his deceptive speed, and always made the safe and the smart play.
At the conclusion of his fifth year in the league, Provost could look back at a career that included five Stanley Cup championships in his first five years, a claim that only he, Donnie Marshall, and Henri Richard can claim.
Provost would average 16 goals a season, his scoring increased after he noticed Gordie Howe used a short stick. Provost followed suit in the 1960s, and his scoring contributions grew.
As the 1960’s dawned there were also changes underfoot with the Canadiens. In 1960, Maurice "Rocket" Richard retired, followed by the trading of Doug Harvey in 1961, Jacques Plante in 1963, and the retirement of Boom Boom Geoffrion in 1964.
All of these changes thrusted Provost into a more prominent role with the Canadiens. The departure of many offensive stars gave him the opportunity to become more of a scorer with the team. Provost responded in the 1962-63 season with 33 goals and 62 points, both career highs.
In 1964-65 he had an even better year. While he scored 27 goals, he added 37 assists and earned a spot on the NHL first all star team.
In the 1965 playoffs Provost scored maybe the Canadiens biggest goal of the decade. In the semi-finals the Canadiens were matched against the three time defending champion Maple Leafs. After being eliminated the past two years by the Leafs, the Canadiens took a 3-2 series lead into Maple Leafs Gardens for game six.
Before a sold out crowd at the Gardens nothing was decided in regulation time as the two teams took a 3-3 tie into overtime. At 16:33 of the first overtime period, Provost scored what was undoubtedly the biggest goal of his career. After eliminating the champion Leafs the Canadiens went on to face the Chicago Black Hawks in the finals.
In the finals, Provost turned his focus onto the job of checking the Black Hawks superstar Bobby Hull. As opposed to many other defensive forwards, he checked in a clean and effective way. He didn’t take penalties, and he was not a clutch and grabber like many latter day checkers. Provost, never complained about his role, and was willing to sacrifice his individual needs for the greater goal of the team. Even Hull his main adversary, said he respected the job that Provost did.
Thanks in part to his masterful job in containing Hull; the Canadiens were able to regain the Cup in a seven game final series that saw Hull rendered ineffective due to Provost’s skills.
The Canadiens embarked on a 4 championships in 5 years span known as Montreal's "quiet dynasty."
As the team was able to reload with new offensive stars like Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay, and Yvan Cournoyer, Provost was able to resume his checking career in his later years with the Canadiens. As one of the elder statesman of the team he never contributed more than 19 goals a season during the “quiet dynasty” but he was still a valuable part of the team.
After repeating as Cup champions in 1966, the Canadiens lost in the finals to the Maple Leafs in the last Stanley Cup finals of the original six era in 1967. The 1968 playoffs saw Provost once again record a valuable 10 points in 13 games as the Canadiens regained the Stanley Cup by defeating the St. Louis Blues.
1968 also saw Provost honored as the first winner of the Bill Masterton trophy for his dedication to hockey. This rare recognition of his talent and achievement was long overdue.
In 1969 Provost was able to assist Jean Beliveau on his only career playoff overtime goal as the Habs eliminated the Bruins in the semi-finals on their way to winning their fourth Stanley Cup in five years.
This represented the ninth and last Stanley Cup of Provost’s career. Only his teammates Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, and Yvan Cournoyer have more.
Claude Provost retired from the Canadiens after the 1970 season and began coaching the Rosemont National of the Quebec Junior Hockey League.
Claude Provost played an integral part on nine Stanley Cup championship teams. He was recognized as the premier defensive forward of his generation. He was a first team all star once and played in 11 All Star games.
On November 9th, 1957 Provost set an NHL record by scoring a goal just four seconds into the start of the second period. Provost still holds the record for the fastest goal to start a period (Denis Saverd tied the record in 1986).
Claude Provost played over 1000 NHL games, recording very respectable totals of 254 goals and 589 points. Despite his aggressive checking style, he earned only 469 penalty minutes.
Claude Provost won the most Stanley Cups of anyone who is not a member of Hockey Hall of Fame. Every other player and executive who has won at least 8 Stanley Cups has been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame.