Clinton Stevenson "Praying Benny" Benedict - Born September 26, 1892 in Ottawa, Ontario – Died November 12, 1976 in Ottawa, Ontario was a Canadian ice Hockey goaltender and coach.
Benedict was likely the first goaltender in the National Hockey League / NHL to wear a face mask. On February 20, 1930, Benedict of the Montreal Maroons wore a leather face shield during a 3-3 tie against the New York Americans, to protect facial injuries from previous games.
Benedict was one of the first great goalies in professional Hockey and a great innovator in the sport. His strategy of "accidentally" falling to the ice to make a save or smother loose pucks led the NHL to change the rule that had required goalies to remain standing throughout the game. Toronto fans referred to him as "Praying Benny" since he spent so much time on his knees.
Benedict played senior-level Hockey at 17, playing for the Ottawa Stewartons of the Ottawa City league in 1909–10, moving to the Ottawa New Edinburgh Hockey team of the Inter-provincial Amateur Hockey Union / IPAHU the following season, playing for the New Edinburgh's for 2 seasons, helping them win the IPAHU championship in both 1911 and 1912.
Benedict joined the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association / NHA in the 1912–13 season. Although the Senators had at the time future Hall of Famer Percy LeSueur as their starting goaltender, Benedict played 10 games for the club. He played one more season as backup to LeSueur and took over as starting goaltender in the 1914–15 season. He led the league in Goals Against Average (GAA) that season and the following two seasons to start his career. Benedict also backstopped the Senators to the 1915 Stanley Cup finals, losing to Vancouver.
Benedict truly blossomed when the Ottawa franchise became one of the founding members of the National Hockey League / NHL in 1917-18. On February 25, 1918, he recorded the second shutout in NHL history when the Senators blanked the Canadiens 8-0. The losing goaltender that night was Georges Vezina, who had registered the NHL's first blank sheet a week earlier. For six of the seven years he spent in Ottawa, Benedict led the NHL in wins. He was part of one of the game's early dynasties when he helped the Senators win three Stanley Cups in four seasons - 1920, 1921 & 1923. His most impressive season was arguably 1919-20, when his 2.66 goals-against mark was 2.13 goals better than the league average, a mark that was never equaled.
After winning three Stanley Cups with the Senators, his career changed in the 1923–24 season. Benedict developed was begining to have trouble with longer shots, and he blamed it on eyesight problems, but it turned out to be his drinking, which at first was kept secret by the Senators. Benedict occasionally played for the Senators while under the effects. In the playoffs, Benedict and the Senators played poorly and were quickly eliminated. Management withheld some of his salary for his behaviour. Benedict sued the team in return and the Senators countersued, revealing in court documents the extent of Benedict's behaviour. Once the Ottawa papers found out about the court case, the secret was out. The two sides quickly settled to minimize the publicity.
Benedict's career with the Senators was finished. On October 20, 1924, Benedict was traded along with Punch Broadbent to the expansion Montreal Maroons. It was a new lease on life for Benedict who played for six seasons with the Maroons.
Benedict starred with four shutouts and a 1.00 goals-against average when Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1926. This last triumph gave Benedict the distinction of being the first netminder to backstop two different NHL teams to the Stanley Cup. He was virtually impenetrable in the four-game championship set against Victoria with a 0.75 goals-against mark, where he also became the 1st goaltender to have 3 shutouts in a Stanley Cup finals.
Benedict would have 1 last Stanley Cup finals, as he helped the Maroons reach the 1928 finals vs the New York Rangers, the Rangers won the best of 5 series 3-2, but Benedict had 2 shutouts in both Montreal victories, and the other 3 games were decided by 1 goal, including a overtime game.
In 1930, some 30 years before Jacques Plante popularized the goalie mask, Clint was the first goalie to wear facial protection in the NHL with the Montreal Maroons using it for five games during the 1929–30 season. On January 7, 1930, he was hit by a shot from Howie Morenz in the face, breaking the bridge of his nose. Benedict was out of action for six weeks. He returned on February 20, 1930 against the New York Americans wearing the mask. He played with a mask for five games in total and according to Douglas Hunter, Benedict modified or tried different masks during the sequence of games. His last game wearing a mask was on March 4, 1930 when he got hit in the face during a goal-mouth scramble. He had to leave the game due to blood coming from his nose. When asked about his short-lived face mask Benedict remarked:
“It was leather with a big nosepiece. The nosepiece proved to be the problem, because it obscured my vision”
Later in the season he was hit in the throat by another Morenz blast which effectively ended his NHL tenure.
Benedict played the 1930-31 season with the Maroons' farm club, the Windsor Bulldogs of the International Hockey League / IHL and backstopped the Bulldogs to the IHL championship in what proved to be his career finale.
Benedict played in 362 regular season NHL games, with 190 wins, 28 ties and 57 shutouts. He played in 28 NHL playoff games, winning 11, 5 ties with 9 shutouts and 23 Stanley Cup final games, winning 14 with 5 shutouts.
His NHA totals - 81 regular season games, 53 wins, 1 tie and 3 shutouts. 4 playoff games, 2 wins and 1 shutout.
Benedict was one of the Greatest Goaltenders in the history of the game. A innovator while also making history. He played during the same era as Georges Vezina, having a better average then Vezina.
Throughout his career he remained loyal to his original thin, cricket-style pads even when the larger leather pads were popularized in the 1930s.
Benedict became manager and coach of Saint John Beavers of the Maritime Senior Hockey League, a position he held for two seasons.
Benedict was also an accomplished lacrosse player in the off-season, playing for the Ottawa Stars Lacrosse Club and the Ottawa Capitals as a professional.
Clint Benedict was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
Clinton ‘Clint’ Stevenson Benedict was inducted into Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame in 1966.
Ranked number 77 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players in 1998.