Claude Earl "Chuck" Rayner - Born August 11, 1920 in Sutherland (Saskatoon), Saskatchewan – Died October 6, 2002 in Langley, British Columbia was a Canadian Hockey goaltender and coach.
Rayner played al his minor Hockey in Sutherland, and would lead his local team to a Saskatchewan Midget championship in 1935.
Rayner then played his first junior Hockey with the Saskatoon Wesleys of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League / SJHL, helping them reach the finals of the 1937 Abbott Cup.
Rayner joined the Kenora Thistles in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League / MJHL for the 1937-38 season. He played with the Thistles for three seasons, and was captain of the Thistles when they won the 1940 Turnbull Cup as MJHL champions, the Abbott Cup championship for Western Canada and went to the 1940 Memorial Cup finals, losing to Oshawa.
Rayner had signed with the NHL New York Americans on October 11, 1939, and was sent to their farm team the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League / AHL for the 1940-41 season. Rayner did play 12 Games in the NHL during the season, making his Americans debut on November 21, 1940 vs the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then picked up his 1st NHL victory on January 30, 1941 vs the Chicago Black Hawks. He would later get his 1st NHL shutout on January 10, 1942 vs the Montreal Canadiens. Rayner would play the majority of the 1940-41 season with the Springfield Indians. With the Indians, Rayner led the league in shutouts and goals against average and was named to the Second All-Star Team.
The New York Americans were renamed the Brooklyn Americans the 1941-42 season, and Rayner would split the goaltending duties with Earl Robertson.
World War II interrupted Rayner's career, and he spent the next three years in the Royal Canadian Navy, where he played two seasons for naval team based out of Victoria, British Columbia, and one season with the Halifax RCAF, where he played during their Allan Cup playoff bid in 1944.
Rayner was also the first goalie in history credited with scoring a goal. While playing for a Royal Canadian Navy Team in 1944, Rayner later recalled "I was on a Navy team during World War II," he said. "Like so many service teams, we had a lot of big leaguers on our roster, so, in a sense, it was like playing in a regular NHL game. Bill Carse was on the Army team from Vancouver. Carse had a terrific shot and he let one go that hit me so hard it bounced pretty far out. Instinctively I went for the rebound until I realized that I was pretty far away out of the net. The problem was I couldn't stop. But I looked up and saw that there was nobody ahead of me. Nobody but Art Jones (the Army goalie). I thought 'By golly, Chuck, the best thing to do is keep going.' So, I kept going. Before I knew it, I was face to face with Art Jones. He was so stunned by the sight of me with the pads on, skating right at him that he didn't know what to do. I just the let the puck go, hoping and praying that something good would come of it. The puck went by Jones about half-way up on the stick side."
Returning from his active duty, Rayner was signed as a free agent with the woeful New York Rangers, who were desperately trying to regain some sense of hockey decency. Unfortunately, that was not to happen for some time, in spite of Rayner’s best efforts.
The Rangers missed the playoffs in all but two of the seasons Rayner played on Broadway. In 1946-47, Chuck led the NHL with five shutouts and had a solid goals-against average of 3.05, but the next season, the Rangers brought Sugar Jim Henry back to tend goal. Henry had been their goaltender in 1941-42, but had played in the minors since. Coach Frank Boucher attempted to alternate the two goaltenders, first by games and later by five-minute periods of time, changing Rayner and Henry like forwards. "Frank switched us every third line or so," explained Chuck Rayner. "The truth was, the club only had one set of goalie gloves. When I skated off to the bench and Sugar Jim came on the ice, we would meet at the blueline so we could exchange gloves in front of 15,000 fans." But when Rayner suffered a double fracture of the cheekbone, the experiment was concluded. Henry took over and finished the 1947-48 regular season. Ironically, the Rangers made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons that year. But when it came time to ice the playoff lineup, Boucher had Chuck Rayner in net. Rayner had played 15 games for the AHL New Haven Ramblers while recovering from his cheekbone injury during the 1947-48 season. He played 6 games for the Rangers in the 1948 NHL playoffs vs the Detroit Red Wings, winning 2.
Returning full-time to the Rangers in 1948-49, Rayner played very well behind a weak New York team and ended up being named to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team. In fact, Rayner made the Second All-Star Team for three consecutive seasons (1949, 1950, 1951), playing behind a losing team - a tribute to his prodigious talent in spite of a losing record. Even more impressive was the announcement that Chuck Rayner was the Hart Trophy recipient as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1949-50. Chuck posted a 2.62 goals-against average, helping New York win 28 games while losing 30 and tying 11. The Rangers snuck into the playoffs that season, and to the astonishment of Hockey fans everywhere, faced the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals, where Pete Babando scored the Cup-winning goal in double overtime of game seven on Rayner - the first time ever in which the Stanley Cup was won in extra periods in game seven. As Stanley Cup runner-up, the Rangers would be awarded the O'Brien Trophy (O'Brien Cup), the last team to win the trophy, at one time the National Hockey Association / NHA championship trophy, which was retired after the season.
During the 1951-52 season, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie,’ as he had been tagged by the press while a rookie, suffered a serious knee injury, and was never quite the same afterwards. He played just 20 games the next season, but watched while Gump Worsley emerged as the Rangers goaltender. Worsley eventually won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. Those 20 games were the final contests in Rayner’s fine NHL career. "I would have loved to be on a Stanley Cup team, but I have no complaints. I feel the Rangers treated me right and I don’t have anything to complain about," quoted Rayner.
He was also innovative. While many credit Johnny Bower for perfecting the poke-check, Bower points to Rayner.
"I owe a lot of my success to Prince Charlie. Chuck was the person who taught me the pokecheck while I was with the Rangers in 1953-54. I really appreciate what he did for me in my career."
Rayner signed as a free agent with the Saskatoon Quakers of the Western Hockey League / WHL on September 25, 1953, playing one season with the Quakers, and then finished his playing career with the Nelson Maple Leafs of the Western International Hockey League / WIHL in 1955.
Rayner went on to coach senior Hockey in Nelson, B.C., minor pro in Edmonton, and intermediate and junior Hockey in Kenora, Ontario.
The wavy-haired goalie "had a lion's courage and the artistry of a ballet-master," once wrote Stan Fischler.
Chuck Rayner was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Claude “Chuck” Rayner was inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
Charlie "Chuck" Rayner was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
Claude “Chuck” Rayner was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.