Cecil Ralph "Tiny" Thompson - Born May 31, 1903 in Sandon, British Columbia – Died February 9, 1981 in Calgary, Alberta was a Canadian Professional Ice Hockey goaltender.
Initially, Thompson was not a goaltender, though he agreed to play the position to get into games. As a teenager playing competitive ice Hockey, he acquired the nickname "Tiny" as a joke, as he was the tallest player on the team, standing 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m); the nickname stuck with him for the rest of his career.
Thompson began his junior career playing for the Calgary Monarchs in 1919 at the age of 16. He competed for the Memorial Cup that year, playing in two games and surrendering 11 goals.
After spending the 1920–21 season playing for Calgary Alberta Grain, Thompson played for the Bellevue Colts of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and then two seasons for the Bellevue Bulldogs of the Alberta Senior Hockey League, and played 4 playoff games during the Allan Cup playdowns in 1924.
To start the 1924–25 season, Thompson joined the Duluth Hornets of the United States Amateur Hockey Association, playing 40 games, recording a shutout in 11 of them.
It was in Duluth that Thompson purchased the leg pads he used throughout his pro career.
Thompson joined the Minneapolis Millers of the Central Hockey League, a semi-professional team in 1925. The team moved to the American Hockey Association / AHA along with other CHL teams to start the 1926 season. Thompson recorded a league-leading 28 wins in 40 matches for the Millers in the 1927-28 season. In his three seasons with the Millers, he appeared in 118 games, recording 33 shutouts with a 1.37 goals against average.
Thompson began his National Hockey League / NHL career with the Boston Bruins in the 1928–29 season after his contract was purchased by Boston manager Art Ross. Despite having never seen Thompson play, Ross had heard about Thompson's good reputation in Minnesota. In his first game he posted a shutout, becoming the only Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender to accomplish this feat.
Few players have made a bigger impact in their rookie season. After Boston coach Cy Denneny opted to start him in the season opener ahead of incumbent Hal Winkler, Thompson's glorious career was launched. He led Boston to 26 wins while appearing in all 44 games having 12 shutouts and posted a stingy 1.15 goals-against average, the second lowest goals-against average in NHL history to date, second to George Hainsworth's 0.98 GAA. Hainsworth had set his record that same season. In the playoffs, he helped the Bruins win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In the finals against the Rangers, he faced his brother Paul in the only sibling confrontation in the playoffs until the Esposito brothers some 40 years later. Thompson recorded three shutouts in the five playoff games, and allowed only three goals.
The following season, Thompson again appeared in all of the Bruins' 44 games, posting three shutouts and a 2.19 goals-against average. The league changed its rules on forward passing, which resulted in a sharp increase in goalscoring. Boston won all but six games, finishing with a 38–5–1 record, the best winning percentage for any team in a season, surrendering only 98 goals. Thompson's record was one of the most impressive in league history,. In the playoffs, however, they suffered their first two-game losing streak, as they were swept 2–0 by the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. Earlier in the playoffs, Thompson's winning streak of seven playoff games was snapped; it remains, as of 2014, the longest playoff winning streak to start a career
Thompson bested Chicago goaltender Charlie Gardiner to win the first of his four Vezina Trophies.
In the 1930–31 season, he played all 44 games again, and was named to the Second All-Star team. In the playoffs, Boston lost in the semifinals to the Montreal Canadiens; during game two of the series Thompson became the first goaltender to be pulled for a sixth attacker at the end of a game to give his team a higher chance to score a goal. Even though Boston still lost, coach Art Ross' maneuver was described as "amazing" the following day, and this technique, known as "open net", caught on with the rest of the league.
The Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in Thompson's career in the 1931–32 season. He won only 13 games while appearing in 43 out of Boston's 48 games, which was the only time he missed games as a member of the Bruins. The next season, Boston made the playoffs once more, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The final game of the playoff series was described as Thompson's most memorable. On April 3, 1933, Thompson made history as the losing goaltender in the longest playoff game to that date, a match that was dubbed "the Ken Doraty Derby." In the fifth and deciding game of the Bruins' semifinal series with Toronto, both teams were held scoreless throughout regulation time as Tiny and his opposite number, Lorne Chabot, played superbly. The deadlock held through 104 minutes and 46 seconds of overtime. Early in the sixth overtime period, a pass from Boston defenseman Eddie Shore was intercepted, and Ken Doraty skated in on a breakaway, cleanly beating Thompson at 4:46 of the period. Thompson received a standing ovation from fans at the Maple Leaf Gardens.
Thompson became the second goaltender to win his second Vezina Trophy in 1932–33 since its inception in the 1926–27 season, as he recorded 11 shutouts and a 1.76 goals-against average. After missing the playoffs in the 1933–34 season, they rebounded to first place in the American Division the following season, as Thompson was named to the Second All-Star team for the second time. In the playoffs, the Bruins won only one of their four games; their only win was on the strength of Thompson's shutout, who finished the playoffs with a 1.53 goals-against average
During the 1935-36 season, Thompson entered the record book when he fed a pass to defenseman Babe Siebert, who went on to score. Thompson became the first goalie ever to earn an assist in the NHL. Thompson recorded 10 shutouts, but Boston managed to win only 22 out of their 48 games. At the end of the season, he was named to the First All-Star team for the first time, and won the Vezina Trophy for the third time, tying George Hainsworth's all-time mark with three victories. The ensuing two-game, total-goal playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a series of contrasts, as the Bruins lost 8–6. In one game, the Bruins shut out Toronto 6–0, while they lost the other game 8–0.
In 1937–38, his final full season with the Bruins, he won 30 out of the 48 games, but Boston lost to the Maple Leafs once again in the playoffs. Thompson set a new record by winning his fourth and final Vezina Trophy. He and brother Paul, then in Chicago, were both named to the First All-Star Team - only the second such brother act after Lionel and Charlie Conacher.
Thompson sat out two games at the start of the 1938-39 season because his eyes were bothering him. A young American by the name of Frank Brimsek stepped in and played so well that Bruins chief Art Ross decided he represented the club's goalkeeping future. On November 16, 1938, a Bruins era ended when Thompson was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for fellow netminder Norman Smith and $15,000. Thompson also received a $1,000 bonus from Boston.
Thompson played 39 games that year for the Red Wings and a full season the next. The Red Wings posted a losing record in both of these seasons, although they made the playoffs both times. Overall, Thompson appeared in 85 regular season games for Detroit, recording a 32–41–12 record, seven shutouts, and a 2.54 goals-against average, and in 11 playoff games, posting a 5–6, with one shutout and a 2.41 goal-against average.
During his NHL career, Thompson recorded 81 shutouts, the sixth highest of any goaltender in NHL history. He led all goaltenders in regular season games played 10 times, and in regular season wins five times.
Thompson is the all-time Bruins leader for games, wins, shutouts and goals-against average.
After retiring from professional play, Thompson became the head coach of the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League / AHL in the 1940–41 season. He coached 56 games in two seasons. The Bisons missed the playoffs both times. He appeared in one game as goaltender in the 1940–41 season.
During World War II, Thompson served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and doubled as the coach of the Calgary RCAF Mustangs of the Alberta Senior Hockey League. He led the Mustangs to the league championship series in 1942–43 against the Calgary Currie Army team where injuries to the Mustangs' goaltenders brought him back onto the ice in March 1943. With Thompson in goal, the Mustangs defeated Currie Army 8–4 to tie the best-of-five series at two wins apiece. He played the deciding game, but his team fell short of winning the Alberta title with a 3–1 loss to Currie Army. After the war, Thompson became chief Western Canada scout for the Chicago Black Hawks. He was one of the few scouts at the time who sought to discover a player's personality along with their playing ability. Thompson often conversed with players as part of an effort to learn about the players he was watching.
Thompson was a stand-up goaltender, rarely falling on both knees to stop a puck.
Thompson was one of the first NHL goaltenders to catch the puck with his hand to make a save, and helped popularize the technique. Using gloves that were smaller than those of other players, he was among the best puck-catchers of his era. He stood in the way of the puck with minimal padding, risking being struck when moving to catch it instead of simply deflecting it away from the net. His signature technique, very often featured in photographs of him, involved dropping to one knee with the paddle of his goalstick covering the five-hole, and extending his glove to cover the left side of the net. Although he caught the puck with his glove, he did so without gloves resembling the modern blocker and trapper glove combination. Thompson was described by Johnny Bower, a former goaltender who was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a good puckhandler, and one of the best of his time at forward passing.
Thompson was the 1st person born in British Columbia to play in the National Hockey League / NHL.
Cecil Ralph "Tiny" Thompson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959.