Alfred Joseph Francis "Gentleman Joe" Primeau - Born January 29, 1906 in Lindsay, Ontario – Died May 14, 1989 in Toronto, Ontario was a Canadian ice Hockey centre and coach.
Primeau was raised in Victoria, British Columbia, and moved to Toronto at an early age.
Primeau played junior Hockey from 1923 to 1927 for the St. Michael’s Majors, Toronto St. Mary’s and Toronto Marlboros for four season's scoring 34 goals and nine assists in 31 games, and 2 goals, 1 assist in 2 playoff games in 1926 for Toronto St. Mary's.
Primeau began his professional career in 1927 with the Toronto Ravinas of the Canadian Professional Hockey League, an affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Ravinas were coached by Frank J. Selke. Primeau scored 26 goals, 13 assists in 41 regular season games, and 1 goal in 2 playoff games.
Primeau made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs on November 19, 1927 vs Chicago Black Hawks at Arena Gardens in a 4-2 Toronto victory.
Primeau would also play professionally for the London Panthers of the Canadian Professional Hockey League in the 1928-29 season, scoring 12 goals, 10 assists in 35 games.
Primeau became a full-time member of the Maple Leafs for the 1929–30 season, scoring his 1st NHL goal vs Bill Beveridge of the Detroit Cougars on November 30, 1929 at 11:15 of the 1st at Arena Gardens. The goal was the game winner in a 1-0 Toronto victory.
Primeau's breakthrough moment came in December 1929, when the 23-year-old Primeau replaced Eric Pettinger on the top line. An injury forced left-winger Baldy Cotton to remain in Toronto while the team travelled to Chicago, 18-year-old Busher Jackson joined Primeau and another youngster, Charlie Conacher, on the top line. The Leafs won 4–3. The Kid Line was born.
Primeau won his only Stanley Cup as a player with the Maple Leafs in 1931–32 and won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that same season, despite picking up a career high 25 penalty minutes. The Maple Leafs would reach the Finals again the next seasons and twice more in 1935 and 1936.
Primeau was a fantastic passer who could hit you on the tape from pretty much anywhere. It was said that he could put the puck in your pocket if you wanted. With Conacher and Jackson on his wings, Primeau led the NHL in assists three times. He was never better than in the 1931-32 season. He not only led the league in assists, but he established a new season record with 37 helpers. That record would stand for 9 seasons. Primeau finished second in National Hockey League scoring in the 1932 season by three points to his linemate Jackson, and second in the 1934 season by six points to his linemate Conacher, and would help Jackson win the scoring title once and Conacher win it twice. His linemates’ success was a testament to Primeau’s playmaking ability as he had six of his seven full seasons with 20 or more assists
Over his NHL career, Primeau scored 66 goals and 177 assists in 310 games, and scored 5 postseason goals and 18 assists in 38 playoff games.
After scoring his last goal in the 1936 Stanley Cup Final, Primeau left the game, retiring at age 30 to focus on family and a successful concrete business. But he had coached throughout his playing days and it remained in his blood.
Primeau began his coaching career while still an NHL player by taking the bench for the West Toronto Juniors in 1932, and then coached a Royal Canadian Air Force team which included Neil and Mac Colville, Alex Shibicky and Ken Reardon during World War II.
After the war he switched to coaching the junior ranks with the St. Michael’s Majors and captured two Memorial Cup championships in 1945 & 1947. Some of his notable protégés were Ed Sandford, Jimmy Thomson, Gus Mortson and Red Kelly. Kelly of course went on to become one of the top forwards in Maple Leafs history.
Back in the 1940s senior Hockey was often a high calibre of play. Even though they were amateur in practice, Many teams were of a quality of at least equal to today’s minor leagues. This quality attracted Primeau back to the senior ranks in 1947-48. By 1949-50 he was tasting national championship fame again as he guided the senior Toronto Marlboros to the 1949-50 Allan Cup championship.
The following year he was hired as the coach of Maple Leafs for three seasons, capturing the Stanley Cup championship in 1951 - everyone of course remembers Bill Barilko’s heroics in the playoffs that year, but few people remember that Gentleman Joe Primeau, was the head coach of that championship team.
Primeau won at every level he coached and owns the distinction of being the only coach to stand behind the bench of the winning team at the Memorial Cup, Allan Cup and Stanley Cup.
1945 and 1947 Memorial Cup Champion – Toronto St. Michael's Majors
1950 Allen Cup Champion – Toronto Marlboros
1951 Stanley Cup Champion – Toronto Maple Leafs
Joe Primeau was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.
Joe Primeau was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame as an Athlete in 1975.