Louis Joseph "Leapin' Louie" Fontinato - Born January 20, 1932 in Guelph, Ontario - Died July 3, 2016 in Guelph, Ontario was a Canadian ice Hockey defenceman.
Fontinato played two years with the local Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters of the OHA where formed a formidable tandem with Harry Howell. In 1952 they won the J. Ross Robertson Cup as Ontario champions, then hammered the Regina Pats to win the Memorial Cup championship in 4 straight games. During his amateur days, Fontinato's temper became legendary and he became known as "Leapin' Louie" as a result of his elaborate protests when he was called for a penalty. In addition to Fontinato and Howell, the Guelph team boasted such future stars as Andy Bathgate and Dean Prentice.
After junior Fontinato played most of his first three pro seasons with the WHL's Vancouver Canucks (1952 to 1954) and split the 1954-55 season with the Saskatoon Quakers and the NHL New York Rangers, making his NHL debut on October 27, 1954 vs Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden in a 5-2 Rangers win. He played 28 games for the Rangers that season.
Fontinato scored his 1st NHL vs Terry Sawchuk of the Detroit Red Wings on March 6, 1955 at 13:41 of the 2nd period at Madison Square Garden in a 2-1 Detroit win.
During his first full year in the NHL, "Leapin' Louie" made his presence felt and led the league with 202 penalty minutes, and had become the first NHL player to spend more than 200 minutes in the penalty box. Fontinato was a rugged defender and the most feared enforcer of his time.
Fontinato and Gordie Howe had a running feud that culminated in a fight at Madison Square Garden on February 1, 1959. That evening at Madison Square Garden, Fontinato took a break from reading his press clippings to charge into a fracas involving Red Kelly and Eddie Shack behind New York’s net. Howe, who had intervened on Kelly’s behalf, noticed the blur rushing towards him, recognized it as Fontinato, and ducked a punch aimed at his head. Then, as Howe later described it, “that honker of his was right there, and I drilled it. That first punch was what did it. It broke his nose a little bit.”
Observers recalled Howe grabbing Fontinato’s jersey with his left hand, then using his right hand to deliver a stream of vicious uppercuts–”whop, whop, whop, just like someone chopping wood,” said one player quoted in Life magazine, which devoted three pages to Fontinato’s dismantling. Millions of readers were treated to photos of the humbled Fontinato swathed in bandages. In as violent a half-minute as ever seen inside a prize ring, Howe had broken Fontinato’s nose, dislocated his jaw, and destroyed his ego and reputation.
Fontinato spent six full years in New York where he roughed up opposing forwards and jumped into the rush on occasion. On June 13, 1961 he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in a much-publicized deal for Doug Harvey.
Fontinato's career came to an abrupt and violent end in 1963 at the Montreal Forum when he missed a check on left-winger Vic Hadfield of the Rangers behind the Montreal net, slammed head first into the boards, and became paralyzed for a month.