Larry Cahan

Larry was a rock'em sock'em type of defenseman. He could deliver some very punishing hits with his large frame. It hurt to play against him.

"I used to be mean when I was young," Larry once said late in his career. "I used to fight at the drop of a hat. But you play about 10 years and I guess you mellow a bit. Besides, I don't think that I have to prove myself. I've fought the biggest and the best guys around in three leagues."

"It's a funny thing, if I were a little bit smaller, maybe I would be going out of my way to be rougher. Or maybe it's just my nature. But I still don't think I have to prove anything."

Cahan started his career in his hometown of Fort William. He spent his entire junior career playing for the Fort William Hurricanes between 1949-53. There he was spotted by Leafs scout Squib Walker.

In 1953-54 Larry made his professional debut with a bang. He racked up a league leading 179 PIMs, most of them well earned for the Pittsburgh Hornets (AHL).

"I guess I just forget myself a bit now and then," he said at the time.

The following season he made the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.

"I think they brought me up too soon. I had played all my amateur hockey in Fort William where I was born. I was still just a kid when I went from Pittsburgh to Toronto." Cahan said. "When I came up in the Toronto organization, they had just won three Stanley Cups."

"A lot was expected of anyone who went to training camp or who made the club. And then comes that old problem that's kind of hard to explain. They only give you a few real shots at the NHL. If you don't make it early, then they seem to put a tag on you that says you can't make it. And when they bring you up later, you still have that tag."

"This seems especially true if you are a little older, say 27 or up," Cahan claimed. "I honestly think that you can't make it even if you have a really outstanding training camp."

Cahan lasted two seasons in Toronto until he was claimed by NY Rangers for $ 15,000 in the intra-league draft 1956. NY Rangers were looking for a tough blueliner and Cahan fit the bill perfectly. He had previously split his time between Toronto and AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets. While in the AHL he picked up 160 PIMs in only 39 games.

NY Rangers GM Muzz Patrick was excited to get Cahan:

"He's good enough to make our team right now, and there's no reason in the world why he shouldn't improve with experience. He should make our defense a little tougher than it used to be."

Cahan sure made them tougher...when he was up to it.

Like on December 3, 1961 when he toyed with tough guy Ted Green of Boston.

"I could have busted his head on the ice," Cahan said. "But I was too tired and besides the referee kept yelling that he would give me another misconduct."

Or on December 29, 1964 when he took on Montreal's Jean Beliveau, Jean-Claude Tremblay and Jacques Laperreire all at the same time. Larry was slapped with major, misconduct and game misconduct penalties.

Swedish import Ulf Sterner who was the first European trained player in the NHL and a teammate of Cahan in New York once told him: "If you played in Sweden, they would put you in jail."

Bill Davidson, a former teammate of Larry in the WHL once said: "It's a good thing that Larry wasn't born mean. He'd kill somebody."

Talk about great foreshadowing. More about that later.

Cahan played for the Rangers until 1965. He then played three seasons in the WHL for Vancouver Canucks. There in his final season (1967) he won the Hal Laycoe Cup (WHL's top defenseman) , was a 1st team All-Star and set a new WHL record for defensemen in the playoffs with 16 points in 7 games.

That All-Star season gave Larry a new chance to play in the NHL as Oakland Seals claimed him in the 1967 Expansion draft. He played one season in Oakland putting up career highs for goals (9), assists (15) and points (24), but he is best remembered for one big hit that led to a revolution in hockey.

In the first period of a game on January 13, 1968, Cahan and partner Ron Harris combined to cleanly take out 29 year old rookie Bill Masterton. Masterton, who like virtually all players at that time, was not wearing a helmet. He fell backwards and cracked his head on the ice, resulting in significant damage to his brain stem. Two days later the injury proved to be fatal, as Masterton died in Minneapolis hospital. He is the only player to die as the result of on-ice injury.

The following season (1968-69) he was let go by the Seals, claimed by Montreal in the Intra-League draft only to be traded to Los Angeles a few weeks later.

Larry played three seasons in California and was LA's captain between January and April 1970. He eventually finished his career in Seattle (WHL) and Chicago (WHA) where he was a captain for both teams.

Larry was no big scorer but he was a devastating hitter.


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Anonymous,  8:22 PM  

As a teenager in Fort William at the time of Larry Cahan's Jumior Hockey career, I was madly in love with him. Every junior hockey game at the Fort Willaim Gardens found me and my highschool girl friends at the games, cheering on the Hurricans, we all had crushes on the hockey players, but Larry Kahan was at the top of every school girl's list. I had the amazing experience of Larry asking me to roller skat with him at the Fort william Gardens, and now, so many years later, its still a great memory.

Joe Pelletier 8:42 PM  

I think Larry would get a kick out of reading the stories about the high school girls!

Robert e Lee 8:59 PM  

I agree with you Joe, about the high school girls. But I also remember seeing him play for the Kings, and he was a hell of a hitter. I can think of maybe two players from our team I might compare him two: one, a personal favorite of he never killed anyone, but I swear he tried a couple of times...Danny Maloney (early '70's)-AWESOME. And currently, Dustin Brown, who puts out some real hard hits. He isn't much of a fighter-like Larry was-but he can knock 'em down. I think a fight with Larry and John Ferguson might be something to have seen. I was at a game they played against each other, but no such occurrence. Gilles Marotte-recently deceased-was another former King who could really hit (nick named "Captain Crunch"). Gosh, I see the ages for these guys and my heart sinks to think we won't have them around for much longer. Have I really aged that much? I guess I have. Good article Joe...Robert e Lee

Tom,  12:40 PM  

I was the stick boy for the Pittsburgh Hornets during 1953-54 season. My station was right next to Larry (they called him "Hank")'s locker. As tough as he was on the ice (he led the league in penalty minutes), he was the nicest guy to a 12 year old. He treated me with respect and we would talk and joke. I remember between periods I would pass around a large bowl filled with quarters of oranges. I was amazed at home many he could pick up with that claw of a hand he had. When he was with the Rangers and I was in HS, I had occasion to be in NY so I went to see a Ranger game to see him. As much as I enjoyed watching him play, I will always be more impressed with him as a very kind person. Tom

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