Monday, September 9, 2013

Bert Corbeau Hangs 'em Up

Bert 'Pig Iron' Corbeau was a defenceman during the inaugural season of the National Hockey League. Born in Penetanguishine, Ontario on the shore of Georgian Bay, Corbeau was considered huge in his day at 5'11", 200 lbs. He was the first player to play for both the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, and in 1925/26 he became the first player in NHL history to rack up 100 penalty minutes in a season.

From the 1953 book Gashouse Gang of Hockey by Ed Fitkin, comes the story of Corbeau's last ever game. It occurred while playing in the Canadian Professional Hockey League with the London Panthers. A young Joe Primeau regales the incident;

Bert Corbeau was manager, coach, player and just about everything else where the London team was concerned. A huge, colourful man who always wore a hard black derby, Corbeau was as unpredictable as the weather.
His last game as a player sticks vividly in Joe Primeau's memory. The date was Christmas night, 1928, the locale was London. The Panthers and the Detroit Olympics were locked in an 0-0 deadlock with five minutes to play when Primeau broke his skate. Corbeau, who had played very little that season, decided to meet the emergency personally. He had Carl Voss and George Redding as his defence pair but knowing that Voss had had some experience as a forward Corbeau moved Carl to centre in Primeau's place and took over from him on defence.
"When I got back two minutes later," Joe recalls, "the score was 3-0 for Detroit. Voss told me they went around Corbeau for all three goals and by the time I got back the fans were throwing things at him and calling him all sorts of names. Well, at the end of the game, Bert stormed into the dressing room, took off his skates, slammed them against the wall and said he'd never play again. I don't think he ever did either.

Corbeau would play nine games for London that season before retiring. He would meet his untimely end in 1942 on the waters of Georgian Bay. His personal 75 foot yacht sank during an excursion killing Corbeau along with 24 of his co-workers of the 40 he was entertaining.

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