Marcel Pronovost was always nonchalant about the many injuries he incurred during his long hockey career, including having his nose broken 14 times. “To me,” the Detroit Red Wings’ Hall of Fame blueliner once said, “accidents are as common as lacing up a pair of skates.”
Pronovost’s ranking as one of hockey’s all-time greats is no accident. He won five Stanley Cups with Detroit and Toronto, was a Norris Trophy finalist on several occasions, and was twice a First team All-Star during his two decades in the National Hockey League. Known for his end-to-end dashes, the press dubbed him “Detroit’s own Flying Frenchman,” a reference to Montreal’s Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
Pronovost was born into a large Quebec family—he had eight brothers and three sisters—and broke in as a center with the Windsor Spitfires. He was only 19 years old when he was called up from the Red Wings’ Omaha farm team during the 1950 semifinals between Detroit and Toronto. With Gordie Howe sidelined by injury for the playoffs, defenseman Red Kelly moved to forward and Pronovost took Kelly’s spot. The teenager played well as the Wings wound up beating the Leafs and then the New York Rangers to win their first of four Stanley Cups during the 1950s. Pronovost was a key contributor to each of the Cup wins. Coach and general manager Jack Adams described his hustling, hard-nosed defenseman as “one of those guys who comes around once every 20 years.”
Pronovost was popular with fans in Canada. In fact, in 1960 the Montreal Canadiens hosted “Marcel Pronovost Night,” where he was showered with applause and gifts. It was the first time an NHL team had ever held such a tribute for an opposing player.
In 1965, Pronovost was part of an eight-player trade with Toronto. He was reunited with another figure from the Wings’ golden era, goalie Terry Sawchuk. Together they helped the Maple Leafs win their last Stanley Cup the following season.
After playing his last NHL game in 1970, Pronovost went on to a second career as a coach and scout. As a longtime scout with the New Jersey Devils, he had his name inscribed on the Cup three more times—in 1995, 2000, and 2003. The 53-year interval between his first (1950) and last (2003) Cups is a record, reflecting a lifetime of excellence and dedication to the sport he had first played as a youngster on the ice ponds of Shawinigan Falls in frosty Canada.
Pronovost was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978. As proud as he was of that accomplishment, he was equally proud of the fact that three of his younger brothers also played in the NHL. His only regret was that the Pronovost brood came along before expansion; otherwise, he claimed, even more of his siblings would’ve suited up in the NHL.
See Marcel Pronovost’s stats and career information on his page at the Red Wings Online Encyclopedia >