Larry Cahan

Larry Cahan made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1954 and played his final game in the league in 1971 as captain of the Los Angeles Kings. Images, courtesy Hilary Kaszor.

KNOWN as a rugged defender with a fierce disposition on the ice, Larry Cahan is yet another of the long line of highly thought of hockey players who hailed from the Lakehead.

Born in Fort William, on Christmas Day 1933, the defenceman got his first taste of junior hockey during the 1949-50 campaign when he was picked up by the Port Arthur West End Bruins on their run to the Memorial Cup that began with a seven-game triumph over the Brandon Wheat Kings and ended when they fell to the Regina Pats in the Western Canadian Final.

Playing most of his junior with the Fort William Hurricanes, Cahan was a member of their Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League-winning side in 1952.

That Herks contingent, like the Bruins, also advanced to the west final.

They first topped the Winnipeg Monarchs before once again falling to Regina, in a series that went six games.

Turning pro in 1953, Cahan suited up for the Pittsburgh Hornets in the American Hockey League where he made his presence felt by leading the AHL in penalty minutes, despite being a rookie, with 179 in 70 outings.

His combative style caught the attention of the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he signed and played his first 80 National Hockey League contests.

Moving on to the New York Rangers in 1956, Cahan played three seasons on Broadway before rejoining the club for another four-year stint, beginning in 1961.

With roster spots tight in the then six-team NHL, he went on to play D with the Vancouver Canucks, who competed in the old Western pro league.

There he would excel and be named the recipient of the Hal Laycoe Award as the WHL’s outstanding defenceman for 1966-67.

Being claimed by the Oakland Seals in the initial NHL Expansion Draft, Cahan would play 74 games with them.

He was however unfortunately involved in the accidental play vs. the Minnesota North Stars in January of 1968 when a helmetless Bill Masterton fell awkwardly and hit his head on the ice, before eventually succumbing to his injuries.

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is presented yearly to this day to the NHL player who demonstrates perseverance and dedication to hockey.

The lone area product to win this award is Terrace Bay’s Charlie Simmer, who garnered the accolades in 1985-86 as a member of the Boston Bruins.

Eventually joining the Los Angeles Kings, Cahan led their defensive corps for three seasons and was named that club’s captain for the final two years of his NHL career.

Not done there, he wrapped his over-20-year stint as a professional player by skating in the World Hockey Association from 1972 through ’74 with the Chicago Cougars.

In all, Cahan would skate in 671 NHL match-ups where he collected 38 goals from the back-end, including six game-winners, while chipping in with 92 assists, for 130 points along with 696 minutes in penalties.

He also dressed in 78 WHA outings, picking up one tally, 10 helpers and 44 minutes in the sin bin.

Among his other accomplishments throughout his time in the pro ranks was winning a WHL title in 1960 with Vancouver.

His other successes there cannot be underestimated.

He was twice tabbed a first team all-star on defence (1960-61 & 1966-67) and also picked a pair of second-team nods (1959-60 & 1965-66).

His partner on the blueline with that first all-star berth in 1966-67 was fellow local product, Connie Madigan, himself a perennial standout in the old WHL.

A battler on the ice and in the corners, who was relentless in trying to pry the puck away from opponents, Cahan, who passed away in 1992, rightfully earned induction into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame back in 1991.

Aug. 10, 2021: Local legends: Larry Cahan