Joseph Conrad Étienne Dion
Born: August 11, 1918 (Saint-Rémi-de-Tingwick, Québec)
Died: November 7, 2014 (Asbestos, Québec)
Connie Dion was the winning goaltender in the most lopsided NHL game ever played.
The diminutive goalie, who stood just 5-foot-4 and weighed only 140 pounds, was signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 1944 after getting a medical discharge from the Canadian army. He was called the Asbestos Kid for the Quebec town he called home.
He went undefeated (three wins and a tie) in his first four games before facing the visiting New York Rangers on Jan. 23, 1944.
The Rangers thought they scored early in the game, but the goal light did not go on and the score remained 0-0. It would be as close as the Rangers would get, as Dion’s teammates scored two goals in the first period, five goals in the second period and eight goals in the third period for a 15-0 victory. The shellacking set records that still stand for largest goal differential and most consecutive goals by one team in one game.
Dion made just nine saves to record what would be his only NHL shutout. The victim of Detroit’s wartime barrage was Ken McAuley, who stopped 47 shots.
The Detroit goalie enjoyed a record of 17 wins, seven losses and two ties in his rookie year with a 3.08 goals-against average. He played 12 games for Detroit to open the 1944-45 season before being replaced by teenager Harry Lumley and being demoted to the Indianapolis Capitals. He completed his hockey career in the minor leagues.
Joseph Conrad Étienne Dion was born at Saint-Rémi-de-Tingwick in Quebec’s Arthabaska region. He worked briefly as a miner in Asbestos, Que., before dedicating himself to a hockey career. After stints with the Lachine Rapids and Sherbrooke Red Raiders in his home province, he became goalie for the Cornwall (Ont.) Flyers of the Quebec Senior Hockey League.
The Red Wings, who were defending Stanley Cup champions, signed him in desperation. Johnny Mowers, who had won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 1942-43, had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Red Wings tried Jim Franks, Normie Smith and a 17-year-old Lumley before settling on Dion.
The depleted wartime rosters contributed to many scoring oddities. Dion was the winning goalie in a 12-2 win by Detroit over the same hapless Rangers on Feb. 3, 1944, during which Syd Howe scored six goals.
Dion won only one of five playoff games in 1944, as he was the victim of back-to-back hat-tricks, the first in NHL playoff history, by Doug Bentley of the Chicago Black Hawks in the penultimate and final games of their semifinal playoff series.
The tiny goalie played in the minors for the St. Louis Flyers, Buffalo Bisons, Houston Huskies, and Lousiville Blades. He won an American Hockey League championship with Buffalo in 1946. In 1949-50, he won the Harry (Hap) Holmes Trophy as the league’s top goaltender.
He completed his hockey career back in his home province with the Sherbrooke Saints in 1952-53.
Mr. Dion spent 35 years involved with the Asbestos Golf Club (now Royal Township), including stints as head professional and course superintendent. He is credited with Howard Watson as an architect of the course. He also designed a course for the Canton Golf Club in nearby Warwick, Que.
Mr. Dion died in Asbestos on Nov. 7. He leaves a daughter, four sons, 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, three sisters and a brother. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Muriel Flanigan. He was also predeceased by a sister and two brothers.
At the time of his death, Dion was one of four surviving former NHL players born in 1918. The others (with their birth dates) are Elmer Lach (Jan. 22), Milt Schmidt (March 5) and John Mahaffy (July 18). Both Lach and Schmidt are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Al Suomi died on Sept. 29 at age 100.