The 1953–54 NHL season was the 37th season of the National Hockey League which lasted from October 8, 1953 to April 16, 1954 where six teams each played 70 games.
The New York Rangers decided to drop Gump Worsley and went with Johnny Bower in goal this season. Bower did well, but not well enough to get the Rangers into the playoffs. However, the Rangers managed to come up with a fine rookie in Camille Henry who won the Calder Memorial Trophy.
On December 9, 1953, the Montreal Canadiens played the Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens and the teams set a record of most penalties in a game.
The trouble started when Montreal's Ed Mazur got into a fight with Toronto's George Armstrong in the first period. Both received game misconduct penalties. Early in the second period, Bud MacPherson broke his stick on the ribs of Toronto's Ron Stewart. He chose not to retaliate until a more opportune time. It came at 18:12 of the third period when Stewart and MacPherson collided again.
This time, they pushed and shoved and the gloves came off and they began to pummel each other. Tom Johnson came to MacPherson's aid by putting a headlock on Stewart and Stewart threw a punch that landed on Johnson's jaw. Stewart pursued MacPherson again, now that he was in combat with Eric Nesterenko of Toronto and soon the benches emptied and everyone was fighting except Maurice Richard & Tim Horton who merely grabbed each other's sweaters.
Referee Frank Udvari handed out 36 penalties, including 15 misconducts for a record 204 minutes in penalties. With almost 2 minutes left in the game, only 8 players from each team excluding the goaltenders Gerry McNeil and Harry Lumley, who did battle in the brawl, were permitted to finish the game. Almost forgotten was that Toronto won the game 3–0.
The Rangers gained some publicity by using a so-called elixir prepared by restaurateur Gene Leone, but no conclusive results were reported.
There were persistent rumours that the Chicago Black Hawks would fold due to the poor performance of the team and fans staying away in droves. NHL president Clarence Campbell discussed the problems with Arthur M. Wirtz and it was announced that the rumours were without foundation.
President Campbell was busy this year imposing fines and suspensions. As a result of pushing referee Frank Udvari into the boards during a November 12 game, Bernie Geoffrion was fined $250. Later, in a December 20 game, he and Ron Murphy engaged in stick swinging which left Murphy with a broken jaw. Both players were suspended.
There was trouble brewing for Maurice Richard when he ghosted an article in the Samedi Dimanche newspaper, calling NHL president Clarence Campbell a dictator and took exception to Campbell's suspension of Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion for the stick swinging incident. Richard was required to post a $1000 bond and refrain from any more articles.
The Detroit Red Wings were first overall in the National Hockey League for the sixth straight season.
After losing four straight games to the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins general manager Art Ross, their manager from the day the Bruins came into the NHL, announced his retirement. He had been grooming Lynn Patrick to succeed him and Patrick took over as general manager.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- March 23, 1954: 5-0 (Winner: Detroit)
- March 25, 1954: 3-1 (Winner: Toronto)
- March 27, 1954: 3-1 (Winner: Detroit)
- March 30, 1954: 2-1 (Winner: Detroit)
- April 1, 1954: 4-3 Overtime (Winner: Detroit)
Detroit wins 4–1.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
- March 23, 1954: 2-0 (Winner: Montreal)
- March 25, 1954: 8-1 (Winner: Montreal)
- March 28, 1954: 4-3 (Winner: Montreal)
- March 30, 1954: 2-0 (Winner: Montreal)
Montreal wins 4–0.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy made its debut this season and its first winner was Red Kelly of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Norris Trophy goes to the top defenceman each year and was named in honor of James E. Norris, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings franchise from 1932 until his death in 1952.
|Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Regular season champion)
|Detroit Red Wings|
|Art Ross Trophy:
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings|
|Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Best first-year player)
|Camille Henry, New York Rangers|
(Most valuable player)
|Al Rollins, Chicago Black Hawks|
|James Norris Memorial Trophy:
|Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings|
|Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
|Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings|
(Goaltender of team with best goals-against record)
|Harry Lumley, Toronto Maple Leafs|
|First team||Position||Second team|
|Harry Lumley, Toronto Maple Leafs||G||Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings|
|Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings||D||Bill Gadsby, Chicago Black Hawks|
|Doug Harvey, Montreal Canadiens||D||Tim Horton, Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Ken Mosdell, Montreal Canadiens||C||Ted Kennedy, Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings||RW||Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens|
|Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wings||LW||Ed Sandford, Boston Bruins|
(Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes)
|Gordie Howe||Detroit Red Wings||70||33||48||81||109|
|Maurice Richard||Montreal Canadiens||70||37||30||67||112|
|Ted Lindsay||Detroit Red Wings||70||26||36||62||110|
|Bernie Geoffrion||Montreal Canadiens||54||29||25||54||87|
|Bert Olmstead||Montreal Canadiens||70||15||37||52||85|
|Red Kelly||Detroit Red Wings||62||16||33||49||18|
|Earl Reibel||Detroit Red Wings||69||15||33||48||18|
|Ed Sandford||Boston Bruins||70||16||31||47||42|
|Fleming Mackell||Boston Bruins||70||15||32||47||60|
|Ken Mosdell||Montreal Canadiens||67||22||24||46||64|
(Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts)
|Jacques Plante||Montreal Canadiens||17||1020||27||1.59||7||5||5||5|
|Harry Lumley||Toronto Maple Leafs||69||4140||128||1.86||32||24||13||13|
|Terry Sawchuk||Detroit Red Wings||67||4004||129||1.93||35||19||13||12|
|Gerry McNeil||Montreal Canadiens||53||3180||114||2.15||28||19||6||6|
|Jim Henry||Boston Bruins||70||4200||181||2.59||32||28||10||8|
|Johnny Bower||New York Rangers||70||4200||182||2.60||29||31||10||5|
|Al Rollins||Chicago Black Hawks||66||3960||213||3.23||12||47||7||5|
The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1953–54:
- Doug Mohns, Boston Bruins
- Earl Reibel, Detroit Red Wings
- Camille Henry, New York Rangers
- Johnny Bower, New York Rangers
The following is a list of players of note who played their last game in the NHL in 1953–54 (listed with their last team):
- Woody Dumart, Boston Bruins
- George Gee, Chicago Black Hawks
- Jack Gelineau, Chicago Black Hawks
- Sid Abel, Chicago Black Hawks
- Jim McFadden, Chicago Black Hawks
- Elmer Lach, Montreal Canadiens
- Gaye Stewart, Montreal Canadiens
- Doug Bentley, New York Rangers
- Max Bentley, New York Rangers
- Leo Reise, New York Rangers
- Howie Meeker, Toronto Maple Leafs