Georges Vezina grew up playing hockey in Chicoutimi, Quebec, but not on ice. It wasn’t until he was 16 years old that Vezina started skating and began playing for a local men’s team.
At 23, Vezina’s team played an exhibition contest against the Montreal Canadiens (then of the National Hockey Association). The Chicoutimi team stunned the Canadiens 11-5, which got some attention from the Montreal squad.
The Canadiens offered Vezina and his brother Pierre a tryout. While Pierre was cut, Georges Vezina was signed to the team for $800 a season.
Vezina played for the Canadiens from 1910-1925, including when the National Hockey Association’s team owners formed a new league called the National Hockey League. He is credited with being the first NHL goalie to record a shutout and the first to get an assist. He won two Stanley Cups (1916 and 1924), played in the Cup finals three additional times and had the fewest goals against in the league seven times in his career.
When the 1925 season started, there were noticeable differences in Vezina’s health. During preseason, he lost 35 pounds. He played the season opener on Nov. 28, 1925, with a high fever and swollen thumbs. He left the ice in the first period bleeding from the mouth, collapsed in the dressing room, returned for the second period and collapsed again.
Vezina was diagnosed with tuberculosis the next day and was considered gravely ill. He visited the Canadiens’ dressing room to say goodbye to his teammates on Dec. 3, 1925, then returned to Chicoutimi.
Vezina died on March 27, 1926.
Before the 1926-27 season, Montreal’s team owners Joseph Cattarinich, Leo Dandurand and Leo Letourneau donated a trophy in Vezina’s honor that was to go to the goaltender with the lowest goals against for the season.
For the 1981-82 season, the trophy was changed to be awarded to the goaltender judged to be the best at his position.
Vezina was part of the first class inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945 and is still remembered each year when the Vezina Memorial Trophy is handed out.
Information from the Hockey Hall of Fame was used in this report.