MONTREAL, Quebec — Hall of Famer Elmer Lach, who was the oldest surviving NHL player, died Saturday morning at the age of 97. A member of Montreal’s famous Punch Line along with Maurice ��Rocket�� Richard and Toe Blake, Lach won three Stanley Cups with the Canadiens before retiring in 1954 as the league’s all-time points leader with 623. ��Every member of the Canadiens organization is profoundly saddened and touched by the death of Mr. Lach,�� said Canadiens president Geoff Molson. ��Elmer Lach was a determined player who enjoyed a great career with the Canadiens and who became an important part of the community in Montreal. ��On behalf of the Molson family and all members of the organization, I offer my sincere condolences to the members of his family.��
Lach was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1918. He was a free agent when he was signed by the Canadiens in October 1940 after being rejected by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who considered him too small. He made up for his lack of size with his slick playmaking skills, grit in the corners and his tenacity on defence. Lach was 42 days older than former Boston Bruin Milt Schmidt, making him the oldest surviving NHL player before his death. Lach spent each of his 14 NHL seasons with Montreal from 1940-54, helping the Canadiens win Stanley Cup championships in 1944, ’46 and ’53. He also captured the Hart Trophy as league’s most valuable player in 1945 when he tallied 26 goals and 54 assists for 80 points in just 50 games. The Lach-centered ��Punch Line�� dominated the NHL for four seasons. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.