On Sunday, the hockey world was struck again by tragedy as former defenceman Lou Fontinato passed away at the age of 84. Fontinato played nine seasons in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers from 1954 to 1963.
Over 536 regular season games, Fontinato amassed 104 career points (26g-78a) to go along with 1,247 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he managed just two assists in 21 games and averaged two minutes in penalties per game (42).
Fontinato led the league in penalty minutes three times in his career – 1955-56, 1957-58 and 1961-62. While he wasn’t known for his offence, he was remembered by another late NHL great in Gordie Howe.
Howe and Fontinato had a long-standing on-ice battle. It ended with a fight on February 1, 1959, at Madison Square Garden where Howe dislocated Fontinato’s jaw and broke his nose. It was, however, one of the most memorable fights of the great Red Wing forward’s career, according to Howe.
“The Lou Fontinato fight was the one that most will always remember including myself,” said Howe in an e-mail interview with Wayne Gretzky. “Lou and I didn’t like each other much back then, and that wasn’t the first time our paths crossed. We did respect each other, though, and I am proud to say that Lou and I became friends years later.”
Fontinato’s career was shortened by a freak accident that occurred in a game at the Montreal Forum in 1963. Fontinato – playing his physical game – was going in for a check on Ranger forward Vic Hadfield. Missing the check, Fontinato went head first into the boards injuring his neck and became paralyzed for a short time.
With that, Leapin’ Lou’s career came to an end. And on Sunday, the hockey world lost yet another storied player. Fontinato was 84. His NHL legacy will be carried on by his great-nephew and Florida Panthers’ forward Greg McKegg.