Former Rangers and Canadiens defenseman Lou Fontinato died Sunday in Guelph, Ontario, according to the NHL’s website.
He was 84 years old.
A tough customer during his playing career, Fontinato didn’t score many goals — just 25 in 535 NHL games — but he did amass 1,247 penalty minutes. It’s been written he had “a reputation for mayhem.”
From his obituary in the New York Times:
Fontinato, a popular player in New York, had a long-running feud with Gordie Howe, the great forward for the Detroit Red Wings who died last month. The two had several extracurricular physical exchanges on the ice, the most notable occurring at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, 1959.
In that encounter, in the first period of a game the Rangers won, Fontinato went after Howe — hardly a shrinking violet himself — perhaps in retaliation for a hard check by Howe on the Rangers’ Eddie Shack, perhaps coming to Shack’s aid in a fight that also involved the Wings’ Red Kelly. Accounts of the fight differ, but what is certain is that in the flurry of blows, Howe connected with what the N.H.L. website described as “one of the most famous roundhouses” in league history, flattening Fontinato’s nose.
His career ended on the ice at the Forum in Montreal on March 9, 1963. Playing for the Canadiens against the Rangers, he was checked into the boards by the Rangers’ Vic Hadfield, breaking his neck. His arms and legs were paralyzed for several weeks, though he eventually recovered, returning to Guelph and working as a farmer.