Aurele Joliat was a prolific scorer and relentless backchecker during 16 rewarding seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. He never allowed his comparatively small frame to impede his progress in the NHL. Joliat often teamed with his good friend Howie Morenz to form one of the most potent offensive duos in league history. His blazing forays down the port side made him one of hockey's most exciting left wingers of all time, and his combination of speed and small size made him one of the trickiest skaters to bodycheck.
Joliat was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens when he was traded for the legendary Newsy Lalonde in one of the most controversial trades of hockey's early years. But in his rookie season, the Mighty Atom impressed fans with his speed and puckhandling abilities. He was also a feisty adversary who frustrated his larger opponents. Joliat scored 13 goals in 24 games from his left wing position that year. The following season he was placed on a line with Howie Morenz in one of the more successful moves in the history of the Canadiens hockey club.
By the time the 1923-24 post-season began, the line made up of Joliat and Morenz and Billy Boucher was operating at peak efficiency. This formidable trio led the Montrealers to victory over the Ottawa Senators in the NHL playoffs and was followed by successful matchups against Vancouver and Calgary to claim the Stanley Cup. Many labeled Morenz as the key member of this explosive unit, but Joliat was unquestionably of equal value as a catalyst.
The Little Giant topped all NHL goal scorers in 1924-25 with 29 goals to his credit. He continued to be among the league leaders in this category over the next dozen seasons. Joliat played on his second Stanley Cup champion team in 1929-30 when he contributed to the Habs' upset victory over the heavily favoured Boston Bruins in a two-game sweep in the best-of-three finals. The following year the Canadiens repeated as Cup winners in a tough five-game series with the Chicago Black Hawks.
At the conclusion of the 1930-31 season, Joliat was chosen as the left wing on the inaugural NHL First All-Star Team. Subsequently he was selected to the Second Team in 1932, 1934 and 1935. In 1933-34, he registered his third 20-goal season and was the recipient of the Hart Trophy.
When he retired in 1938, Joliat's regular-season output read 270 goals and 460 points. His ability to break up plays defensively and quickly lead the counterattack provided the Canadiens with a feared transitional game. Over time he earned the respect of many of the toughest players in the NHL because of his fearless refusal to back down in on-ice confrontations. The small black cap Joliat wore during games throughout his career reminded fans and players of his willingness to retaliate. Taunting him by knocking his hat to the ice always brought a swift reaction and consequently it didn't happen often.
After his close friend Morenz died in 1937, Joliat was never the same on ice. His passion and trademark speed were no longer evident and he retired in 1938. Joliat was voted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. The Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to his glorious career by placing the Mighty Atom on their 75th anniversary dream team in 1984. In addition, his number 4 was co-retired with Jean Beliveau. Joliat was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.