One of hockey's first superstar netminders, Clint Benedict often dominated the headlines in the era of Georges Vezina and George Hainsworth. His strategy of "accidentally" falling to the ice to make a save or smother loose pucks led the NHL to change the rule that had required goalies to remain standing throughout the game. Toronto fans referred to him as "Praying Benny" since he spent so much time on his knees. Benedict was a stellar workhorse for the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Maroons during 13 NHL seasons split almost equally between the two. A tough competitor, Benedict often played when injured and wasn't afraid to mix it up with the more aggressive forwards on the opposition.
The Ottawa native starred as an amateur with the local New Edinburghs before joining the Senators for five seasons in the NHA. He enjoyed a solid beginning to his professional career and gained valuable experience by guiding Ottawa to a 1915 Stanley Cup challenge that was lost to the Vancouver Millionaires. When not starring on the ice in Ottawa, Benedict was an accomplished lacrosse player in the off-season.
Benedict truly blossomed when the franchise became one of the founding members of the NHL in 1917-18. On February 25, 1918, he recorded the second shutout in NHL history when the Senators blanked the Canadiens 8-0. The losing goaltender that night was Georges Vezina, who had registered the NHL's first shutout a week earlier. For six of the seven years he spent in Ottawa, Benedict led the NHL in wins. He was part of one of the game's early dynasties when he helped the team win three Stanley Cup championships in four seasons between 1920 and 1923. Arguably, his most impressive season was 1919-20, when his 2.66 goals-against mark was 2.13 goals better than the league average, a mark that was never equaled.
In October 1924, he and teammate Punch Broadbent were shipped to the Montreal Maroons. In 1925 he was presented with the Mappin Trophy as top player on the team. Benedict starred with four shutouts and a 1.00 goals-against average when Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1926. This last triumph gave Benedict the distinction of being the first netminder to backstop two different NHL teams to the Stanley Cup. He was virtually impenetrable in the four-game championship series against Victoria with a 0.75 goals-against mark.
Things sailed along for Benedict until the 1929-30 season, when he was hit in the nose by a shot from Canadiens superstar Howie Morenz. He was screened on the play by his own defenceman, Jimmy Ward. Nearly 30 years before Jacques Plante's innovative goalie mask, Benedict returned to action a few weeks later with a protective cover over his nose. Unfortunately, it obscured his vision on low shots and he was forced to abandon the NHL's first facemask. Later in the season, he was hit in the throat by another Morenz blast which effectively ended his NHL career. Benedict played the 1930-31 season with the Maroons' farm club, the Windsor Bulldogs of the International-American Hockey League, and led the team to the league championship in what proved to be his career finale.
Benedict retired at the end of the season with 191 NHL wins and 58 shutouts to his credit. Throughout his career he remained loyal to his original thin, cricket-style pads, even when the larger leather pads were popularized in the 1930s. He moved to Atlantic Canada and coached the Saint John Beavers of the Maritime Senior Big 4.
Clint Benedict was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.