Ken Reardon was a fearless, frightening player. His headlong rushes and all-out physical game left enemies in his wake and himself often injured, though he showed extraordinary toughness in playing while he was in pain. He had a short career in the NHL, spending several years overseas in combat during World War II. Though never mistaken for a gifted skater or dangerous offensive force, Reardon earned a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his toughness and consistent placement on the league's All-Star teams.
Reardon had been a New York Rangers prospect, but when the team left him exposed to make room for another player, the Montreal Canadiens snapped him up. He was signed to a two-year contract and Dick Irvin called him one of the league's up-and-coming stars. In one year, Reardon had moved from the end of the bench at Maple Leaf Gardens in the Memorial Cup to a full-time job with the Montreal Canadiens.
He played two seasons with Montreal, establishing a reputation as a rough-and-tumble performer the Canadiens fans loved and opposing audiences hated. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1942 and spent several years playing for army teams in the Ottawa area, winning the Allan Cup with the Commandos in 1943 before shipping overseas. He returned to Canada in 1945 and worked on his timing with the Montreal Royals for two games before rejoining the Canadiens. He was a large part of the team's Stanley Cup championship that season and was placed on the NHL's Second All-Star Team for his all-out efforts. He was selected to the Second Team on two other occasions and the First Team twice in his remaining four years in the league.
Reardon retired before he turned 30, partially because of the many injuries he'd sustained due to his style of play. Even an incomplete list of his scars and breaks is daunting. He never seemed to allow himself to heal. One shoulder injury was supposed to keep him in the press box for three weeks but he returned to the Canadiens' lineup after only 10 days. He attempted to hit an opponent in his first game back, missed, and slammed the tender shoulder into the boards. He completed the game and then asked the team physician to look at the throbbing arm. "It's your head I should be examining, not your shoulder," replied the doctor.
After his retirement, Reardon began a successful career as an executive in hockey, primarily with the Montreal Canadiens organization. After scouting and managing farm teams to many championships, he was made a vice-president of the Habs and served over a period when the team won five Stanley Cup titles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.