The mention of Billy Reay's name usually brings up thoughts of coaching the Chicago Blackhawks. It is often overlooked, however, that he was also an accomplished NHL centreman in the sparkplug style of the NHL's 1940s.
Reay started his apprenticeship by playing junior and senior hockey in St. Boniface, Winnipeg, and Calgary before signing with the Red Wings who sent him to the Omaha Knights of the AHA in 1939. He then joined the Quebec Aces of the QSHL in between two brief stints with the Red Wings in 1944 and 1945.
Reay's big career break came later that year when he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. At the Forum, he became a solid, two-way centreman, second only to the great Elmer Lach. During his eight seasons with the Habs, Reay twice scored 22 goals and won two Stanley Cups, one in 1946 and the other in 1953. After the second Cup victory, he left the NHL to close out his on-ice career with the Victoria Cougars where he hung up his blades in 1955.
Reay retired as one of only two players to win a Memorial Cup?with the St. Boniface Juniors--an Allan Cup?with the Quebec Seniors--and a Stanley Cup?with the Canadiens.
Upon leaving the ice, Reay promptly initiated his lengthy coaching career as the bench boss of the Seattle Americans of the WPHL. From there, he went to Rochester before making NHL debut as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a season and a half. His most important legacy at the Gardens was to have convinced veteran goaltender Johnny Bower to join the Blue and White.
After Toronto, Reay made stops in Bellville, Sault Ste. Marie, and Buffalo before settling into his spiritual home as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1963. For the 13 seasons that followed, he led his club to numerous first-place finishes but was never able to get his favoured troops past the hot goaltending of the playoffs to win a coveted Stanley Cup.
In 1976, Reay finally retired as one of the winningest coaches in NHL history with 598 victories to his credit.