In a National Hockey League career that amounted to eight full seasons, Lou Fontinato was definitely the heavy weight champ of his era. Between 1955-56 and 1962-63, Leaping Lou led the NHL in penalty minutes three times and finished in the top three four times. In 1960-61, he fell to ninth in the league but only played in 53 of his team’s 70 games.
Despite this, the era when Lou Fontinato was fairly calm when it came to time in the box. Lou’s career 1,247 penalty minutes over 536 regular season games equates to a modest 2.3 PIM per game. Compare that to Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams and his 4.1 PIM per game and Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz and his 4.3 PIM per game.
Lou Fontinato – Junior and Minor Pro
Lou Fontinato played two years of major junior hockey with the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters, 1950-51 and 1951-52. In the second season, the Biltmore’s were full of talent with the likes of Andy Bathgate, Harry Howell, Ken Laufman, Dean Prentice, Ron Murphy and Ron Stewart.
Lou Fontinato Collection
Those 1951-52 Mad Hatters finished second in the ten team league and won the championship, beating the St. Catherines Teepees in the finals. The Teepees were stronger in the back end with Pierre Pilote at defense and Marv Edwards in net.
Guelph took out the Montreal Junior Canadiens in six games for the Richardson Cup championship and the right to play in the Memorial Cup finals. At home in Guelph and Toronto for the entire series, the Mad Hatters swept the Regina Pats for the championship.
The following year, Fontinato was with the Vancouver Canucks in the WHL. The team finished second in the eight team league, just five points behind the first place Saskatoon Quakers. Vancouver lost in the semi-finals to the Edmonton Flyers, the fourth place team that was led by Glenn Hall between the pipes. The Flyers would go on to capture the championship.
Lou made his presence known in the pro hockey world, finished third in the WHL with 169 penalty minutes. That total was eight minutes more than Vancouver teammate Harry Dick. You can never miss an opportunity, no matter how immature, to point out that a man named Harry Dick did indeed play pro hockey.
Fontinato spent 1953-54 with the Canucks before moving on the the Saskatoon Quakers in 1954-55. He would split that 1954-55 season between Saskatoon and New York Rangers and it would be the last time he’d play in the minors.
Lou Fontinato – NHL
Lou Fontinato played 536 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1954-55 and 1962-63 with the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. Over that time, he scored 26 goals and assisted on 78 for 104 points while sitting 1,247 minutes in the penalty box.
Much of Lou’s career was spent with the Rangers. He was traded to the Canadiens in the summer of 1961 in exchange for Doug Harvey. This is called by many, the worst trade in Montreal Canadiens history. A serious neck injury would end Lou’s career after two years in Montreal.
In his first full season in the NHL, 1955-56, Fontinato totaled 202 minutes in the box, leading the league and setting a NHL record. That record would stand until 1962-63 when Howie Young of the Detroit Red Wings shattered the mark with 273 PIM. That year, his final year in the NHL, Lou finished third with 141 minutes, a whopping 132 behind Young.
Lou led the league in PIM two more times. In 1957-58, he finished first with 152 minutes. In 1961-62, his first year with the Canadiens, Fontinato led the league with 167 minutes over just 54 games. He finished with 51 more PIM that second place Ted Green of the Boston Bruins.
On three occasions, Fontinato finished second for penalty minutes. In 1956-57, his 139 PIM were eight behind Gus Mortson of the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1958-59, he was 35 minutes short of Ted Lindsay of the Blackhawks with 149 minutes. In 1959-60, Lou was 13 minutes behind Carl Brewer of the Toronto Maple Leafs with 137 PIM.
His worst season, when it came to being the league’s toughest, was 1960-61. Playing in just 53 games, Lou was tied for ninth in the league with 100 PIM, equaling Stan Mikita of the Blackhawks in his pre-Lady Byng days.
Lou Fontinato – Rookie Card
The Lou Fontinato rookie card appears as number 64 in the 1957-58 Topps hockey card set, showing him with the New York Rangers. It was the first of just five cards to feature Lou. His final card was included in the 1962-63 Parkhurst set as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
According to his rookie card, Fontinato had already been nicknamed ‘Leaping Lou’. He was also dubbed ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ on the back of that 1957-58 Topps card but there was never any mention of that again.
His 1958-59 Topps card explains the nickname more. He was given the name for jumping up and down in reaction to referee’s calls. In 1959-60, Topps modified the nickname to ‘Louie the Leaper’.
Fontinato was left out of both the 1961-62 Parkhurst and Topps sets as both were caught off guard by the June, 1961 trade from the Rangers to Canadiens. He is included in the 1981-82 TCMA hockey card set.
Lou Fontinato Career Stats
|1954-55||New York Rangers||NHL||28||2||2||4||60|
|1955-56||New York Rangers||NHL||70||3||15||18||202|
|1956-57||New York Rangers||NHL||70||3||12||15||139|
|1957-58||New York Rangers||NHL||70||3||8||11||152|
|1958-59||New York Rangers||NHL||64||7||6||13||149|
|1959-60||New York Rangers||NHL||64||2||11||13||137|
|1960-61||New York Rangers||NHL||53||2||3||5||100|