Doug Harvey played minor league hockey in Montreal then began his professional career with the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior Hockey League where he played two full seasons from 1945 to 1947, helping them win the Allan Cup. He then played one season with the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League. He made the jump to the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League (NHL) in the 1947-48 season with whom he remained until 1961. Within a few seasons playing under coach Dick Irvin, Doug Harvey became one of the best defensemen in the League, named to the All-Star team in the 1951-52 season, an honor he would receive eleven consecutive times. He won his first of seven James Norris Memorial Trophys in 1955 as the league's best defenseman. In an era when the defensemen's role did not include scoring points, Doug Harvey used his skating speed and passing ability to become a factor in making the Canadiens a high-scoring team. He had such puck control that by himself he could set the pace of the game.
Doug Harvey played for six Stanley Cup winning teams, all with Montreal. He became an outspoken critic of the hockey establishment who "owned" players for life. In Harvey’s day, players were paid a pittance compared to the millions being earned by the team owners. A superstar such as Doug Harvey, who today would be paid multi-millions each year, was earning less than $30,000 a season at the peak of his career playing every game in front of sell-out crowds. Doug Harvey was one of the first to help organize the players association which so infuriated the Canadiens’ owners that in 1961 they traded him to the then lowly New York Rangers. One of the individuals secretly blacklisted by the league owners, Harvey still responded by winning another James Norris Trophy as a Ranger player. He remained with New York until 1963 then played for several teams before finishing his career in 1969 with the St. Louis Blues. Although he was unanimously voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973, because of his involvement with the players' association, his sweater number wasn't retired by the Montreal Canadiens until 1985.
For years, Doug Harvey battled alcoholism while suffering from manic-depression. In one of the great tragedy’s in sport, one of the the greatest players in the history of hockey ended up homeless, sleeping in an abandoned railway boxcar. When his plight became public knowledge, in 1985 he was offered a job with the Montreal Canadiens as a scout. He passed away a few years later due to cirrhosis of the liver and was interred in the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.
The government of Canada honored Douig Harvey in 2000 with his image placed on a Canadian postage stamp.
In 2002, a book titled Doug. The Doug Harvey Story written by William Brown with the Foreword by his former teammate, Jean Béliveau.