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History #9 - The Blueshirts - So Who WERE These Guys?

"History is written by the victors." - Winston Churchill

(Not everything I write will come from Holzman and Nieforth's Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey  - actually, quite a bit doesn't - but it's a good bet that this book will have influenced it.  Seriously - go get a copy and read it.  It's good.  Wikipedia is also your friend.)

The Blueshirts - so who WERE these guys?

Listen to these names:  Newsy Lalonde;  Georges  Vezina;  The Cleghorns - Odie and Sprague;  "Bad" Joe Hall;  Didier Pitre;  Joe Malone.

You may not know all of those names, but you've probably heard of some of them.  Those are some of the players from the first decade of the Montreal Canadiens.

Now, try these ones:  Allan Davidson;  Frank Foyston;  Harry Cameron;  Jack Marshall;  Corbett Denneny;  Reg Noble;  Duke Keats;  Babe Dye;  Hap Holmes. 

Not so much?  Those are some of the Blueshirts, Arenas and St. Pats from the first decade in Toronto.  Between them, they won three Stanley Cups (1914, 1918, 1922) and put a bunch of people into the Hall of Fame.  But since they weren't all there on Valentine's Day, 1927, they've lost their spot in history.

Let's talk about some of them.



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( I said we'd see this picture again - here it is - via upload.wikimedia.org)


1913-14 Blueshirts - the two non-players are trainers, both named Carroll.  Can't recall at the moment which was which.)

(back row l-r)
Carroll - trainer, Con Corbeau, Roy 'Minnie' McGiffen, Jack Marshall, George McNamara, Jack Walker, Cully Wilson, Carroll - trainer

(front row, l-r)
Claude Wilson, Frank Foyston, Allan 'Scotty' Davidson, Harry Cameron, Harry 'Hap' Holmes

To start with, we'll deal with the pre-Livingstone teams - that will take us up to 1915.


Harry Cameron (HHOF - 1962)  

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via www.legendsofhockey.net




One of the finest rushing defensemen of his era, Harry Cameron was a mainstay in Toronto for years.  With the exception of 1916-17, when he was with the 228th Battalion, and part-seasons in 1918-19 and 1919-20 (Ottawa and the Habs, respectively), he played with Toronto from 1912-13 through 1922-23.  An original Blueshirt, he is the only player to have been on all three pre-Leaf Stanley Cups.

Note - while the PCHA "raid" of 1915 supposedly took the entire Blueshirts team, Cameron clearly did not go.  I need to check into how he came to stay.

The Hall of Fame has this to say about him:

He was considered the first man to be able to curve his shot--with a straight stick, no less!--and long before Bobby Orr flew end to end with the puck Harry Cameron was the finest rushing defenceman and goal-scorer of hockey's early pro years. He made his way up through the ranks from his local Pembroke Debaters team to Port Arthur, where he accepted a contract for $30.00 a week on condition he could bring his left-winger Frank Nighbor. The Ports acquiesced, and the pair headed toward a pro career.

Cameron joined the Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA the next year and stayed with the team when it became the Arenas upon the formation of the NHL in 1917. In Toronto he was teamed with Jack Marshall, the equally light, reliant and talented blueliner. Together they won the Stanley Cup in 1914, and Cameron stayed on to win again with the Toronto Arenas in 1918, the first time an NHL team had won.

He traveled to Ottawa and Montreal for a time before returning to Toronto, the franchise by now called the St. Pats, and sure enough he helped the team win another Cup, in 1922. In 1923 he moved out West to coach and play for the Saskatoon Sheiks, skating now as a forward with Harry Connor and Earl Miller. His curved shot became his trademark, and only a few other players have ever been credited with perfecting its use: Bill and Bun Cook, Dr. Gordie Roberts, and Didier Pitre.

Cameron continued to play until 1933, at which time he devoted his efforts fully to coaching the Saskatoon Standards in senior hockey.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.




Frank Foyston (HHOF - 1958)

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via www.legendsofhockey.net




Frank Foyston was another original Blueshirt.  Joining the team straight out of the amateur ranks, he starred on a line with Davidson and Walker in the championship year of 1914. Foyston was arguably the biggest name lost to the PCHA in 1915 and went on to spend the next nine seasons in Seattle with the Metropolitans, winning the 1917 Stanley Cup with a number of other ex-Toronto players.

Frank was also part of Eddie Livingstone's most controversial action as an NHA owner.  More on that another day.

His playing career lasted from 1912-13 until 1929-30.

The Hall of Fame has this to say about him:

An exceptional scorer and playmaker, Frank C. Foyston was capable of dominating a game from center, rover or either of the wing positions. He was a supreme natural talent who earned accolades and fame wherever he played. While playing in the top leagues on the continent, Foyston was one of the first players to score over 200 career goals.

Foyston made his professional debut with the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association in 1912-13. He soon formed a potent forward line with the talented Scotty Davidson and Jack Walker. That productive trio was key to the Toronto club's NHA title in 1913-14 and their subsequent Stanley Cup championship win over the Victoria Cougars of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Foyston scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 Cup-clinching triumph.

The Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA were able to lure "Frank the Flash" to the American West Coast at the beginning of the 1915-16 schedule. He stayed there for nine seasons, topping the league in goal-scoring twice and contributing to a Stanley Cup championship. Foyston helped the Metropolitans claim hockey's ultimate prize in 1916-17 in an exhilarating four-game series against the Montreal Canadiens - the first time a U.S. team won the Cup.

During the 1917 title series against Montreal, Foyston scored six goals and was a constant menace around the Canadiens' goal. At season's end, he was voted the right wing position on the PCHA First All-Star Team. Two years later, he led Seattle into a Stanley Cup rematch with the Canadiens. The crafty forward scored an incredible eight goals in the first four matches of the series, one of which was abandoned because of the influenza epidemic. It proved to be the only year in which the Stanley Cup wasn't awarded.

During the last two seasons of the PCHA, Foyston played admirably back in Victoria. He helped the Cougars become the last non-NHL club to get its hands on the Stanley Cup with a victory in 1925 over the dreaded Canadiens. Foyston's versatility was proven by his selection in various years to the PCHA First All-Star Team at three positions - left wing, center and rover.

With the sale of the Victoria players to the new Detroit Cougars franchise of the National Hockey League, Foyston ventured east to close out his professional career. He scored 17 goals in just under two NHL seasons before joining the Detroit Olympics of the Canadian Professional Hockey League as a player-coach.

Following the 1928-29 Can-Pro season, he retired permanently as a player. He continued to manage the Olympics the following year before journeying to Syracuse to guide the Stars in 1930-31. Foyston also coached the Bronx Tigers of the Can-Am league in 1931-32 and the Seattle Seahawks of the North West Hockey League in 1934 and 1935.

During a big-league career that spanned 16 years, Foyston accumulated 242 regular-season goals and 37 more in the playoffs. He was considered an offensive magician and star attraction wherever he played. One of the greatest talents of his time, Foyston was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.




Jack Marshall (HHOF - 1965)

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via www.legendsofhockey.net



A veteran defender by the time he joined Toronto in 1912, Jack Marshall was the player-coach of the 1913-14 Cup winners.  A longtime player for various Montreal teams (AAA, Wanderers, Shamrocks), Jack played for five Cup winners between 1901 and 1914.  The HHOF bio notes that he was the first player to bring tube skates west of Manitoba when he came to Montreal in 1901.

The Hall of Fame has this to say about him:

Jack Marshall was one of Montreal's finest all-around athletes in the first half of the 20th century, starring at rugby, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and bowling, in addition to hockey. His hockey record can be traced back to the Montreal Pointe Charles High School teams of 1884 to 1898 where he also played on three Caledonia Cup soccer championship teams.

Marshall headed west in 1898 to join the Winnipeg Victorias and was with the team when they won their second Stanley Cup in January 1901. When he returned east to play for the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in the fall of 1901 he brought with him a set of tube skates, the first of their kind to be seen east of Manitoba.

He was a member of the Montreal AAA when they defeated his old club from Winnipeg for the Stanley Cup in March 1902. The team would become known as the "Little Men of Iron" and went on to defeat the Victorias again for the Cup in February 1903. Marshall would go on to play for Cup-winning teams in 1907 and 1910 with the Montreal Wanderers and in 1914 as the playing manager of the Toronto Blueshirts. He led the FAHL in scoring with 11 goals, of which six were scored in one game, in 1904 and again in 1905 with 17 goals in eight games. He tallied a five-goal game in each of the 1907 and 1908 seasons and is the only player in hockey history to win the Cup with four different teams.

Jack Marshall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.




Harry "Hap" Holmes (HHOF - 1972) 

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via www.detroitcitysports.com




A number of years ago, the Star ran a poll to let readers judge the worst Maple Leafs of all time.  One of the ranking members was goaltender Hap Holmes, who was shown as having played one NHL season with a 4.73 GAA.  People, most of whom wouldn't know Hap Holmes from Larry Holmes, jumped all over this and voted for him repeatedly. 

What wasn't mentioned was that that one season was goal-happy 1917-18, in which Holmes backed the Arenas to the Stanley Cup.  Hap was also an original Blueshirt and the goalie for the 1914 winners.  Hap would win four Cups over a pro career that spanned 16 seasons from 1912-28.  The AHL trophy for top goaltender is named in his honour.

Hap wore a ball cap in net to protect his balding head from spectator spitballs.

The Hall of Fame has this to say about him:

One of the preeminent netminders of his era, Harry "Hap" Holmes excelled in all five of the top pro leagues from 1912 to 1928. He made an impact in the National Hockey Association, Pacific Coast Hockey Association, Western Canada Hockey League, Western Hockey League and National Hockey League. A sterling playoff performer, Holmes backstopped two Stanley Cup wins in Toronto and one each in Seattle and Victoria. He was the leading goalie six times in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association/Western Canada Hockey League when such rivals as Hugh Lehman and George Hainsworth were still on the ice. In Stanley Cup play, he out-dueled such legends as Georges Vezina and Clint Benedict.

Before turning pro, the native of Aurora, Ontario, played with the Toronto-based Canoe Club, Parkdale Canoe Club and Tecumsehs. He debuted in the NHA with the Toronto Blueshirts in 1912-13 and enjoyed an outstanding sophomore year by leading the league in wins and helping the club become the first Toronto team to win the Stanley Cup.

Early in the 1915-16 season, he joined the Seattle Metropolitans with former Toronto mates Jack Walker and Frank Foyston. Once again Holmes was a part of history when he backstopped the Metropolitans to the first Stanley Cup won by a U.S.-based outfit. Holmes continued his knack of being in the right place at the right time when he was loaned to the Toronto Arenas in January 1918; he helped the club win the Stanley Cup in the inaugural NHL season.

Holmes returned to Seattle for the 1918-19 season and remained for more than five years. In his first year back, he was present during the tragic final series against the Canadiens that was called off due to the global influenza epidemic. The fourth game of the series was arguably his finest performance. Following a scoreless 60 minutes of regulation time and 20 minutes of overtime, referee Mickey Ion declared the game a draw.

Holmes ventured east again with Seattle in 1920 to challenge Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Despite his brilliance, the westerners lost a close series to the powerhouse Senators. He led the PCHA in shutouts four times and in wins on two occasions. He enjoyed two successful years with the Victoria Cougars from 1924 to 1926, leading the WCHL/WHL in his goals-against average.

In 1924-25, his brilliance led Victoria past the Saskatoon Sheiks in the WCHL playoffs. In the Stanley Cup championship match with the Montreal Canadiens, Holmes starred along with Jack Walker and Frank Frederickson as Victoria became the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup. The heroic netminder became the first goalie to win the Cup with four different franchises. That year he also attained his own personal triumph over Habs netminder Georges Vezina, against whom he'd waged the memorable but undecided battle in the 1919 championship series.

Following the disbanding of the WHL in 1926, players headed to the enlarged NHL. The expansion Detroit Cougars were the benefactors of Holmes' last two years as an active player. He recorded 17 shutouts in two seasons and proved to be a veteran workhorse who helped give the young NHL side some confidence.

He was posthumously elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.





Cully Wilson

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via 4.bp.blogspot.com




When Scotty Davidson went to war in 1914-15, Carol "Cully" Wilson appears to have got the nod to take over his role on the top line.  He didn't disappoint, leading the team in scoring and going from 9 goals and 13 points to 22 goals and 27 points.  Nobody seemed to replace his 9 goals off the bench, though, and team offense was way down as a whole.

"Wilson" was an adopted name, chosen by his father shortly after immigrating from Iceland in the hope that it would ease the transition and the prospects for employment. 

Cully was one of the "bad boys" of his era.  Sort of a proto-Dale Hunter (in my estimation), both offense and mayhem seemed to follow him around.  Of note is his team-leading 138 penalty minutes from 1914-15.  Even allowing for the fact that players played pretty much the whole game and individual statistics get somewhat exaggerated this way, 138 minutes in a 20-game season is pretty good.  That pro-rates to 566 minutes over an 82-game sched.  Teammate Roy McGiffen had 131 of his own that season, so even if the Blueshirts weren't winning that much, the games had some entertainment value, to be sure.

Cully was one of the players who went to Seattle and put up 5 points in 4 games in the 1917 Cup final.  He wound up being bounced from the PCHA due to a 1919 incident where he managed to break the jaw of Vancouver's Mickey MacKay.  This led him back to the east and the NHL.  He was a Toronto St. Pat for a couple of seasons in 1919 and 1920 before wandering around the professional ranks for a decade or so.  Yet another original Blueshirt from 1912, Cully was still plying his trade as late as 1932.



The Hall of Fame has this to say about him  (not too much, really):

Right-winger Carol "Cully" Wilson played 125 NHL games on four different teams between 1919 and 1927. He was a talented goal scorer who also attained success in the PCHA, NHA, minors and senior leagues.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wilson first made a name for himself in his hometown with the senior Falcons and Monarchs. He then spent four years in the NHA with the Toronto Blueshirts and played on the 1914 club that defeated the Victoria Cougars to win the Stanley Cup.

Wilson then shifted to the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA and was a member of the 1917 Stanley Cup squad, the first US-based champion. He remained in Seattle after the NHL was formed but was signed as a free agent by the Toronto St. Pats prior to the 1919-20 season. Early the next year he was loaned to the Montreal Canadiens, which didn't sit well with Wilson who felt slighted. After a few games he was recalled by the St. Pats but refused to report and was suspended for the remainder of the 1921-22 season.

The crafty forward moved on to the Hamilton Tigers and enjoyed two solid years. This was followed by three years with the Calgary Tigers of the WCHL before a brief return to the NHL with Chicago in 1926-27. Wilson spent most of his last five years in the American Hockey Association before retiring in 1932.



Frank Nighbor (HHOF - 1947)


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via www.legendsofhockey.net



Frank Nighbor was the leading scorer of the first iteration of the Blueshirts, scoring 25 goals in 19 games in his first season as a pro.  He jumped to Vancouver of the PCHA the following season and won his first Cup there in 1915 (which, if you do the math, is some time prior to 1967 - just saying).

His HHOF credentials, though are all from his time in Ottawa.  He was a Senator from 1915 through 1930 before playing his last 22 pro games with the Maple Leafs.  He won the Hart in 1924, a couple of Byngs in '24 and '25 and would have been a perennial all-star had such things existed at the time.

The Hall of Fame has this to say about him:

An outstanding two-way center throughout his career, Frank Nighbor played a vital part on some of Canada's mightiest professional teams and his exemplary conduct on the ice earned him the respect of fans and players across the country. Nighbor was considered the master of the "poke-check," which he used to full advantage against the game's most dangerous scorers. A smooth skater, he worked superbly with his wingers as a crafty and unselfish playmaker.

In 1911 Nighbor's friend Harry Cameron was invited to play for the Port Arthur senior club. Cameron refused to go without Nighbor and, although the club agreed to bring him along, they left the youngster on the bench. Nighbor was pressed into service only as a result of an injury bug that hit the team. He made the most of this opportunity by registering six goals in his first dramatic appearance. The "Pembroke Peach" quickly became an indispensable component of his new club.

After being signed by the Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA in 1912, Nighbor again wasted little time in making a good impression. As a 19-year-old rookie, he scored 25 goals in 17 games, including six against the famous Montreal Wanderers on February 15, 1913, in a 10-3 Toronto romp. In a startling move, the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA were able to lure Nighbor away from Toronto the next season. He accounted for 33 goals in 28 matches on the West Coast and was a vital member of the squad during its 1915 Stanley Cup win. His work with linemates Cyclone Taylor and Mickey MacKay tormented the opposition and delighted the Vancouver fans. Nighbor recorded five goals in Vancouver's three-game domination of the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup challenge. It was during his sojourn on the West Coast that he perfected his famous "poke-check" while becoming a top-flight defensive forward.

Nighbor returned east in 1915-16 to play with the Ottawa Senators of the NHA. The "Flying Dutchman" enjoyed the finest chapter of his career in the nation's capital. Throughout the 1916-17 season, he waged a memorable goal-scoring battle with Joe Malone of the Quebec Bulldogs that resulted in the two men both finishing with a league high of 41 goals in only 19 games.

Between 1920 and 1923, the Senators won the Stanley Cup three times. Nighbor was brilliant in the 1920 Cup challenge versus the Seattle Metropolitans when he registered six goals in a hotly contested five-game series. The following season, his checking was crucial to Ottawa's successful Stanley Cup repeat in a low-scoring five-game series against the Vancouver Millionaires. At the conclusion of the 1922-23 schedule, the Senators faced Vancouver and Edmonton in consecutive Cup challenges.

In the match-up against Vancouver, Nighbor scored the winning goal in the critical fourth game to tie the series at two games apiece. Ottawa seized the momentum and captured the deciding game 5-1. In Ottawa's triumph over the Edmonton Eskimos in the next challenge, Nighbor emerged as the victor in the highly anticipated match-up with Duke Keats. This victory was also attributed to the intimidating play of his linemate, Punch Broadbent. Nighbor won his fourth Stanley Cup with Ottawa in 1926-27 after a final series victory over the Boston Bruins.

Although he was a consummate team player, Nighbor received a number of significant individual accolades during his career in Ottawa. Following the 1922-23 season, he became the first-ever winner of the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL. Two years later he was invited to Rideau Hall by avid fan Lady Byng, the wife of Canada's Governor General. Nighbor didn't know it, but she'd had a new trophy made to be given to the most gentlemanly player in the league. He was even more surprised to find that it was Lady Byng's intention to inaugurate the new trophy by presenting it to him, based on his performance in the 1924-25 season. Nighbor repeated as the Lady Byng winner in 1925-26.

Nighbor retired as a player in 1930 after splitting his last NHL season between the Senators and the Toronto St. Patricks. He scored 255 regular-season goals in over 18 years spent in four different top-level pro leagues. Nighbor turned his attention to coaching in the 1930s with the Buffalo Bisons and the London Tecumsehs of the old International-American Hockey League and the New York Rovers of the Eastern Hockey League.

"Peerless Frank" enjoyed success in both offensive and defensive roles during his career. Fans and players alike admired him for his sportsmanlike behavior on the ice that never hindered his will to compete. Nighbor was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and Ottawa Sports Hall Fame and took his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.

 

Apparently, I've hit the picture limit for a post.  The rest will follow in part B.

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