Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hod Stuart Was Here

On June 23, 1907, Hod Stuart died at the height of his hockey career. He was 28 years old. Some of you reading this will recognize his name right away. Others won’t. But 108 years ago today, news of his death would have been like hearing that Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews had just been killed.

Hod Stuart was a defensemen (a cover point in his day), so a better comparison might be made to Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, or Erik Karlsson, one of whom will win the Norris Trophy tomorrow as this past season’s best NHL defender. Given his status as the game’s highest-paid player, perhaps Stuart was most like Nashville’s Shea Weber – although during the 1906-07 season when hockey players were first allowed to earn salaries in Canada, you’d have to add a lot more zeroes before Stuart’s salary (which was somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500) matched the $14 million Weber makes.


William Hodgson Stuart, the son of William Stuart and Rachel Hodgson, was born in Ottawa on February 20, 1879. His father was a well-respected contractor and the captain of the Ottawa Capitals lacrosse team. Young Hod played football and hockey in Ottawa at the end of the 1890s, but moved to Quebec City in 1900 on a contracting job for his father. He played hockey there too, and met his future wife, Marguerite Cecilia Loughlin, whom he married in 1901. By 1907, they had two young children.

Hod Stuart had yet to emerge as a hockey star while playing in Ottawa and Quebec, but did so quickly after 1902 when he began to play in the United States – where players were already allowed to earn a salary. Canadian fans needed convincing when Stuart left Pittsburgh in late December of 1906 to play for the Montreal Wanderers, but his play was outstanding and the press reports were just as glowing. Late in his life, Art Ross would say that Hod Stuart was the only defenseman he’d ever seen that was in a class with Eddie Shore.

Despite what many sources say, Stuart was not yet with the Wanderers when they defeated a team from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in a preseason Stanley Cup challenge at the end of December. He joined the team in time for its first regular-season game on January 2, 1907 and starred in the Wanderers’ Stanley Cup series with the Kenora Thistles two weeks later. The Thistles won, but the Wanderers bounced back to finish their 10-game season with a perfect 10-0 record and Stuart was a big part of their winning back the Cup in a rematch in Kenora at the end of March.

After the hockey season, Stuart returned to Ottawa but was soon at work for his father’s construction company overseeing a building project in Belleville, Ontario. On a leisurely Sunday, he spent the morning canoeing with friends. In the heat of the day around 3 o’clock, they returned to the waterfront. Hod was a strong swimmer, and he jumped in from the Grand Junction dock to cool off, swimming about a quarter-mile to a nearby lighthouse.

Hod Stuart’s wife and daughters, circa 1910, courtesy of johnnysgirl668 on

There was a small platform around the lighthouse, about six or eight feet above the water, and those watching from the dock saw Stuart climb up and rest for a few minutes before diving in again. He didn’t re-surface. Unaware of how shallow it was in certain places around the lighthouse, Stuart struck his head on a jagged rock just two feet below the waterline. He suffered a fractured skull and a broken neck, and was said to have died instantly. On January 2, 1908, the Wanderers defeated a team of all-stars in the Hod Stuart Memorial Game, which raised just over $2,000 for Stuart’s wife and daughters. In 1945, he was among the first inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The story of Hod Stuart’s death is what I intended to write about today, but in researching his life I came across something pretty amazing. In the spring of 1897, when he was just 18 years old, Stuart left Ottawa with another local boy, sponsored by a group that included Hod’s father, to seek his fortune in the Klondike, where gold had been discovered during the summer of 1896.

As I wrote last week about the Spanish-American War, the Klondike Gold Rush is among my many wide-but-not-deep historical interests, and in a letter written to his father on May 31, 1897 (as reported in the Ottawa Journal on July 27), Hod rhymes off many familiar names:


We left Dyea, an Indian village, Sunday…. We towed all the stuff up the river seven miles and then packed it to Sheep’s Camp…. A beautiful time we had I can tell you, climbing hills with fifty pounds on our backs…. We left Sheep’s Camp next morning at four o’clock, and reached the summit at half-past seven…. The Chilkat Pass [note: though the Chilkat Pass was a route to the Klondike, this is likely a misspelling of the more famous Chilkoot Pass, which was just beyond Sheep Camp] is not a pass at all, but a climb right over the mountains…. It was an awful climb – an angle of about fifty-five degrees. We could keep our hands touching the trail all the way up. It was blowing and snowing…

Another letter, written on June 28, appears in the Journal on October 12, but there’s not much news after that. However, on April 7, 1898, the Journal notes that Hod was among the first Ottawa parties in the gold fields, and that his father “has learned from time to time that his son has been doing well.” Astoundingly, William Stuart had left for the Klondike the night before, having contracted to build the Bank of Commerce building in Dawson City. By September of 1898, father and son were back in Ottawa. Hod failed to seek his fortune in gold, but soon found fame as an athlete.

Pulford is Hockey Hall of Famer Harvey Pulford, although this clip refers to Hod Stuart’s senior football debut with the Ottawa Rough Riders on Thursday, November 24, 1898.

Fun in Black and White

Sometimes, it hard to imagine that the people in really old black-and-white photographs actually lived in a colorful world. Yes, their music sounds funny to modern ears (and their humor often doesn’t!), but they found ways to have a good time! Maybe hockey fans in the early days of the Stanley Cup weren’t making as much noise as the fans in Chicago at the Madhouse on Madison the other night, with their amped up, piped in sound explosions, but they weren’t sitting on their hands either.

A few years ago, I was reading old newspaper stories about the 1903 Stanley Cup series between the Montreal Hockey Club (usually known now as the Montreal AAA) and the Winnipeg Victorias, played between January 29 and February 4 of that year. A story in the Montreal Herald referred to the fans amusing themselves by shouting out “scraps of songs.” Often, they broke out into In the Good Old Summer Time, which came out in 1902 and quickly became a hit. It was decidedly the dead of winter in Montreal, but the weather was unusually mild that day and the natural playing surface was soft and slushy. “Was it a reference to the conditions of the ice is a question we must leave to the gentlemen who sang it,” said the Herald of that song.


But it was the lyrics from another scrap of song the fans were singing that interested me:

“Who drove the Spaniard back to the tanyard?
Why Mr. Dooley-ooley-ooley-[ooley]-oo.”

Among the many items of my wide-but-not-very-deep historical interests are Teddy Roosevelt and the Spanish-American War of 1898. Given the timing, I figured it must have something to do with that. But what?

Turns out, Mr. Dooley was a fictional character created by a Chicago newspaper writer named Finley Peter Dunne around 1898. Mr. Dooley – according to Wikipedia – “expounded upon political and social issues of the day” with sly humor. (Think Jon Stewart, or Stephen Colbert.) Mr. Dooley became so popular that Dunne’s columns were soon syndicated across the United States. By 1902, he’d published five Mr. Dooley books. Teddy Roosevelt was big fan.

That same year of 1902, the American songwriting team of William Jerome and Jean Schwartz put Mister Dooley to music. Though it seems to have nothing to do with the plot of either play, the song was added to the Broadway staging of a 1901 London show called A Chinese Honeymoon when it opened in New York on June 2, 1902. It was also included in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz which opened in Chicago two weeks later and had moved to New York earlier in January of 1903. Mister Dooley was so popular, it sold over a million copies.

Sheet music

It might not have the same celebratory quality as Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis, which has become a huge hit with Blackhawks fans in recent years, but Mister Dooley was definitely an early earworm. Think “Who Let the Dogs Out / (Who, Who, Who, Who?)” only a lot less Calypso-Hip Hop and a lot more Tin Pan Alley.

Despite the fact there were already ten verses, each with a different version of the chorus, people seemed to enjoy writing their own new words to suit various occasions. And everyone was singing it; from school kids, to advertisers, to the Grand Duke Boris, brother of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, accompanied by a bevy of chorus girls while in Chicago in the late summer of 1902.


And what did Mister Dooley sound like? Well, have a listen!

Mr. Stopper from Stopperville

Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop has already beaten Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist in the playoffs. If the Lightning win the Stanley Cup – which Price’s Canadiens and Lundqvist’s Rangers have yet to do – is Bishop a better goalie than they are? If Chicago’s Corey Crawford winds up winning his second Cup, is he a better goalie?

Few people are going to say yes. After all, even the greatest goalie can’t win all by himself. But having a good goalie certainly doesn’t hurt.

Way back in 1917, when the NHL was starting out as a four-team circuit, hockey experts already knew that a top team needed a top goalie. The Montreal Canadiens had Georges Vezina. The Ottawa Senators had Clint Benedict. Both were future Hall of Famers, and could certainly be considered the Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist of their day (though both had already won the Stanley Cup by then). Even the Montreal Wanderers, whose owner Sammy Lichtenhein and coach Art Ross were publicly bemoaning the plight of their undermanned team, had Bert Lindsay in goal. Lindsay – the father of Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay – was no superstar, but a solid goaltender in his own right. (Let’s say he was Corey Crawford – though without a Stanley Cup win.)

Who did Toronto have in net entering the 1917–18 season? The tandem of Art Brooks and Sammy Hebert. Their modern equivalents might be the two worst starting goaltenders in the American Hockey League.


On the first night in NHL history, December 19, 1917, Hebert gave up five goals in the first period in Toronto’s game against the Wanderers. Hebert was replaced by Brooks, who gave up five more through the next two periods. The Wanderers won 10-9. Offense ruled in this era, and NHL teams would average close to five goals a game during the 1917-18 season. Even so, TORONTOS WEAK IN THE NETS read a headline in the next day’s Toronto Star. On December 21, the Ottawa Journal noted: “one swallow does not make a souse, and one game doesn’t afford much of an indication as to the future possibilities of a [season] but … it seems safe to hazard the following…. Toronto needs more balance on the attack, and a netminder of class.”

Toronto looked much better in its home opener on December 22, crushing Benedict and the Senators 11-4. Four nights later, Toronto beat Vezina and the Canadiens 7-5. “Brooks, in goal,” the Star reported, “looked like Mr. Stopper from Stopperville.” The writer appears to have been serious, but then the team dropped its next game 9-2 to the Canadiens in Montreal on December 29. The Toronto World said the “Torontos are still suffering from the want of a goal-tender.”


Toronto made a change in net in Ottawa on January 2, 1918 and won 6-5. The World reported that “both Sammy Hebert and Clint Benedict [played] remarkable games,” but by now newspapers had been reporting for weeks that Toronto was after Harry “Hap” Holmes – another future Hall-of-Fame goaltender. (If Vezina and Benedict were Price and Lundqvist, perhaps Holmes, with his two Stanley Cup wins, was Jonathan Quick.)

Hap Holmes was from the Toronto area, born in Aurora, Ontario, in 1892 and raised in Clarksburg – between Collingwood and Owen Sound – but living in Parkdale since at least 1911. He’d won the Stanley Cup with the Blue Shirts of the National Hockey Association in 1914, but was one of several Toronto players lured to the Pacific Coast in 1915 – where he won the Stanley Cup again with the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. Now, Hap had a chance to play at home again … but the Wanderers (for reasons that seem somewhat dubious) owned his NHL rights.

Toronto was reluctant to meet Sammy Lichtenhein’s asking price of Reg Noble (the team’s best player), but then fate intervened. A fire destroyed the Montreal Arena, and while the Canadiens moved across town to the Jubilee Rink, the woeful Wanderers dropped out of the NHL, leaving the league with just three teams. “The blue shirts will get Harry Holmes,” the World reported on January 4, “and will be strengthened in their only weak spot.” The following day, the paper opined that with Holmes in net, “the blue shirts will be a hard team to beat.”

The Montreal Canadiens won the first half of the NHL’s split-season schedule, but Toronto won the second half and then defeated Montreal in the playoffs. Next, they beat the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association three games to two in a best-of-five Stanley Cup series. It was a high-scoring affair until Toronto won the last game 2-1 in a tight goaltending battle between Holmes and Hugh Lehman – another future Hall of Famer. (Roberto Luongo, maybe … but with a Stanley Cup ring!)

Said the Vancouver World after the series: “Too much praise cannot be paid to Harry Holmes for his exhibition in the nets. Harry has his eye on everything and he made many startling saves.… His net guarding was one of the strongest points of the Toronto defence, and it certainly went more than half way in winning the honors.”

When it mattered most to his team, Hap Holmes was Mr. Stopper from Stopperville. Who will it be this year?

Hockey Warriors

The Oshawa Generals won the Memorial Cup on Sunday, defeating the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 in overtime in the final game. The championship trophy for Canadian junior hockey has been competed for annually since 1919.

Memorial Cup 1919

Originally known as the OHA Memorial Cup, it was the brainchild of Captain James T. Sutherland of Kingston, a hockey pioneer of the first order who conceived it as a way of honoring the many athletes who’d given their lives fighting in the First World War. Sutherland particularly wished to commemorate two fellow Kingston men whom he coached in their home town: Allan “Scotty Davidson and George Richardson.

Back in November for Remembrance Day, I posted a story I wrote last year about Davidson, Richardson and others for the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Legend’s magazine. Today, I’m attaching a story written originally as a sample chapter for a book proposal about Scotty Davidson, detailing the battle in which he lost his life 100 years ago. It’s quite long, but I hope you’ll click here and take the time to read it, or at least save it to read later.