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Ottawa Victorias – How Jimmy Enright’s boys came to challenge for the Stanley Cup

  1. sr edler whom

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    Around the turn of the twentieth century, during the 1900–01 season, 24-year old James Joseph “Jimmy” Enright assembled a group of local teenage Ottawa boys to form a junior hockey team which would initially go under the name “Enright’s Boarders”. The youngsters trained and played at the Victoria Ice Rink – on Nepean Street near the corner of Bank Street in Ottawa – of which Jimmy Enright was an owner and manager. Their opponents initially were other junior aggregations in and outside of the city of Ottawa.[1]

    The nucleus of the early Enright’s Boarders consisted of defenceman Eddie O’Leary, wingers Art Throop and Alf Young, and centre forward Herbert “Bob” Harrison (also called “Bud” or “Bub”), along with Billy Bradley, George “Piggy” Dalglish, Paddy McLaughlin and George Shouldis, all born in the mid 1880s. In 1901–02 the team changed its name from Enright’s Boarders to the Ottawa Victorias, after the ice rink where they played, and the team would go on to play in purple sweaters with a white stylish “V” for “Victorias” right on the chest.

    [​IMG]
    Enright's Boarders in 1900–01​

    For the 1902–03 the club was joined by diminutive goalkeeper Billy Allen who was more famous as a lightweight boxer. The young off-ice pugilist would guard the Ottawa Victorias goal cage for three years until he got replaced by Billy Bannerman for the 1905–06 season. Prior to 1905 the team played successfully in the Ottawa City Hockey League (winning the championship in 1903–04) before they entered the Junior Canadian Amateur Hockey League in 1904–05 where they continued to prove themselves as a young force to be reckoned with.[2]

    For the 1905–06 season the Ottawa Victorias joined the Federal Amateur Hockey League (FAHL), and the team itself was joined by forward Tommy Smith, formerly of the Ottawa Emmetts. Smith would lead the FAHL in goal scoring in 1905–06 with 20 goals in 8 games before he moved along to the Ottawa Hockey Club of the ECAHA. The next season Smith appeared as a professional with the Pittsburgh Pros of the International Hockey League (IHL). Over the next decade Smith would distinguish himself as one of the better goal scorers in the game – winning the Stanley Cup with the Quebec Bulldogs in 1912 – which eventually earned him a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    Bob Harrison scored 12 FAHL goals for the team in 1905–06, with the Victorias finishing second in the league standing behind Smiths Falls (with Percy LeSueur guarding the goal cage for Smiths Falls). In 1906–07 Harrison improved to 15 goals, establishing himself as the primary goal scorer on the team, with the Victorias finishing third in the standing behind the Montreal Montagnards and the Cornwall Hockey Club. The 1906–07 FAHL season though would become most remembered for an entirely different reason than goals or the overall league standing.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Clockwise from top left: Alf Young, Eddie O'Leary,
    Art Throop and Bob Harrison​

    At the end of the 1906–07 FAHL season, on March 6 in 1907, the Ottawa Victorias and the Cornwall Hockey Club played a game against each other in Cornwall, in a replay of a match on February 15 protested by the Victorias on ground of Cornwall using ineligible players. The Cornwall team had a promising young forward named Owen “Bud” McCourt who had led the FAHL in goal scoring during the season, and who had also freelanced briefly for the Montreal Shamrocks in the ECAHA earlier in the season, the latter exploits in Quebec causing the Victorias to level the protest of ineligibility.

    The game between the two teams (officiated by future NHA president Emmett Quinn) degenerated into a violent stick-swinging exhibition in the second half of the contest, with players on both sides taking stick blows to their heads. Both Art Throop and Alf Young on the Victorias were seriously injured, but the player most impacted by the violence turned out to be Owen “Bud” McCourt of Cornwall. McCourt had gotten himself involved in stick swinging tussles with both Art Throop and Charles ”Chic” Chamberlin, when cover point Charles Masson of the Victorias interfered with the group of players and struck down McCourt with his stick. McCourt initially left the ice after the head blow, but then tried to continue playing for a few minutes before he had to leave the ice again, and soon thereafter he fell unconscious in the dressing room. The following morning McCourt died at Hotel Dieu in Cornwall – where he had been taken for medical care – from his head injuries which revealed a broken blood vessel in the brain.[3]

    “I did not sleep much last night. The picture of poor McCourt being sewed up on the slab
    in the dressing room was with me during the three early hours of the morning”[4]

    – Referee Emmett Quinn on March 7, 1907​

    Charles Masson, who previously had played mostly with the Montreal Hockey Club in the ECAHA, was not a regular player with the Victorias, but he had been called in as a replacement for captain Bob Harrison. Harrison had been unable to participate in the March 6 game against Cornwall because he had missed train connections on his way home from Morrisburg, going right through to Montreal instead.

    Cornwall eventually won the March 6 game against the Victorias 11 goals to 3, but both second placed Cornwall and the first placed Montreal Montagnards resigned from the FAHL after the McCourt incident which meant that the third placed Ottawa Victorias were awarded league championship honors. The violent game on March 6 in Cornwall very much mirrored a similar game from just two years prior in 1905 where Alcide Laurin of Alexandria had been killed in a game against Maxville. Laurin had been struck with a stick blow to the head from Maxville player Allan Loney.[5]

    Charles Masson was brought before court in Cornwall and was charged first with murder and later with manslaughter, but he was subsequently acquitted and found “not guilty” of manslaughter after witnesses at the trial had stated that “Chic” Chamberlin of the Victorias had hit McCourt in the head prior to Masson's blow, which meant that it couldn’t be substantiated which blow had caused McCourt’s death. Jimmy Enright, who still managed the Victorias, also appeared before court and claimed that he didn’t see the blow that caused the death of McCourt.[4][6]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Owen McCourt and Charles Masson​

    Having been awarded the 1906–07 FAHL championship gave the Victorias the opportunity to challenge for the Stanley Cup the upcoming season, after first going through a playoff opponent. At the onset of the 1907–08 season – on December 27 and 30 – the Victorias defeated Renfrew from the Upper Ottawa Valley Hockey League (UOVHL) 5 goals to 4 over two games (4-1, 1-3) for a chance to square off against the Stanley Cup holders of the Montreal Wanderers of the ECAHA.

    Eddie O’Leary and Art Throop were no longer on the team during the 1907–08 season, having left the Victorias after the previous ill-fated season, but Bob Harrison and Alf Young were still present and they were instead joined by goalkeeper Billy Hague, defensemen Charlie Ross and Melford Milne, and forwards Eddie Roberts and Jack Fraser for the Stanley Cup adventure. At the Montreal Arena on January 9, 1908 the Montreal Wanderers routed the Victorias 9 goals to 3 with Fraser, Roberts and Harrison scoring for the challengers from Ottawa. On the Wanderers Ernie Russell scored 4 of the goals, while Frank “Pud” Glass added a hat-trick and Art Ross two goals.

    For the second game, on January 13, the Victorias brought in Jack Ryan and Harry Manson, and they also borrowed 18-year old forward Eddie Gerard from the Ottawa New Edinburghs. But the trio – replacing Milne, Roberts and Young – couldn’t help the Victorias to overcome the Wanderers, and the Montreal side again skated to an easy victory, 13 goals to 1 (with Manson tallying the lone Ottawa goal), for a final aggregated score of 22 goals to 4. Ernie Russell scored 6 goals for the Wanderers in the second game (for 10 overall) while Ernie “Moose” Johnson scored 4. “Pud” Glass, Art Ross and Cecil Blachford added a goal each for the Stanley Cup champions.

    The Stanley Cup game on January 13, 1908 against the Montreal Wanderers wouldn’t stand as the last opportunity for young Eddie Gerard to win the most coveted prize in hockey, as he would later join the Ottawa Senators in the NHA in the mid 1910s, embarking on a highly distinguished Hockey Hall of Fame career at both left wing and defense. Gerard won three Stanley Cups with the Senators (in 1920, 1921 and 1923), and also one with the Toronto St. Patricks in 1922 while standing in for one game in the 1922 Stanley Cup Finals for injured St. Patricks defenseman Harry Cameron.

    Out of the original Enright’s Boarders, from the 1900–01 season, Art Throop would go on to have the most distinguished career, playing professionally in the WPHL, OPHL, NHA and PCHA between 1907 and 1915 with decent goal scoring upside. Bob Harrison appeared in one game with the Ottawa Hockey Club in the ECAHA in 1907–08, scoring one goal. During the 1908–09 season all of Eddie O’Leary, Bob Harrison and Alf Young played with the green-shirted FAHL version of the Ottawa Senators (a team which also included several old Silver Seven players), finishing second in the standing behind the Renfrew team. It would turn out to be the last high profile hockey destination for all three of them.


    Sources:

    [1] Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 21, 1936
    [2] Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 11, 1908
    [3] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 7, 1907
    [4] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 8, 1907
    [5] Ottawa Journal, Feb. 27, 1905
    [6] Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 12, 1907


    Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog)

     
  2. Theokritos Moderator

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    Great write-up that touches upon several interesting topics.

    I realize we're in the area of the transition from amateur hockey to open professionalism. The last SIHR Research Journal had an article by Kevin Slater in which he cited examples of shamateurism or accusations of shamateurism from the 1890s and the measures the Ontario Hockey Association tried to take against it. Was McCourt's eligibility questioned because players switching clubs were suspected to be motivated by under-the-table payments?
     
  3. sr edler whom

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    Could perhaps have been so, although I haven't researched that specific ineligibility claim in detail, because most stuff came to focus on his death. McCourt was still able to play in the re-match, so I think it was most likely some minor issue. A lot of protesting in general went on during this time, not only regarding professionalism. It could be other rules too, such as a resident rule, or something else. Depending on what league or season you research around these years (say 1905–1910), you risk to come across tons of protested games. I remember looking through a LOHA (or LOVHL, Lower Ottawa Valley Hockey League) season, for instance, not long ago, and it was just big mess, like half the schedule being protested and replayed for various reasons.
     
  4. Theokritos Moderator

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    I see.

    Montreal Wanderers beat the Ottawa Victorias pretty easily in that 1908 Stanley Cup challenge game. With the ECAHA being the best league, I guess it would be fair to assume the Ottawa Hockey Club (which had finished a close 2nd behind Montreal Wanderers in the 1907-08 ECAHA season) was a stronger team than Ottawa Victorias and thus the best team in town?
     
  5. sr edler whom

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    Of course. As the article pointed out, the Victorias only finished 3rd in the FAHL behind the Montagnards and Cornwall in 1906–07, but ironically enough got a chance to challenge for the Stanley Cup at the start of the next season just because they killed a guy on one of the rivaling teams.

    Still, I think the challenge era had a charm to it. Teams used to stack up on ringers and go for it. The Edmonton Pros for instance in 1908–09 loaded up with Tommy Phillips, Lester Patrick & Didier Pitre for a double meeting with the Montreal Wanderers but still lost (first game 3-7). Edmonton sat some regulars for the first game and lost, and then played the same regulars (Harold Deeton & Hay Miller) in the second game and actually did better (won 7-6), but still lost on overall goals.
     
  6. Theokritos Moderator

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    Got it now.

    Two players dead within three years (and not due to some freak accidents) – that's just gruesome. Andrew Holman wasn't kidding when he spoke of that early wave of violence. I'm looking forward to reading what his books says about it.

    It sure had a charm of its own, but at the same time, it's easy to see the advantages and benefits of a more regular and more regulated competition, so it's no wonder they moved on from the challenge days.
     
  7. Theokritos Moderator

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    Relevant passage from the Kevin Slater article mentioned above:

    The "ringing in of players" can be defined as the fraudulent introduction of a player onto a team to which he does not belong in order to seek an advantage. It was considered unsporting to bring in a player of notable skill level to compete for a team in a town in which he was not a resident. ​
     
  8. sr edler whom

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    Yeah, this makes a lot of sense, and I think I mentioned this briefly in one of the debates recently about Eddie Gerard free-lancing for a game with Toronto during the 1922 SCFs. That wasn't an extreme situation though, it was just one player replacing an injured (similar stature) player for one game, but still. Sometimes teams brought in a lot (3 or 4 or 5) of new guys.

    Ottawa Victorias in 1907–08 didn't bring in any actual big-time players though, against the Wanderers. Yes, Eddie Gerard, but this was 18-year old left-winger Gerard still 6 years removed from even debuting in the NHA.
     
  9. Theokritos Moderator

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    So Holman is covering both incidents and providing the following documents:

    Loney incident 1905:
    • An article from the Ottawa Journal
    • An editorial from Saturday Night
    Masson incident 1907:
    • An article from the Ottawa Citizen
    • An article by J.J. Cassidy from the Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery
    It seems incomprehensible that the governing bodies of hockey in Canada didn't take counter-measures against the violence other than appealing to the attitude of the players.
     
  10. sr edler whom

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    Perhaps it was just viewed more as a societal problem than a hockey problem per se, because police were often present at games guarding the action (including the spectators), and if players stepped across that line, gravely assaulting someone into a state of life-threatening or prolonged unconsciousness/coma, they would most likely get arrested and charged for it. Contrary to the mainstream view today perhaps about the far gone eras, that you could simply do anything and just get away with it without any push back from broader society.

    Close calls around this era included James Cushing's (of Moncton) assault on Jack MacDonald (of Fredericton) on January 30, 1908 in New Brunswick, where inflammation set into his head wounds and he was taken to hospital in Fredericton in a critical condition, though surviving. Cushing was arrested almost a month later (on February 28) when his team came to play at the Arctic Rink in Fredericton.

    Also close call, Rusty Crawford (of Prince Albert) head clubbing Reg Brehaut (of Saskatoon Strathconas) on January 12, 1910, leaving Brehaut in a critical condition. Crawford was found guilty in court of assault.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2021
  11. Sanf Registered User

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    That is genuinely strange case and I haven´t found sure answer to that either. The game that was ordered to be replayed was the 15. of February game.

    Now the background to that game.

    5 of the Ottawa Victoria players had just signed to play for Haileybury in Temiskaming hockey league (Bannerman, Harrison Young, Crabtree and Chamberling).As a sidenote Cobalt had just "borrowed" the Canadian Soo from IPHL to represent them.

    So Victorias were short on players for that game. So on that 15. game Victorias had to build completely new team that was gathered from mostly local leagues. (That is also the reason of why they acquired Masson originally) Now all of these Victorias players were actually back at the time of rematch and three of them played in that game. All of them had clearly played as pro´s and for a different team that season.

    And Owen McCourt actually did not play on that 15. of February game. He was ill. So the protest had to be towards Degray?
     
  12. sr edler whom

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    I think the protest was against McCourt and another Cornwall player for playing in Montreal, not necessarily for playing in any particular FAHL game. Can't track the source right now but from the team log it seems it could have been Reddy McMillan, also playing with the Montreal Shamrocks during the season. But you're right that it's a bit odd.

    Also a bit odd with the Victorias playing for the Haileybury team, but stuff like that happened on occasion around this time.
     
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  13. Sanf Registered User

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    nevermind I forgot that part from the OP.
     
  14. Sanf Registered User

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    Yeah thats true. Not talking about the high end ringers who were paid well to play couple of games, but the quality mercenary pros who often travelled in sort of groups. Someone was hired for some team (possibly as captain/team builder) and he started to contact old teammates.
     
  15. Sanf Registered User

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    This and other thread made me to wonder about the refereeing at the time. IIRC in Owen McCourts case some Victoria player (most likely Bannerman) was putting blame towards referee Quinn because he had lost the control of the game from the start.

    IPHL was also league were refs were often criticized for losing the control of the game. And obviously as the refs often were former or even current players of others team there were sometimes accusations of bias.

    Ofcourse it´s bit hard because the press could be biased and ref has always been an easy target. But do you have opinions about the refereeing at the time?
     
  16. sr edler whom

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    Interestingly enough I actually read some stuff earlier today about the game, and apparently Emmett Quinn also refereed a game earlier in the season (in January) between the Ottawa Hockey Club and the Montreal Wanderers where two of the Smith brothers (Alf & Harry) and Charlie Spittal assaulted three Wanderers players (Hod Stuart, Moose Johnson & Cecil Blachford), which led to charges and Alf Smith and Spittal being fined, so yeah, it's possible Emmett Quinn couldn't handle stuff well enough as a ref.

    But as you say, it's hard to get full grasp on it because of possible bias or whining. But Hod Stuart didn't like the refs in the IPHL outside of Chaucer Elliott and Doc Gibson. It's very possible there was an uneven standard regarding the officiating there.
     
  17. James Laverance Registered User

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    This is the Victoria Rink that was on Bank and Nepean Streets from around 1897 to about 1920. Screenshot_20210219-223926.jpg
    Screenshot_20210219-225730.jpg
     
  18. Sanf Registered User

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    Yeah overall Chaucer Elliott was probably the most respected out of the refs. That 05-06 they invested in having two regular "pro" refs and it did work better. I have seen complaints about Gibson being biased. Actually IIRC there was theory in papers that Gibson was allowing rough play towars Hod Stuart because he went back to Pittsburgh. But I would say that is probably press bias from Pittsburgh papers. Schooley was also pro ref and experienced one. I guess he was OK even though he had some problematic games too.

    I think at some point IHL magnates even admitted that they do not afford really having pro refs.
     

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