That Bootleg Bogey
A spirited reply to Frederick Edwards’ “Bootleg Amateurs” in which an amateur executive declares: “The bootleg bomb is a dud."
H. H. ROXBOROUGH
IN MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE there recently appeared an interesting article by Frederick Edwards entitled “Bootleg Amateurs,” and its author’s intended purpose was to “expose a thoroughly evil condition” in Canadian hockey. Mr. Edwards’ lengthy sport experiences and varied newspaper associations gave him an enviable intimate relationship with national games, and I am confident that in many centres “Bootleg Amateurs” will be heralded as one of the most timely and deadly bombs ever aimed at supposedly rotten conditions in Canada’s play life. Nevertheless, with a playing background gained through many seasons of baseball, rugby and hockey; with executive knowledge obtained while holding several offices in civic, provincial and national amateur organizations, with a highly valued personal friendship with scores of players and officials, I am quite prepared to declare that, in my opinion, the bootleg bomb is a dud; that it contains a lot of thunder and little lightning; that the conclusions are supported by very fragile evidence, and that, in fact, the condition of Canadian hockey should be an object of admiration rather than a target for ridicule.
The Montreal A. A. A. Case
VXTHILE I desire strenuously to oppose the sweeping vv accusations of Mr. Edwards, yet I am entirely in accord with his sport ideals. When he affirms “that honesty in sport is the oest policy;” that “sincere professionalism is to be preferred to sham amateurism;” that “straightforwardness, sincerity, truth are the rockbottom foundations of real sport,” he is proclaiming principles that will be heartily approved by every genuine sportsman
Together with Mr. Edwards, I also believe that the relationship between last year’s Montreal A. A. A. club, Canadian amateur champions, and the Montreal Maroons professional team should be thoroughly investigated. Was Mr. Gallagher a party to a professional contract while playing amateur hockey? Were other M. A.^ A. A. players and officials aware of any amateur violations? Were any or all members of the 1929 Allan
Cup holders the recipients of weekly salaries from the professional club owners who are now their 1930 employers? I do not know; I have heard two quite opposite stories.
But I do believe that, having regard for the press reports, the rumors and the general existing impression, it would be expected that the Quebec or the Canadian Hockey Associations should immediately gather all possible information and render public decision. If the amateur laws have been flouted then those responsible for the offenses should be forever barred from amateur sport; the names of last year’s champions should be withdrawn from all 1929 records, and their shields removed from all trophies. If amateur hockey is to retain public esteem, executive officers must speedily consider this case and take appropriate action.
Yet, even though I endorse Mr. Edwards’ sport ideals and deplore the suspicions surrounding the Canadian senior champions, still I am most emphatically in disagreement with his assertion that, with the exceptions which he mentioned, “there is almost no strict letterof-the-law amateur hockey in Canada today.” Not only do I reject his conclusion but I believe also that it
was reached without due consideration for the facts; that his evidence concerning the industrial player and hockey tourist is at variance with the actual conditions; that his two lengthy stories intended pictorially to depict the weakness of the officers of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association are inaccurate in the most essential details, and that his suggested cure for the supposedly unhealthy condition would be a most undesirable remedy.
Now, remember, Mr. Edwards asserts that “there is almost no strict letter-of-the-law amateur hockey in Canada today.” This allegation is too serious to be based on inferences and whisperings. What direct evidence does he introduce to support this broad charge? Frankly, in so far as definite proof is concerned, the wild statement is unsupported.
In the group of hockey players to which Mr. Edwards refers there were 9,551 registrations last season. How many of these Canadian boys and men were perjurers? Mr. Edwards would say “almost all,” but it would be interesting to ascertain how many players Mr. Edwards actually knows—not by hearsay but from actual knowledge—had falsely taken the amateur affidavit. Could he take oath that eight thousand were crooked? Five thousand? Two thousand? Does he really believe, even without personal knowledge, that five hundred players had received money for their sport services? Now five hundred players would be sufficient for a league of at least fifty clubs, and if every player in that entire group was a cheater, it would still imply that over nine thousand players were honest and eligible for amateur competition. Let us admit there are five hundred perjurers —and I believe that estimate to be high—do you know of any other association of boys and men of whom it could be said that ninety-five per cent observed the laws and purposes of the organization?
Six Examples In Three Years
'T'HE security of hockey integrity, however, does not
depend upon guesses or theories or word meanings, for it can be defended in actual experience. Mr. Edwards first chucks his bomb at industrial hockey. He declares that players receive jobs, that salaries are beyond earning power, and that in some cases players do not even pretend to perform their jobs. Does Mr. Edwards substantially prove his allegations or does he merely set up a target, close his eyes, and shoot? Let us examine the evidence.
The author of “Bootleg Amateurs” attempts to prove the indifference of industrial hockeyists to work by relating that, over a period of three or four years, he actually knows half a dozen players who never visited the plant except on pay day. Six examples in three years !
It would appear that Mr. Edwards, with his extensive hockey contacts, really knew only two players a year who received money for hockey playing and didn’t work for the firm who paid the money. Shocking? No. Regrettable? Yes. But when one considers that Mr. Edwards
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That Bootleg Bogey
must be freely conversant with conditions in order to warrant the making of public denouncements, surely the foundation for criticism is woefully weak.
This caustic critic of amateurism also believes that hockey players “are paid salaries far beyond their earning power outside their hockey activities,” but he quotes a sports editor who says, “the usual run is between twenty-five and fifty dollars a week—which are bigger salaries than they could command here where competition is keener.”
Now just how much dynamite is in this charge? Mr. Edwards’ evidence is that the best salaries for men who leave their home town to play elsewhere is twentyfive to fifty dollars a week; that if they stay at home they get even less, and that these amounts are “far beyond their earning power outside their hockey activities.” If hockey players are so incompetent and unreliable that they cannot begin to give value up to those meagre wages, then they are mentally and physically incapable of matching skill and strength in hockey arenas.
Then we still must handle the alarming accusation that “the usual custom is to reward the players with jobs.” Would Mr. Edwards have us believe that athletic talent should be a handicap to a youth who is seeking work or who desires rightly to improve his opportunities? Surely not. And likewise, if I were an employer, I would recognize that the physique, enthusiasm, personality and ambition usually associated with athletes would be real business assets and, for purely selfish reasons, I would prefer such men.
Is industrial hockey the menace that Mr. Edwards asserts it to be? You will recall that his charge was sweeping and he attempted proof by innuendo rather than fact But let me support my general confidence by relating specific examples of how industrial hockey with which I am familiar is operated.
In Toronto, the Toronto Hockey League has a commercial series with forty-six teams, and thirty-two of them play on enclosed paying arenas and therefore come within the social circle of which Mr. Edwards says, “there is no strict letter-of-law amateurism.” The laws of the Toronto Hockey League insist that every one of those forty-six teams shall be composed of one hundred per cent employees, and that every player must be employed prior to the opening of the season.
Are the laws observed? The winning team last season was the Bell Telephone Club, and not only were all the players employed by that company, not only were they all employed prior to December fifteenth, but the average years of service of champion players with this one firm exceeded five years per man. During the 1929 baseball season the Bell Telephone team won the senior city championship, and the average service of its ball players was four years and ten months per player, and just two seasons ago the players on the Canadian Pacific Express hockey team had been employed by their company for an average of nine years each.
I know another firm operating both hockey and baseball teams, and when a position is vacant the superintendent will say to an athlete: “Because you are a player I will give you a chance to work with us, but just because you play on our teams will not ensure you steady employment unless you properly do your work.”
Why do firms operate industrial teams? Because of advertising as Mr. Edwards suggests? No. Sport advertising is largely mythical. If I like the Bell Telephone team do I order another phone or put in a long distance call to Australia? If I read that the York Mills Oil Company has signed “Bullets” Shoehorn, the best centre man in hockey, do I stop using
some other gasoline and fill my tank with Lightning gas? One firm I know has received a prominence from athletics to a degree that few others have possessed, yet its progress in business has been astonishingly slow.
Is industrial sport free from amateur violations? Of course not. But don’t let rumors and unsupported statements lead you to the conclusion that “there is almost no strict letter-of-the-law amateur hockey in Canada today.”
Changing Clubs is Difficult
'""THEN Mr. Edwards drags in that old corpse, the tourist hockeyist. He endeavors to resurrect this dead gladiator with the information that he can recall instances of hockey tourists since 1908 and that a few years ago a smart hockey lad “strutted his stuff” in many indefinite places. The evidence is inconclusive, but the inference is that hockey players are likely to pack up and go to any spot where living is lower and revenue greater. But, regardless of the player’s desires, the residential change cannot be easily made. Mr. Edwards may not know that a player registered with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association cannot change clubs, even in the same city, unless his old team first gives written consent. No player who has changed his residence or club since January the first is granted a certificate until he has furnished a satisfactory reason for this departure, and, as a further precaution, any player under twenty years of age must not only provide complete information but must also produce the approval of his parent or guardian.
Last year industrial life was unsettled and many men were seeking work. Nearly ten thousand hockeyists were playing on enclosed rinks and were registered with the C. A. H. A. Yet there were only sixty-three transfers; one in each one hundred and fifty players. Quite a few of these sixty-three movements were those of employees moving from one plant of their firm to another, and even those were permitted only when the employee had six months service prior to the change, and the certificate automatically expired if the player left that particular firm. No, the tourist makes small contribution to the “proof” that there is almost no strict letter-of-the-law amateur hockey in Canada today.
The author of “Bootleg Amateurs” not only believes that the number of simonpure amateur hockeyists is astonishingly small but he also trains his searchlight on the officers of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and tells two stories that are intended to “show up” the incompetency and insincerity of these gentlemen. The actual facts pertaining to those two cases not only do not reflect unfavorably on those at whom the verbal missiles were directed but really do them credit.
Mr. Edwards reminds us that a young amateur hockeyist supposedly signed a professional contract and received one hundred dollars for so doing. Later he refused to live up to his agreement, decided to remain amateur, and was permitted to do so by the amateur authorities. Now remember, this incident is not modern for it concerns a player who performed for the Grimsby O. H. A. intermediate team back in 1925; neither is the information a surprise for it was known to anyone who had a right to be acquainted with it. I was one of the officers who listened to the evidence and gave a decision, and my recollection, which has since been confirmed by another official of that period, differs at a very vital point from the information submitted by Mr. Edwards.
My recollection of the situation is this: The scout of the Canadiens professional
team interviewed this hockey player’s employer, and the latter asked the player if he would sign a professional contract. The answer was No. Later the employer shifted his tactics and asked the player if he would sign a statement promising that if he ever turned professional he would give the Canadiens team the preference; and upon the player agreeing to this simple request he was asked to sign his name on a sheet which was supposed to contain this promise alone. Some time later the clerk received from his employer fifty dollars without any mention of its origin or purpose, and it was considered by the employee to be a salary bonus. Later, it developed that the player’s signature was attached, not to a promise to give the Canadiens a preference for his services if he ever turned professional but to a professional contract. The player did not wish to leave amateur ranks at that time and believed he had been victimized. He told his story to the Grimsby Club, to the Ontario Hockey Association, and to the Ontario Amateur Athletic Union, and his story convinced officials that his signature had been improperly secured, that he had sincerely believed the money to be a salary bonus, that it had not been his desire or intention to become a professional at that time. Consequently and naturally the player was considered eligible for further amateur competition.
Mr. Edwards’ story appears to substantiate this evidence, for if the player actually intended to play as a professional, why would any scout be compelled to seek an employer to use his influence to secure such a decision and to pay the latter two hundred dollars for his services? I was one of those who rendered a decision on that case, and if the same circumstances again occurred I would not hesitate to repeat my approving vote. No, the amateur executives cannot be convicted on that incident, ancient as it is.
X/fR. EDWARDS’ next charge is -*-*-*■ described by him as a “prize example” of the inability of the C. A. H. A. to enforce discipline in its own ranks. Mr. Edwards does not mention the name of the clubs involved, but he is doubtless referring to the St. Francois Xavier and the Les Canadiens teams—andonee again the evidence does not withstand crossexamination, for his information is incomplete and I now have press clippings from Montreal papers that tell a much different story.
Mr. Edwards states that the energetic and ingenious professional promoter persuaded all the players he needed to jump from one team and to enlist under his banner; that the C. A. H. A. refused to sanction the deal ; that the officials forbade other clubs to play against this new team; that the league opened on schedule and defied the officials; that the outlaw team played on the very first night; that “exactly nothing happened,” and that the league entered its champion for the Allan Cup.
What did happen? Here is my version of this “prize example” and it is corroborated by the press and individuals who were there. The St. Francois Xavier team had signed several players to play in an intermediate league. Eight of these players later desired to play in a senior league with the Les Canadiens and Columbus teams. Now, under the laws of the Quebec A. H. A., these transfers could not be completed until the St. Francois Xavier team registered its approval, and as this was not forthcoming the Quebec executive naturally refused to permit the transfers.
The club and the players were deadlocked. The provincial body could make
no impression. Then—as mediators, not as judges, for the matter was subject first to Quebec laws—the president and registrar of the C. A. H. A. were invited to review the evidence and use their influence to secure an amicable agreement. These two men, as individuals, agreed that the Quebec executives had properly acted and that until the St. Francois Xavier team released the players they should play with no other. Then the Quebec A. H. A.—not the C. A. H. A.—ruled that the senior group would be outlawed if they used the ineligible players. They did use them, and they were at once deprived of their rights to compete under C. A. H. A. control, and if something had not happened they would not have been permitted to play under Q. A. H. A. and they could not have sent their champion team into the Allan Cup eliminations.
But something did happen. Mr. Edwards says, “exactly nothing happened,” and that phrase makes his prize package dwindle to the proportions of a grab bag, for even before the second game in this league was played the St. Francois Xavier team had agreed to release the players. The league asked the provincial association for reconsideration and reinstatement, and this request was granted with the stipulation that the games played on the first night at the Forum should be cancelled as league fixtures and not added to the schedule at any time during the season. Thus harmony was restored.
This evidence convinces me that Mr. Edwards' accusations were based on hearsays, idle rumors, and inferences, mixed with a few recent personal experiences and a heavy dose of old-time occurrences. “Speakeasy” might have been a preferable title adjective rather than “bootleg.”
XJ O WEVER, I do desire that no remark *■ shall be construed to suggest that I believe every one who signs an amateur declaration is an amateur. I am quite conscious that big arenas, the growth of moneyed hockey, the rabid enthusiasm of sport lovers, the tendency of professional promoters to disregard the laws of amateurism when dealing with amateurs, all constitute hazards that are a real menace to the ideals of amateur organizations and there are all too many sport hypocrites.
How could amateur hockey be purged of the hypocrisy that does exist? Mr. Edwards, in words that drip with indignation, sings a hymn of hate to Canada’s amateur law and suggests the remedy that we “ditch the stupid amateur definition which we copied from United States” and return to the British amateur definition in which, “an amateur is one who plays for fun and a professional one who plays for profit—that is all.” But that isn’t all, for if Mr. Edwards really knew the restrictions placed upon amateurs in Britain he would be compelled to seek another cure-all.
The fact is that a comparison of the Canadian law and the rules of eight English representative sport bodies reveals, not great differences but astonishing similarities. These eight British organizations—the Football Association, Limited; the Rugby Football Union; Amateur Boxing Association; Henley Stewards; Amateur Swimming Association; and Amateur Athletic Association—all forbid players competing for a staked bet or for moneys, private or public, or gate receipts,
and even refuse membership to anyone teaching or assisting in any athletic pursuit or sport as a means of a livelihood. With the exception of the Football Association, they all prohibit competition against a professional for a prize, or competitions where admissions are charged or a collection taken.
What does all this mean? Simply that, with the exception of cricket, soccer, golf and some rugby, the amateur laws of Great Britain are almost identical with our own. In other words, the Canadian amateur statute is not such a “foreign, un-British definition” as Mr. Edwards would have us believe.
Furthermore, were Mr. Edwards’ statement of conditions in Great Britain correct, no United Kingdom athlete could compete at Olympic games. And, as everyone knows, at the 1928 games Britain was represented in track and field, boxing, wrestling, cycling, rowing, swimming, hockey, skating and lacrosse, in each of which sports the Britishers accepted the same amateur law as did the Canadians. ,
Mr. Edwards says our definition is of United States origin. Is it? I don’t know. But I do know that the difference between amateurs and professionals were known to the Greeks nearly twenty centuries before Columbus discovered America, and I do know that nearly fifty years ago Canadian sportsmen did form an association and produced an amateur law. And I also know that today Canada’s law is international law, and that if Canada junks it she will be barred from British Empire games and Olympic contests and that she will play alone in her own backyard.
Stiffen the Law
XJOW will this affect our hockey? This
L Dominion gave hockey to the world. Our teams—Falcons, Granites and Grads —have swept through three Olympic championships without a defeat, and the entire athletic worid has marvelled at the ability and physique of our amateur champions. Scrap our amateur law and Canada would be shorn of the chance to gain the world respect that comes from this hockey superiority.
Should we ditch this “stupid” law that permits such international opportunities? No! What then is the cure for amateur hypocrisy? I don’t know a permanent’ cure, for it is human for athletes to err, but I have some tonics to suggest and the first would be: Do not weaken the law; stiffen it. Make every player who signs an affidavit that he is an amateur realize that if he commits perjury he will be summoned to court; insist that every officer connected with a club shall also make affidavit; appoint travelling auditors who shall be empowered to examine the books of every club playing under amateur auspices, and arrange that the detailed financial statement prepared by these experienced probers shall be published in the press of the municipality in which the club operates; and, finally, use every means to grant membership only to responsible clubs and community controlled sport organizations.
Amateur conditions certainly can and will be improved, but meanwhile don’t condemn the entire institution because some members cheat, and don’t accept the statement that “there is almost no strict letter-of-the-law amateur hockey in Canada today” unless you are prepared to thereby declare your lack of faith in the honor of Canada’s athletic manhood.