Magnates Under the Microscope
Managing a professional hockey club is one of the most nerve-racking and fascinating jobs in existence
MAGNATES of professional hockey are of three kinds—those who are in the game for fun, those who are there for money, and some who are urged equally by both motives. They might be called playboys, professionals, and playboy-professionals. The last named are the happiest and the most successful.
You might imagine, as do all small boys, that the magnate owning a franchise in the National Hockey League, greatest organization in the history of the game, must be one of the most contented of all the world’s workers. You might picture him going about his tasks singing, slightly off key perhaps but none the less blithely, shaking hands with great men, hailing by their first names the most scintillant stars of the steel blade—prosperous, generous in victory, gallant in defeat.
A charming picture but, alas, inaccurate. Rather, with a few exceptions which shall be noted, the magnates are a morose lot, heavy laden with gloom, restless and distraught. They trade player A for player B, and thereafter lie awake nights plucking with trembling fingers at their silken counterpanes, wondering vainly whether the future will show them to be sages or saps. Truth is, the men who control hockey clubs are, for the most part, uneasy monarchs wearing uncomfortable crowns.
No logical reason for this strange condition of affairs can be discovered. Magnates are like that, and nothing can be done about it. Today no professional sport is better organized than hockey. Only association football in Great Britain and baseball in the United States can equal the perfection of business co-ordination which Frank Calder has welded into the National Hockey League and its affiliations. This depression thing which is causing bankers and boilermakers, clerks and contractors, drapers and druggists to wail and beat upon their breasts in the market places, has served professional hockey merely as an opportunity to peg salaries and rid itself of two clubs which were doubtful assets even in boom times. During the past half dozen years elaborate rinks have been built in New York, Chicago, Boston ánd Detroit. Newest of all, the Maple Leaf arena in Toronto, has opened this season—a neat little job costing $1,500,000.
Organized professional hockey represents in 1931 an investment conservatively estimated at $50,000,000, and continues to grow.
Prosperous rinks continue the happy—for them—practice of compelling the frantic fans to reserve the best seats six months in advance, so that in October you must agree to purchase tickets for games scheduled for March, by which time you may be dead, or in Peru, or just plain uninterested. This is a piece of bland impudence which no other professional sport ever had the nerve to consider, much less attempt. But hockey does it and gets away with it. In professional sport, anything you can get away with is right.
Therefore, the fan being the peculiar person he is, the magnates wax fat and prosperous, while remaining, for the most part, dolorous of spirit. That is, many of them are dolorous of spirit. Not all.
A Happy Partnership
A NOTABLE exception is the happy partnership of the Messrs. Leo Dandurand and Joseph Cattarinich, proud proprietors of the current world’s champions. Les Canadiens of Montreal. Here, to this writer’s notion, is the perfect example of playboy-professional ownership.
Together with M. Louis Letourneau, a wholesale fish dealer with a flair for red-blooded sport, this notable pair purchased the Canadien franchise from the estate of the late George Kennedy at the start of the 1921-22 hockey season. M. Letourneau recently withdrew from the syndicate, but
his money and his robust stratagems had much to do with building the present championship team.
They bid $11,000 and won the Canadiens from Thomas Duggan who later put big league hockey into the United States. Duggan's oiler was $10,000. Today you couldn't trade twice ten times $11,000 for the Canadien Hockey Club.
The Canadien team is the best moneymaker in the league, but it costs money to manage it. Joe Cattarinich told me in October, while the annual salary wrangle was on, that in the 1930-31 season he bestowed bonuses on the players from his own pocket—not charged against the club— totalling $7,500.
Kennedy’s classification definitely was that of professional promoter. His background was wrestling and boxing, but in hockey he was not above turning an adroit trick, when the need arose, of a sort which would not be considered cricket by gentlemen who play cricket. But then, of course, professional hockey is not cricket or anything like it.
The Dandurand-Cattarinich-Letourneau combination discarded the obvious crudities of the Kennedy policies, while retaining many of Kennedy’s more generally approved methods. Kennedy believed that the finest hockey team in the world would be made up of a mixture of French and English players the Frenchmen for dash and daring, the more stolid Anglo-Saxon to balance the natural effervescence of their Gallic companions. This system has been followed faithfully by the present proprietors, so that all through the history of the Canadiens one discovers Cleghoms, Halls. Burkes and Hainsworths intermingled with Vezinas, Laviolettes, Joliats and Leducs.
Joseph Cattarinich himself is not French. His parents were Austrian and he was bom on a ship in the St. Lawrence. But he was educated in a Quebec orphanage, and that province today owns no more loyal son.
Sport is the profession and at the same time the good fun of Leo Dandurand and Joe Cattarinich. They operate several race tracks, including the important Dorval plant, and they were prime movers in last summer’s successful indoor lacrosse promotion.
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Sportsmen in every sense of the word, the owners of Canadiens are loyal friends, utterly without prejudices. Cecil Hart, who aided them to obtain their franchise in the first place, they promptly made a director of the club. Later he took over active management of the team from Dandurand, and he has carried on to the beginning of the present season. Hart, one of the shrewdest of lux-key generals and certainly the most tireless worker, is a Hebrew'. So we have the unusual situation of a notably successful hockey club, representing the French-Canadian citizens of Montreal, employing at the same time players w'hose racial origins are French, English, Scottish and Irish, with a Jew for manager. No finer example of thoroughgoing Canadianism exists in the realm of sport. Les Canadiens is the right name for this outfit.
The Habitants are world’s champions of 1931, as they were of 1930. In ten years of National League competition they have only once been out of the post-season play-offs.
Pay Without Work
/"AN THE other hand, the men who hold the destinies of the Montreal Maroons in their hands are amateur sportsmen, simón pure playboys, wealthy business executives expressing their respective egos in hockey. Except, of course, James Strachan. With Brother Strachan, hockey is a sort of minor religion.
Kenneth Dawes, millionaire brew’er and race-horse owner, Thomas Arnold, a steel magnate and tennis enthusiast, and Gordon Cushing, stockbroker who also is interested in tennis, organized the Maroon Hockey Club in 1924. That year the same group built the Montreal Forum with its artificial ice plant. They control lx>t h enterprises. Seeking an executive head for their hockey club, they coaxed Jimmy Strachan away from his wire-haired fox terriers and jx-rsuaded him to join them.
Jimmy Strachan is unique among hockey magnates—the most irrepressible playboy of them all. He has never made a penny out of Maroons. He draws no salary as president, nor does he cut in on the profits, if any. On the other hand, he has spent as much as $5,000 a year of his own money in the promotion of the club’s activities.
Strachan played hockey himself in his younger days. With his brother he founded a highly successful bakery, which in the course of years made him moderately rich and which the Strachan brothers eventually sold for $1,000,(XX). Years ago, before the reign of Sam E. Lichtenhein, Strachan was president of the famous Wanderer Hockey Club of Montreal.
A bulky, mild-mannered gentleman is James Strachan, who worries a bit about his weight and gazes at a world which still rather surprises him, through round, rimless eyeglasses. He cannot understand why everybody in Montreal is not a Maroons fan. Profanity is foreign to his speech, and in times of stress his expletives are limited to a rumbling "gee whiz” or “gol-dang.” He is, they say. the gee-whiz champion of the world, and the most loathsome insult he can hurl at a fellow creature is to say, "Gol-dang
it, that chap is nothing bu: a gol-dang Canadien supporter.”
Cecil Hart resigned his place on the Canadien directorate to join Maroons as manager in their first season. Being manager, Hart thought he was boss, and without calling a directors’ meeting he signed Reggie Noble. The Maroons’ owners learned of this step when their friends told them about it on the street, having read it in the newspapers; w'hereupon Mr. Hart was informed that he was no longer manager of Maroons, a bit of news w'hich surprised him greatly but about which nothing could be done.
Since then, Maroons have had several managers and won one World’s Championship. They had Eddie Gerard, Duncan Munro and Jerry Lallamme as coaches, Duncan Munro alone. Buck Boucher; and this season they start with Sprague Cleghorn.
Cleghorn, one of the most courageous players of his day, has been notably successful in a short managerial career with Providence, R.I. He is not the type who will act as yes man to anybody, magnate or player. Given a free hand, he will almost certainly produce results for Maroons; but the weakness of the purely playboy magnate is that, having hired a watchdog, he too frequently insists on barking for himself.
A Keen Wisecracker
TN THE lustily ebullient Connie Smythe,
Toronto possesses and admires one of the finest samples of the playboy-professional magnate in the collection. Connie’s private business is the side of sand and gravel in large quantities to important contractors, but at heart he is the keenest professional promoter of them all. Summer days you will find the smiling Mr. Smythe around the race tracks.
Some time ago E. W. Ferguson, wittiest of hockey writers, dubbed Connie "the David Harum of hockey.” He rates that appellation. It was Smythe who traded the decrepit Bill Carson to Boston, and that wily old fox, Art Ross, who would rather lose money in a poker game than be outsmarted in a hockey deal, has never forgiven Smythe for that sly trick.
Adding insult to injury, Smythe made a foray into Boston territory and sneaked away playing rights to George Owen, who has since become a star but who at that time was living in Boston and attending Harvard. It cost the Bruins $15,000 to buy Owen’s release from Toronto. Art Ross may admire Connie Smythe, but he will never love him.
Off the ice, Smythe is the Merry Andrewof the magnates. He jests and scoffs and wisecracks ncessantly with no regard for persons or personalities, but w hen it comes to a tough game there is no nonsense about him. He runs his club on generous lines, enforcing a definite discipline with a broad understanding of human nature. As a consequence he has always a bunch of players in Toronto uniforms who combine respect for their chief with a quite sincere affection, and who give everything they have to their club all the time. Maple Leafs have
yet to win a world’s championship, but they will. It might even happen this year.
No Faith In Stars
'X^’AJOR McLAUGHLIN, owner of the Chicago Black Hawks, is another entirely amateur magnate; the pure playboytype. His theories and system are directlyopposed to those of Smythe, Dandurand and Strachan. In fact, they are different from the ideas of every other magnate in the league. The major made millions out of coffee, married famous Irene Castle, bought the Chicago franchise, built a magnificent new rink, and now is out to revolutionize hockey.
Major McLaughlin earned his military title. He is a stern disciplinarian, a martinet who regards the players under contract to his clüb as a military company whose job it is to obey orders.
A graduate of Notre Dame, it is the major’s ambition to glorify in hockey the Rockne system of football. Perhaps he can do it, but to date he has acquired only a moderate success and plenty of grief. More than once have the Hawks been in a state bordering upon open revolt against restrictions imposed by club discipline upon their habits of diet, exercise and recreation. The major has frequently found it necessary to demote his adjutants and appoint new ones.
McLaughlin has no faith in stars. He wouldn’t buy Howie Morenz if he could. He keeps his team at full playing strength, uses at least three different forward lines, and changes them at set intervals of two minutes by the clock. The old army game.
Five Managers In Five Years
TN NEW YORK, Colonel John S. Ham-
mond, whose profession is banking, heads the NewYork Rangers on behalf of the Madison Square Garden Corporation. The silver-haired colonel, a soft-speaking gentleman who was one of Tex Rickard’s backers, would qualify as a playboy magnate, but from the organization of the Rangers team he has had as his chief aide the redoubtable Lester Patrick, who has been a professional promoter, not only of clubs, but of whole leagues for a score of years past. Colonel Hammond attends to the business details of management and leaves the playing side strictly to Patrick, who is an absolute dictator and brooks no interference from anyone.
William V. Dwyer, whose New York Americans share the Garden with Rangers, is an out-and-out professional sports promoter. He owns several race tracks in Canada and the United States, and, with the late Tom Duggan, he introduced hockeyon the grand scale to New York. Bill Dwyer, a rosy-cheeked, slim chap with a cherubicexpression, has not been fortunate with the temperamental Amerks. His first manager was Tommy Gorman, the Ottawa wizard, but Tommy didn’t click either with his employer or his players. Shorty Green followed Gorman, a playing-manager experiment which didn’t work. It seldom does. Newsy Laloncle, champion hard luck pilot of the N. H. L., handled Americans for
a w-hile, quarrelled with some of his prima donnas, and gave place to Lionel Conacher, another playing manager who missed fire. Eddie Gerard, having fought with the Maroons overlords, took over Americans with fair success. Five managers in five years is bad business for any club.
Too Smart to Fuss
AS AGAINST the somewhat uncertain
*• tactics of Dwyer, observe the vigorous and forthright methods of Charles Adams, of Boston, whose militant campaigns are directed by the dynamic Arthur Ross. Mr. Adams should be set down as a playboy, but he is nothing of the kind. A poor immigrant lad, he began his business career sw-eeping out a grocery store. Today he is the millionaire head of an important New England chain. A pugnacious and determined fighter, he has gone in for sport in a big way. Beside the battling Bruins, he ow-ns the Boston Braves in the National Baseball League.
No better colleague for a magnate of the Adams type could be found than Art Ross, w'ho has been the tutelary genius of the Boston bashaw since the organization of the Bruins. In all hockey no manager grieves so sorely over a loss or so thoroughly savors a victory as does Ross, although his hair has turned grey in a lifetime of devotion to hockey. On the ice or in the committee room, the Adams-Ross partnership strives without ceasing for every advantage. They neither ask nor give quarter. More personal feeling is injected into any important Bruin game than may be found in half a dozen contests between less enthusiastic opponents. As a result, the Bruins are at all times, one of the most dangerous teams in the league. They have won championships, and always they are in the play-offs.
Charles Hughes, of Detroit, falls gracefully into the semi-professional category of magnates. Hughes is a keen sportsman as w-ell as an earnest promoter of hockey. His interests centre around the activities of the Detroit Athletic Club, for w-hich he publishes the excellent Detroit Athletic Club Magazine. Too smart to fuss about his club, too busy to attempt its actual management, Hughes leaves control of his players, on and off the ice, to that sagacious veteran, Jack Adams, who is slowly but surely building a Stanley Cup contender for the motor city.
When Ottawa passed out of the N. H. L. picture, together with Philadelphia, at the beginning of the current season, everyone connected with the game w-as sorry to lose the modest personality of Franklyn Ahearn, M.P., who has been the guiding spirit of the Senators for several years past. Mr. Ahearn is the finest hockey statistician of them all. He it w-as who devised the present play-off system, and his aid when knotty schedule problems were to be solved was invaluable and generously given.
How They Suffer!
AS FOR Philadelphia—née Pittsburgn— it never had a magnate. Benny Leonard, ex-lightweight champion of the world, acted as mouthpiece for William V.
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Dwyer, owner of New York Americans. There is no reason why Philadelphia should not come back into the N. H. L. in company with some other good town—Cleveland, perhaps. The trouble with the late Phils was lack of financial support and an old rink in the wrong part of town. Hockey is an evening-dress game these days, and the best people simply will not go out to the slums and walk up back alleys past hot-dog stands and barbecue barns for the privilege of watching a group of earnest but inexperienced athletes lose games. Cooper Smeaton, who took over the Philadelphia ¡assignment last season, is not worrying, He receives $6,500 from Philadelphia this season, even though
the Philadelphia club faded from the picture along with Ottawa at the N. H. L. meeting held in September.
You see now why so many of the magnates are sorrowful men, teased by problems of management, worried over players and salaries, vexed by criticisms of the press, driven frantic by the perpetual petulance of the public.
Gosh, how they suffer! So hardly are they beset that this year they decided to play forty-eight games of hockey with eight clubs instead of forty-four contests with ten clubs, as they did last year.
They hate the game so much they can never get enough of it.