Longtime New York Rangers announcer Jack Filman was once asked the origins of the word "hockey." He replied that it was from an aboriginal word, hoghee, that meant, "it hurts!" Hockey history is full of such myths, and the purpose of this blog is to take a closer look at them and discuss the surrounding historical issues. (BTW hockey probably originates with the French word, hoquet, which referred to the hooked shape of the sticks used to play similar stick-and-ball games.)

The Mystery of the Paul Whiteman Trophy

While doing research for my new book, Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945 (pre-order now at Amazon.ca or .com!), I ran into several trophies that were inaugurated in the early years of the NHL to reward both clubs and players for their performances. Most of these are familiar, like Lady Byng, Hart, Vézina, and even the Prince of Wales, but I was also intrigued by those that had apparently fallen by the wayside. (Click here for a link to the Hockey Hall of Fame trophy collection.)

The disappeared on the club competition side include two trophies for intra-city "derbies": the Kendall Memorial Cup (named after Canadiens owner George Kendall nom de sport Kennedy), which was fought over by the Canadiens and Maroons of Montreal, and the West Side Merchants Association Trophy, competed for by the New York Rangers and Americans. Both of these disappeared with the respective demises of the Maroons and the Americans (and two-club cities in general).

The player awards persisted better, although even a few of these did not. The Greyhound Cup was given by the bus company for the league MVP (seemingly in competition with the already existing Hart Trophy), but I haven't found much on that. The other that intrigued me was the one given by bandleader Paul Whiteman to the "the leading scorer in the National Hockey League."

Like most, I assumed the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy was the first to reward goal-scoring (as distinct from the Art Ross Trophy, which is for goals and assists). My first clue was this image accompanying an article in Maclean's Magazine:

Paul Whiteman and his trophy presentation to Ace Bailey
(Frederick Edwards, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Hockey Star," Maclean's, 1 December, 1929)
Here, then-famous bandleader Paul Whiteman is seen presenting the trophy to Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs for his output of 22 goals in 1928-29. "Scoring" could refer to both goals and assists, but the caption specifies that it is for "the most goals." (Ace is more famous for getting creamed by Eddie Shore in 1933.)

I have looked into connections between Whiteman and hockey and found none so far, but Whiteman's own history is fascinating. He was the man who commissioned George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as part of a campaign to bring jazz music into the mainstream. Some felt his influence sucked the improvisational element out of the style, but a figure no less than Duke Ellington said of him, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.” This article by João Azinhais has a good overview of his forgotten legacy.

As to how Whiteman got interested in hockey... well, it probably speaks to the nature of the entertainment industry in New York in the 1920s. It was a roaring time, as they say, full of novelties like jazz and hockey, with many new stars and celebrities of film, sport, and society emerging (all lubricated by illicit booze, no doubt). I expect Whiteman got turned onto hockey by American and Rangers games at Madison Square Garden, courtesy promoter extraordinaire, Tex Rickard. (And remember that Americans owner Bill Dwyer had been the biggest bootlegger of the age.)

In any case, the mystery of the trophy's present location was resolved by Google. Apparently Bailey kept the trophy (it never seems to have been awarded again) and it wound up in the Bracebridge Sports Hall of Fame in Bailey's hometown, where it is part of a display on Ace. It's great to see it well-preserved and acknowledged.
Paul Whiteman Trophy on display at the Bracebridge Sports Hall of Fame
(image courtesy Don Campbell)
Now onto that Greyhound Cup...

***Check out my new website at jandrewross.ca***

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