An aggressive and enthusiastic promoter of the game, Major Frederic McLaughlin was a vital ingredient in the popularization of the game in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. His intense patriotism and desire to succeed made him appear as an American version of Toronto Maple Leafs' owner Conn Smythe.
Born in Chicago in 1877, he was the son of a prosperous coffee merchant. McLaughlin graduated from Harvard in 1901 and took over the family business when he father passed away four years later.
The native of the Windy City pioneered the growth of professional hockey in his hometown. When Lester and Frank Patrick decided to sell six franchises from the old Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1926, McLaughlin jumped at the chance to bring a team east. He led a consortium of Chicago businessmen which purchased the Portland Rosebuds.
The Chicago Black Hawks came into being with Major McLaughlin serving as the team's first president. The new outfit was named after the Black Hawk regiment commanded by McLaughlin during World War I. The public response was tepid at first as games were played in the cramped Chicago Coliseum. As fan and stockholder interest dwindled, McLaughlin gradually took over blocks of shares until he had a large majority.
The team's fortunes improved briefly when the Chicago Stadium was opened in December 1929 and attendance soared. By the early 1930s the Great Depression took its toll and McLaughlin kept his dream alive by securing a loan from Montreal's Joe Cattarinich.
McLaughlin's unwillingness to give in to the dire economic conditions of the time yielded Stanley Cups in 1934 and 1938 plus a few interesting moments. His flair was always a factor in the operations of the Chicago hockey club. He and his coaches decided to speed up the pace of the game by using three sets of forward lines and substituting players at three minute intervals instead of keeping the same players on the ice for long stretches.
Staunchly patriotic, McLaughlin declared that the 1936-37 edition of the Hawks would consists solely of America players. The idea drew attention to the team but did not translate into success on the ice. Still, he was an energetic promoter whose stubborn drive kept the team going and established a foundation for one of the NHL's oldest surviving franchise.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.