Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Art Ross
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One on One with Art Ross

31 JANUARY 2012
Art Ross helped the Montreal Wanderers capture the Stanley Cup in 1908.
Art Ross helped the Montreal Wanderers capture the Stanley Cup in 1908. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Arthur Howey 'Art' Ross was the twelfth of thirteenth children in the family, and was born on January 13, 1886 in Naughton, Ontario, a town south-west of Sudbury. Naughton has long been absorbed into the Great Sudbury area, and no longer exists except in memories and on antique maps.

The area has great historical significance beyond the birthplace of an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. It was also the home of the Hudson's Bay Company's Whitefish Lake Trading Post, which was moved to Naugton in 1887 in order to be closer in proximity to the Canadian Pacific Railway line to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Art's father, Thomas Ross, was head of the trading post, which was closed in 1896 when the area's fur trade declined in light of booming mining and lumbering developments.

Naughton was also home to Salter's Meridian, a north-south survey line that located the presence of "an immense mass of magnetic trap." Analysis of rock samples revealed sizeable nickel, copper and iron deposits. In 1886, the year Ross was born, prospector Henry Ranger began to work the claim, and it eventually became the Creighton Mine, one of the world's largest nickel producers.

The Ross children grew up speaking both English and Ojibwe, a native Canadian language widely used in the Naughton area. When the trading post closed, the Ross family moved to Westmount, an affluent English-speaking enclave within Montreal. Art began playing organized hockey at Westmount High School in 1900. His teammates included Lester and Frank Patrick, both of whom also went on to Hall of Fame hockey careers.

In 1905 Ross made his first appearance for a major hockey organization by scoring 10 goals in eight games for the Westmount franchise in the Canadian Amateur Hockey League.
In 1905 Ross made his first appearance for a major hockey organization by scoring 10 goals in eight games for the Westmount franchise in the Canadian
Amateur Hockey League.
(Hockey Hall of Fame)
Ross and the Patricks were head and shoulders better than their peers on the high school hockey team and were frequently invited to play for local league teams in Montreal. After playing parts of four seasons with Montreal Westmount of the Canadian Amateur Intermediate Hockey League, in 1905, Ross was asked to join Montreal Westmount of the CAHL, the top amateur league in Canada. Playing defence, Ross scored 10 goals in 8 games that season.

Ross was pioneering the defence position, and many compare him to Bobby Orr of more recent hockey. He was a rushing defenceman during an era when players in that position either shot the puck down the ice or passed to a forward. Instead, Ross carried the puck up the ice into the offensive zone.

In 1905-06, Art moved to Brandon, Manitoba to take a job in the banking industry. While there, he joined the Brandon Wheat Cities of the senior Manitoba Hockey League. He scored 5 goals in 8 games during his first season. By the next campaign, Ross was elevated to Brandon's pro team in the Manitoba Hockey League, and he responded with 5 goals in 9 games. The Kenora Thistles, league champions, were able to add a couple of players to their roster for a run at the Stanley Cup against the Montreal Wanderers,and wisely chose Ross, paying him $1,000 for the series. The Thistles went on to win the Stanley Cup, with Ross playing a key role. The same two teams played for the Stanley Cup a few months later and, without Ross, the Thistles were defeated by the Wanderers.

The Wanderers were so impressed with Ross that in 1907-08, he returned to Montreal to join the team he helped defeat. Art scored 8 goals in 10 games, helping the Wanderers to a first-place finish in the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA). Montreal was challenged for the Stanley Cup by teams from Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto, but defeated each challenger. Art Ross became just the second player to win the Stanley Cup with different teams in consecutive years, following Jack Marshall, who won with the Winnipeg Victorias in 1901 and with the Montreal Hockey Club in 1902.

After retiring as a player, Art Ross took a turn as an on-ice official.
After retiring as a player, Art Ross
took a turn as an on-ice official.
(Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Canadian Hockey Association debuted in 1909-10, with Art hired as playing-coach of the All-Montreal Hockey Club. The league lasted mere weeks, so after scoring 4 goals in 4 games, he joined the Haileybury Comets of the National Hockey Association, another league in its inaugural season. Ross earned $2,700 from Haileybury that season, but when the league imposed a salary cap of $5,000 per team for salaries, he began to look for other opportunities, know that his salary would be decreased in Haileybury. He returned to the Wanderers who, by then, had also joined the NHA.

After four seasons with the NHA Wanderers, Ross asked for a salary increase. When it appeared none was forthcoming, he spoke candidly with several of the NHA's stars, trying to convince them to form a new league that would offer higher salaries. His action resulted in a suspension in November 1914 by Emmett Quinn, the president of the NHA. But rather than accept his punishment, Ross declared himself a free agent, claiming his contract with the Wanderers was no longer valid. Although not truly having the autonomy to do so, Quinn suspended Ross from all organized hockey.

The new league failed to materialize and Ross applied for reinstatement to the NHA. The owners deduced that if they suspended Ross, they would be forced to also suspend all those players he signed to the new league, which would cripple the NHA. His actions led to his release by the Wanderers.

Art joined the Ottawa Senators for the 1914-15season. The Senators and Wanderers both finished with 14 wins and 6 losses, forcing a two-game, total goal series to decide the NHA champion. Ross had always been a strategic thinker, and in order to stop the lightning-quick Wanderers, he created a defensive strategy that required three defenders to line up across the ice in their own zone to stop offensive rushes. The Senators outscored the Wanderers 4-1, allowing them the right to face the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association for the Stanley Cup.

Following the 1915-16 season with Ottawa, Ross returned to Montreal to oversee his sporting goods store. He joined the Wanderers for his final two seasons as a player.

Lester Patrick (left) and Clarence Campbell (right) are on hand as Elmer Lach receives the trophy named after Art Ross (2nd from right) in 1948.
Lester Patrick (left) and Clarence Campbell (right) are on hand as Elmer Lach receives the trophy named after Art Ross (2nd from right) in 1948. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Wanderers, along with the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs and Toronto Arenas, dissolved the league over a dispute with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. In effect, they simply changed the league's name and worked around the expelled owner. The National Hockey Association re-emerged as the National Hockey League.

The NHL debuted in November 1917 with Art Ross as coach of the Wanderers, but a fire on January 2, 1918, destroyed their home, the Montreal Arena, and forced them to fold after 4. With the disbanding of his team, Art Ross retired as a player.

Through his playing career, the pioneering defenceman scored 102 goals and had 34 assists in 192 through several leagues that could be deemed comparable to the best in the world at that time. He added one goal in 3 NHL games.

Although Art Ross went on to a storied career in hockey management, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949. A ceremony was held before a Boston Bruins' game on December 2, 1949. In 1975, Ross was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.In 1984, he was posthumously awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy, recognizing his contributions to hockey in the United States.

In 1947, he donated the Art Ross Trophy to the NHL to be awarded annually to the top point-collector through the regular season. In addition, he introduced a hockey puck to the NHL still used today as well as an improved hockey net that was used for decades.

Art Ross died on August 5, 1964 in Medford, Massachusetts at the age of 78. His death was mourned by the hockey community, but his legacy to hockey continues to this day.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.