Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Cy Denneny
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One on One with Cy Denneny

15 APRIL 2011
One of the top-scoring left wings of his era, Cy Denneny topped the 20-goal mark eight times in his stellar career.
(Hockey Hall of Fame)
Through a career that spanned the National Hockey Association and its successor, the National Hockey League, Cy Denneny was one of the highest scoring left wingers of the era. Cyril Joseph 'Cy' Denneny was born December 23, 1891 in the town of Farran's Point, Ontario. The town, just outside of Cornwall, no longer exists as that land was flooded in 1958 to create the St. Lawrence Seaway. Before construction began, families and business located in Farran's Point were relocated to Ingleside, now part of South Stormont, Ontario.

Never a great skater, Cy was a gifted stickhandler and scorer, using his prowess to star in the Lower Ottawa Valley Hockey Association (LOVHA), playing first with the Cornwall Sons of England in 1909-10 and the Cornwall Internationals the next two years. While playing in nearby Russell County for the Athletics of the LOVHA, Denneny's talents were garnering notice. He had signed as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association (NHA) in the fall of 1912 but was released after training camp and returned to his Senior team, but in 1913-14, he joined the Cobalt O'Brien Mines, scoring 12 goals in nine games and helping lead his team to the league championship.

The talented winger turned professional in 1914-15, joining the NHA's Toronto Ontarios (the franchise changed its name to the Shamrocks during that season's schedule). He scored six goals in eight games, and while that impressed onlookers, so did his truculent play: he amassed 43 minutes in penalties. The Shamrocks benefited from a second Denneny, too, as Cy's younger brother, Corb, also played for Toronto and scored 13 goals in 19 contests.

Cy Denneny left the game in 1928-29 as the top point scorer in NHL history with 331 points to his credit. (Galloway/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Brothers Denneny were joined by centre Duke Keats on the Toronto Blueshirts in 1915-16, and the power trio tore up the NHA, although the team continued to struggle. Cy tallied 24 goals, Keats 22 and Corb 20 goals.

In 1916-17, Cy failed to report to training camp in Toronto and was suspended. Leaving his brother behind, he was sold to the Ottawa Senators in January 1917, although Corb joined the team later that season.

It was in Canada's capital that Cy Denneny truly hit his stride. The franchise was a member of the NHA in 1916-17, but by the next season, that league had folded and the Ottawa Senators became charter members of the newly-formed National Hockey League (NHL). Leading an all-star cast that also included Hall of Famers Clint Benedict, Buck Boucher, Rusty Crawford, Jack Darragh, Eddie Gerard and Frank Nighbor, Denneny scored 36 goals in the NHL's inaugural season, and led the league in assists with 10. He finished second in goals, runner-up to Joe Malone's 44. Cy scored 18 times in 1918-19 and 16 times in 1919-20 as the Senators went on to win the Stanley Cup. They repeated in 1920-21, with Denneny contributing 34 goals. On March 7, 1921, Cy scored five goals in a game against the Hamilton Tigers. In doing so, he became the sixth player in NHL history to accomplish this feat. Ironically, the fifth had been his brother Corb, who had scored five goals against the same team just a few weeks earlier.

Cy Denneny's final season in the National Hockey League was with the Boston Bruins in 1928-29. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
In 1921-22, Denneny finished second in scoring with 39 points, seven fewer than teammate Punch Broadbent. Cy's 27 goals were third-best in the NHL that season. Ottawa finished first overall but was unable to claim the Stanley Cup.

That honour came again the next season. Denneny finished second in scoring again, this time with 31 points, and his 21 goals were again third-best in the NHL. But most importantly, the Senators won the Stanley Cup for a second time in 1922-23.

Ottawa finished first in 1923-24, and Denneny was the NHL's scoring leader with 22 goals and 24 points, the lowest winning total in NHL history. But despite three scorers in the top ten and a record of 16 wins, 8 losses and no ties, the Senators were unable to repeat their Stanley Cup victory.

Cy finished second in scoring in 1924-25 (42 points, including 27 goals) and again in 1925-26 (36 points, including 24 goals). Although he missed the scoring top ten for the first time since 1919-20, Denneny's 23 points led Ottawa to first place in 1926-27 in the newly-created Canadian Division of the NHL. The Senators went on to collect the Stanley Cup that spring, the fourth time that decade, ensuring their legacy as the National Hockey League's first dynasty.

Cy Denneny (seated third from the right) and the Boston Bruins captured the 1928-29 Stanley Cup title with a series win over the New York Rangers. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
After enjoying the Senators' Stanley Cup celebration, Denneny's final season in Ottawa was terribly disappointing. Cy scored but three goals during the 44-game campaign in 1927-28.

His sterling twelve-season career with the Ottawa Senators came to a conclusion when Cy was sold to the Boston Bruins in October 1928. He joined the Bruins as a player, coach and assistant manager for the 1928-29 season. The team had come off a first-place finish in the American Division, and Denneny guided his squad to a second straight first-place finish, followed by the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. For Cy, it was the fifth Stanley Cup championship of his career and was a fitting way to bring his playing career to a conclusion.

Denneny retired after the 1928-29 season. In 369 regular season games, combining his NHL and NHA totals, he scored 281 goals and 89 assists for 370 points. He also recorded 418 penalty minutes. In post-season play, Cy played 27 games, scoring 17 times, assisting on two others and totalling 19 points. There were also 25 minutes in penalties.

Cy Denneny spent a year as coach and manager of the financially crippled Ottawa Senators in 1932-33. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
At the time of his retirement, the 'Cornwall Colt' was the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer with 248, a number not equalled until 1934 by Howie Morenz. He was also the league's leading point scorer with 333. It was Morenz who passed Denneny's point mark, too, doing so in 1931-32.

Cy Denneny reached the 20-goal mark seven times in the NHL and once in the NHA. Although players thirty years later are credited with inventing the curved blade, Denneny was using one to great effect as part of his scoring arsenal.

Following his retirement, Denneny turned to officiating and returned to the NHL as a referee from 1929 to 1931. After coaching at various levels in the Ottawa area, Denneny rejoined the Ottawa Senators as coach and manager in 1932-33, but the experiment failed when the team finished last and Cy was fired. He then worked for the federal government in Ottawa until retiring in 1959. That year, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Cy Denneny died on September 10, 1970, but leaves behind a legacy as one of the most dominant players of the NHL's earliest years. A five-time Stanley Cup champion and the league's scoring champion in 1923-24, Denneny was ranked number 62 on the list of the 100 greatest players of all-time by The Hockey News.

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