August 08, 2020

The Seattle Hockey History Project

 

As previously mentioned, I am undertaking a new biography project here at GreatestHockeyLegends.com. I am going to profile all the players who played for the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 through 1924.

You undoubtedly know the Seattle Kraken is the NHL's newest expansion team. But did you know that 100 years ago the colorful Seattle Mets were one of the most powerful teams in major league hockey, competing for the Stanley Cup three times and, in 1917, becoming the first American team to ever win the most cherished trophy in all of hockey?

Before the Kraken take to the ice and create a new era of hockey history, let's celebrate the men of Seattle's proud hockey past.

Check back here for a master listing of all Seattle biographies;

Archie Briden
Eddie Carpenter 
Hec Fowler
Frank Foyston
Gord Fraser
Smokey Harris
Hap Holmes
Bernie Morris
Lester Patrick
Roy Rickey
Jim Riley
Bobby Rowe
Jack Walker
Cully Wilson

Hap Holmes

 Hockey Hall of Famer Harry "Hap" Holmes played only 103 NHL games, but enjoyed a 15 year career with 5 different leagues. He was one of hockey's early star puck stoppers, and had he not spent his best years out west, Hap Holmes almost certainly would be bigger legend in hockey circles today.


Holmes strapped on the pads for Toronto of the NHA, Seattle of the PCHA, Victoria of the WCHL which would later become the WHL, and Toronto and Detroit of the NHL.

The cap-wearing Holmes backstopped four Stanley Cup winners, including two in Toronto, one in the NHA days and another in the NHL's very first season. He also backstopped Seattle and Victoria.


However his most famous feat came in one of hockey's most infamous moments.

That moment was the 1919 influenza cancelled Stanley Cup finals. The series featured the two best goalies of early hockey history, as Holmes went head to head with his nemesis, Georges Vezina. The final game was a 0-0 draw. Due to the flu, the referee called the game off to rest the weary players. That set up a 7th game showdown. Unfortunately that 7th game was never played, as the flu claimed the life of Joe Hall.

Though much of his career pre-dated the NHL or was spent out west in the PCHA/WHL, the legendary Holmes finally became a NHL star at the end of his career. He, like most surviving members of the Victoria Cougars, relocated to Detroit. He played the final two seasons of his career in the Motor City, earning an impressive 17 shutouts in 85 games.

Described as both fearless and non-chalent almost to a fault. Some mistook his "nerveless" approach to the net as lazy, just like some mistook his efficient play as unspectacular.

Following his retirement from the crease, Holmes became instrumental in bringing AHL hockey to Cleveland. To honour his contributions, "Hap" Holmes is now forever immortalized in the American Hockey League. The top goalie in that league is awarded the Hap Holmes Memorial Trophy.

Illness forced Holmes to seek warmer climates later in life. He relocated to Florida and operated a fruit farm until his death in 1941. He was just 53.

The NHL honoured Hap Holmes with his posthumous induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

Make no mistake, Hap Holmes truly was one of the best goaltenders in the world in his long, 15 year career. He was arguably the best goalie in the PCHA for six straight years. He saved his best play for the playoffs. His four Stanley Cup championships with four different teams should be stuff of legend. He even outduelled the likes of Georges Vezina and Clint Benedict.

Norman "Hec" Fowler

This is Norman Fowler. He was better known by his nickname Hec, sometimes spelled Heck. The origins of the nickname remain unknown to me. Perhaps it was because he gave his opponents heck. He was a a brawling puck stopper, an early day Ron Hextall.

Born in Saskatoon in 1892, Fowler rose through the goaltending in the junior ranks in northern Saskatchewan city, earning praise and notice.

He turned his youthful passion into a career that took him to some unusual places. In 1916 he moved to Spokane, Washington to play for the Canaries of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. He would later play with the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans and Victoria Aristocrats/Cougars.

When the Boston Bruins joined the National Hockey League in 1924, they acquired Fowler from Victoria to be the Bruins first goaltender.

The excitement soon faded for the Bruins and especially for Fowler. After seven games he was dumped. He had won just one of those games and allowed 42 goals.

There is even some suggestion that Fowler burned some bridges by admitting he was allowing extra goals against in hopes that the Bruins would go out and get some better players. Manager Art Ross opted to do just that, but named Fowler as their scapegoat and let him go.

Ross apparently even suspended and fined Fowler as much as $1,000. Fowler returned home but found a new team in the Edmonton Eskimos. Somehow though, Ross bound Fowler to a contract for just $1. In order to secure his release the Eskimos paid Fowler's $1000 fine.

Fowler took his $1 and framed it. He reportedly posted it on the walls of a printing shop he opened in Saskatoon after retiring from hockey.

Fowler would play two seasons in Edmonton before relocating to California to play for a team called Oakland Shieks! He was somewhat of a celebrity in the sunshine state, dubbed a "human blanket" for his puck stopping abilities.

I found one article from 1951 by Vern DeGeer of the Montreal Gazette which paints "Heck" Fowler as one of the most colorful hockey players ever. Here's the highlights:

  • "Probably the roughest and toughest goaltender to hit major professional hockey in the last 35 years . . ."
  • "Fowler was a physical culture fanatic with arms like a village smithy and legs hewed from steel."
  • "He often participated in speed contests against Phil Taylor (formerly of the Ice Follies and Ice Capades) and Norman Faulkner, a prairie champion before losing a leg in the First World War."
  • He was an avid baseball player, uniquely playing short stop like a goalie. "He played the position hockey-fashion, blocking grounders with his feet and shins, then making the pick-up for the throw."
  • "During the summer months he used to get out on the sidewalk in front of his house and invite neighboring kids to fire pucks at his unprotected shins."
  • He also was quite the amateur soccer goalie.
But it was his temper and physical play that set him apart from most goalies.

"Insisting that a goaltender's cage was his castle, Fowler wouldn't permit an opponent within a stick's length. Oldtimers who campaigned against him will tell you Fowler was the original wood-chopper. He delighted in laying on the lumber. If you got too close for a good belt with the hickory, he'd throw a punch.

"He served time in every penalty box within skating distance during his eventful professional career. In his campaigning days when a goalie was penalized no substitute was permitted to serve his sentence as is done today. He engaged in a dozen fist fights in the Coast League, several in the NHL and despite the burden of equipment, didn't lose many decisions. In a duel with the sticks, which was the favorite skull denting approach until the moderns encouraged a milder form of physical encounter, he could swing his heavier war club vigorously enough to fell one of California's famous Redwood trees. But he preferred his fists. Claimed he was always breaking sticks and his tough knuckles took the punishment easier."

August 07, 2020

Roy Rickey

Roy Rickey was the only member of the 1917 Stanley Cup champion Seattle Metropolitans who never did get to play in the National Hockey League.

Now of course most of those Mets players were already established players for a number of seasons. And the NHL was just starting up in 1917. Most of the Mets players had brief appearances in the NHL late in their careers, but not Rickey.

Rickey, a defenseman from Ottawa, joined the Mets in 1915 and played eight seasons in Seattle. He was not exactly the most prolific scorer, but a solid contributor to the considerable team success.

That success included the 1917 Stanley Cup championship - the first by an American based team - along with return trips to the Stanley Cup final in 1919 and 1920. 

Seattle was on their way to defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the 1919 Stanley Cup before the whole series was cancelled due to the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed Montreal star Bad Joe Hall. That terrible virus affected other players, too, including Rickey who was hospitalized and unavailable to play had they continued on.

In 1920 the Seattle Metropolitans lost the Stanley Cup showdown with the Ottawa Senators. The Senators would go on to form a hockey dynasty while the Mets began to decline thereafter.

By 1924 the Mets were done and Rickey's contract was sold to the WCHL's Edmonton Eskimos. Major pro hockey in the west would only last another season, as the NHL won the bidding war for players and forced the PCHA/WCHL into financial submission. Rickey's rights - along with that of Bullet Joe Simpson and Crutchy Morrison (nicknames were fantastic back in the olden days!) were sold to the New York Americans of the NHL for $10,000.

But Rickey never went to the Big Apple. Instead he went back to Ontario where he played and coached in minor pro leagues in Niagara Falls and Hamilton. He also played one final season, 1928-29, in Los Angeles.

Cully Wilson


Long before there was Bob Probert or Todd Bertuzzi or John Ferguson or the Broad Street Bullies, hockey's bad boy was a man named Carol. Hey, he was actually born as Karl Wilhons Erlendson but the family changed their names. Regardless, Carol mostly went by his nickname - "Cully."

And make no mistake, Cully Wilson would make a name for himself as one of hockey's all time baddest boys.

"Cully" Wilson broke into the NHA in the 1912-13 season with the Toronto Blueshirts. He played on the 1914 Stanley Cup winner, then he really established his reputation as a thug. In 1914-15 Wilson had a whopping 138 penalty minutes in only 20 games.

The PCHA raided NHA clubs after the NHA teams attempted to sign the great Cyclone Taylor. Wilson signed with Seattle, where he would play the next four years. In the 1918-19 season, in a celebrated fight, Wilson viciously cross-checked Mickey MacKay of the Vancouver Millionaires, breaking MacKay's jaw and giving him a concussion.

The Stanley Cup finals that year pitted Cully Wilson against "Bad Joe" Hall of the Montreal Canadiens, the two baddest men in hockey. Reports at the time suggested "Joe Hall and Cully Wilson kept the game nicely spiced with their rough play. Hall was picking on (Jack) Walker while Wilson, as usual, took on everybody." Unfortunately the Stanley Cup was never completed that season due to a terrible influenza outbreak that claimed Joe Hall's life.

He signed with the Toronto St.Pats of the NHL in 1919, and didn't mellow. He led the league in penalty minutes with 86 in 23 games during the 1919-20 season, as well as scoring 20 goals.

The following year he was loaned to the Montreal Canadiens after 8 games with the St. Pats. He loved playing for the Habs and refused to go back to Toronto the following season. He was initially suspended for the season, but the suspension was lifted when Wilson was traded to Hamilton. Hamilton was having financial problems and seized upon an opportunity to sell Wilson to the Calgary Tigers of the new WCHL.

Yet another vicious incident occurred in the 1924 playoffs involving Wilson. Howie Morenz had the hat trick in game one for the Montreal Canadiens as the Habs won 6-1. In the second game the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup by the score of 3-0, Morenz scoring again. But Wilson levelled Morenz with a vicious cross-check that tore ligaments in Morenz's shoulder and chipped his collarbone. No penalty was assessed on the play.

Wilson continued to play effectively for the next two seasons, and when the WHL folded, the Chicago Blackhawks picked him up. But by this time, Cully was over the hill and after the 1926-27 season, he was sent to the minors where he finished his career.

Wilson returned to Seattle after his playing days and worked for more than three decades for North West Steamship Lines. He passed away in 1962 at the age of 70.

Eddie Carpenter

His name was Ed Carpenter, also known mistakenly as Carpentier. His given name was Everard. Most people called him Eddie.

Eddie Carpenter was one of the first American born players in National Hockey League. He was born in Hartford, Michigan (no, not Connecticut) way back on June 15th, 1887, though he moved to Canada as a youngster. He grew up in Lachute, Quebec and as a young man moved to Port Arthur, Ontario, which is now known as Thunder Bay, and began working with the Canadian National Railway.

Carpenter grew up playing hockey and was pretty good at it. By 1914 he joined the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association, forerunner to the National Hockey League. He then headed west to play two seasons with the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, a major hockey league that competed against the NHA/NHL.

Carpenter returned to Port Arthur in 1917, serving with Canada's military at a base there. He would spend two years contributing to Canada's efforts in World War I.

The defenseman returned to the ice in 1919 and found employment with Quebec of the National Hockey League. He scored eight goals and twelve points.

The following season Carpenter moved to Hamilton to play with the Tigers for a season, adding two more goals and an assist to his NHL resume.

NHL salaries back then were not quite as lucrative as they are nowadays. Carpenter decided to retire and head back home to Port Arthur. He coached the local senior Bearcats team to back-to-back Allan Cup championships in 1925 and 1926 as Canada's amateur champions. He also sat on city council for a period of time.

Around 1945 Carpenter moved to Winnipeg to work as a locomotive engineer until his retirement in 1954.

Carpenter remained in Winnipeg until his death in 1963, succumbing to liver cancer. He was 75 years old.

Seattle's Best: Bobby Rowe


At a reported 5'6" and 160lbs you wouldn't think Bobby Rowe was big enough to be one of the most intimidating physical players of his time. But this hard hitting forward-turned-defenseman definitely earned the respect of the opposition.

Rowe had one of the longest careers in the early days of professional hockey. He started in 1909 in the National Hockey Association (forerunner to the NHL) and retired in 1926, at the age of 40.

But chances are you have never heard of Bobby Rowe. "Stubby" only played in 4 NHL games, all with Boston in 1924-25. He scored one goal.

His NHL stint was but a tiny footnote of an otherwise impressive career. After two years with Renfrew of the NHA (he played as a forward, scoring 24 goals in 26 games) he moved out west in 1911. He became a notable player in Frank and Lester Patrick's Pacific Coast Hockey Association, first with Victoria and then in Seattle. The PCHA quickly grew into the western equivalent of the eastern-based NHL. And Rowe was a mainstay in that league for 13 seasons.

When the PCHA eventually folded Rowe made his brief appearance in Boston but it was short-lived. He soon returned to the west coast, settling in Portland, Oregon where he became a long time coach.