May 14, 2007

NHL Playoff Legends: Jack Darragh

Taking a 3-0 lead over the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators are looking like likely Stanley Cup finalists for the first time since the 1920s. But if the Senators are to win the Stanley Cup in 2007, they'll need to find a hero to emerge. A hero like original Senator Jack Darragh.

Ottawa born and bred, Jack Darragh joined the Sens in 1910 when the team was part of the National Hockey Association, the fore-runner to the NHL. Playing that first year on right wing with Marty Walsh and Dubbie Kerr, it was the start of a 12 year career as a member of the Sens.

Jack was a speedball with a great knack for goal scoring. His backhand was particularly lethal, often surprising goalies as that was a largely undeveloped tactic in those days. He also pioneered the "wrong wing" theory, as he was a left handed shot playing on the right side. Jack, one of the cleanest players of his era, had some fine years in the old NHA, scoring 124 goals (and 17 assists, which were rarely recorded) in 132 games.

In 1917 the NHA was dissolved and the National Hockey League arose from its ashes. The Senators joined the NHL. Playing on right wing with fellow Hall of Famers Frank Nighbor and Cy Denneny, Jack had three great years to start off his NHL career. He scored 14 goals in 18 games in 1917-18, 11 goals in 14 games in 1918-19 and 22 goals and 36 points in 24 games in 1919-20.

Much like a modern day Glenn Anderson, Darragh was able to take his game to a higher level in Stanley Cup competition.

In 1920 Darragh led the Senators to their first Stanley Cup championship as a member of the NHL. He had the game winner in all three of Ottawa's victories among his five goals. With the series tied he took over with a hat-trick and was the big star in the series clincher. In addition to three winners he had a first goal and two unassisted tallies to his credit.

The following year Darragh rebounded from a weak regular season (just 11 goals in 24 games) to lead all post season scorers with 5 goals to lead the Senators to a repeat championship. In the Cup clinching game it was Darragh who had the game tying and game winning goal.

Interestingly, Darragh almost missed the 1921 finals. Darragh worked for the Ottawa Dairy Company, as NHL salaries in those days were not much to bank upon. Ottawa's mayor had to convince the Dairy to give Darragh the time off.

Wanting to retire on top of his profession, Darragh shocked the hockey world by quitting after the 1921 championship. However his retirement was short lived as he came back in 1923 following the departure of Frank Boucher. Playing largely as a substitute for the Senators new hired gun Punch Broadbent, Darragh helped the Senators to another Stanley Cup championship.

Darragh also returned for the 1923-24 season, but he was bothered by a serious stomach virus. His season was cut short as it was discovered he was suffering of peritonitis, a disease that would claim his life by the summer 1924. He was just 33 years old.

Jack Darragh was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously in 1962.

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