May 19, 2007

Senators In Cup Finals For First Time In 80 Years

Okay, my headline is a little misleading.

It is true that the Ottawa Senators have not appeared in a Stanley Cup finals match since 1927. They won the Stanley Cup that year, and in fact capped off a Stanley Cup dynasty, winning 4 Cup titles in the 1920s. The city of Ottawa has won 9 Stanley Cup titles, dating back to the Ottawa Silver Seven days early in the 20th century.

80 years reeks of Chicago White Sox-like incompetency, but that is not fair in the case of the Ottawa Senators. The original Senators ran into financial problems, moved to St. Louis in 1934 and folded a year later. It was not until 1992 that NHL expansion saw the re-birth of the Ottawa Senators.

Now of course most of us know the new-Sens modern history. There are two distinct chapters, with the Sens hoping to finish a third here in 2007. Chapter one was the fumbled expansion years as the worse team in hockey. Chapter two saw the emergence of the franchinse as a regular season power house that always faltered in the playoffs, all too often to the provincial rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

But not too many of us can say they know a lot about the original Senators team and their much more glorious history, let alone say they saw in person the last time the Senators won the Stanley Cup. I don't know if anyone is still alive to make that claim, though I suspect if there is the Ottawa media hounds will be on the journalistic beat soon.

The Senators of 1927 defeated the Boston Bruins 2-0-2 in a best of five series. Yep, that's right. You could have ties back then. In fact, game 3, a 1-1 tie, was never completed due to terrible ice conditions at the Ottawa Auditorium.

The 1927 Champs were led by the scoring exploits of Cy Denneny (picture #1). The Dany Heatley-like sharpshooter scored 4 goals against the Bruins, including the Stanley Cup winning goal at 7:30 of the second period of game 4. Denneny wasn't the greatest skater but he was a top marksman, the highest scoring player in the original Senators history. He actually retired as the NHL's all time leader in goals and points.

In goal the Senators boasted local boy Alec Connell (picture #3). Known as the "Fireman" simply because he was actually a fireman in addition to a hockey player, Connell also put out the fire of opposing sharpshooters. He had allowed only 3 goals against in 240 minutes in the '27 Finals for a GAA of just 0.75.

Though he is remembered as perhaps the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf of all time, these Senators also boasted the charismatic King Clancy on defense. He was a heck of a player, making up for what he lacked in size with the biggest spirit imaginable.

The '27 Sens had other superstars not to be forgotten, to be frank.

There was Frank Nighbor, the legendary "Pembroke Peach." Nighbor was an outstanding two way player, a former Hart trophy winner as MVP and Lady Byng's favorite player. Lady Byng was the wife of Canada's Governor General, the Queen's representative in Canada. Ms. Byng was so impressed with Nighbor's clean play and sportsmanship she had the trophy for cleanest player made. Not surprisingly Nighbor won it in the trophy's first two years.

Then there was Frank Finnigan (picture #2), the "Shawville Express," who had his number 8 retired the new Senators when they returned to the league in 1992. He was a flawless defensive forward.

Hooley Smith, an early day Todd Bertuzzi-like combination of skill and thuggery. Smith, better known for his days on the Montreal Maroons' S-Line, clobbered Boston's Harry Oliver with his stick during the 1927 finals. The incident inflamed Boston's short-tempered madman Billy Coutu to attack referee Jerry Laflamme in the arena corridors at the end of the final game. Coutu was subsequently suspended for life by NHL president Frank Calder.

Though he saw little ice time in the 1927 playoffs, 19 year old rookie "Hurricane" Hec Kilrea got his lengthy hockey career off to a nice start with a Stanley Cup ring. All players were given an 18 carat gold ring with 14 small diamonds in the shape of an "O."

George Boucher played defense for the Senators. He retired 5 years later as the NHL's all time leader in games played.

Long time player Jack Adams was the only new player to join the Senators this season. He would retire at season's end and become one of hockey's greatest and longest coaches and executives.

Also contributing to the Senators last championship were a trio of defensemen: England-born - Ottawa-raised Alex Smith, rookie Milt Halliday and solid though brief NHL defender Ed Gorman.

Clearly I need to add more biographies on the early Ottawa Senators and early hockey days in general. I do have over 50 players from this era profiled, and I encourage you to take a look.

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