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March 24, 2008

Billy Burch

Billy Burch was born in Yonkers, NY in 1900. Although he grew up in Canada and played the game at an early age in the Toronto area, Burch is known as the first American born star in the National Hockey League.

Burch's career started with the Hamilton Tigers in 1923 where he teamed up with brothers Red and Shorty Green to form a high scoring line that took the Hamilton team from last place to serious Cup contender in 2 short seasons. The best season for Burch and the Tigers was 1924-25 when Billy won the Hart Trophy that season as the League's most valuable player. The Tigers were favorites to win the Cup, but the Hamilton players refused to take part in the post season unless each player received and additional $200 for playing extra games. It was hockey's first player's strike and it cost Burch his best shot at the Stanley Cup.

The Hamilton team was shifted to the US where it became the New York Americans in 1925. Burch, an excellent playmaker and stickhandler, was made captain. Since he was born in Yonkers he was quickly promoted as "the Babe Ruth of hockey" in order to drum up interest in hockey. A slick skater and playmaker, Burch kept the fans in the stands. Hockey became very popular in New York, partly due to Bill Burch's excellent play, and soon the NHL introduced a second New York team, the Rangers.

The 1927 Lady Byng Trophy winner, Burch starred with the Americans until 1932 when he was sold to Boston. The financially strapped Americans needed to sell their top players in order to pay the bills during the Great Depression. Burch disappointed in his stint with the Bruins and was traded to the Black Hawks, January 17, 1933 in exchange for Vic Ripley. Near the end of the 32-33 season, Billy broke his leg, and retired.

Burch played in 390 regular season games, scoring 137 goals and 53 assists. He died in 1950, 24 years before his induction into hockey's Hall of Fame.

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