November 26, 2009

Harry Oliver

This is Selkirk, Manitoba's Harry Oliver. He played 463 NHL games in the 1920s and 1930s, most notably with the Boston Bruins but also with the now defunct New York Americans.

The New York Americans were the original NHL team in New York and in the famed Madison Square Gardens, pre-dating the New York Rangers by a season. The Amerks were originally the Hamilton Tigers, relocating after hockey's first labour dispute. Renamed the Brooklyn Americans in 1941, the franchise would fold in 1942 due to dire financial straits during the Great Depression and World War II.

Notable players to wear the Americans' sweaters include Hall of Famers Billy Burch, Red Dutton, Shorty Green, Bullet Joe Simpson, and Shrimp Worters.

And what beautiful sweaters they were. Here's a better look at Oliver's #8 sweater, which happens to be up for auction at Classic Auctions.net.

Oliver is a long forgotten Hockey Hall of Famer.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inclusion is even more remarkable considering he was entirely self taught.

"When I was a kid, there was no organized hockey," he explained. "We just went out and played, sometimes on an outdoor rink, but mostly on the river."

He didn't play organized hockey until his late teens when he was playing junior and senior hockey in Selkirk.

The 5'8" 155lb forward, not surprisingly nicknamed "Pee Wee," had a 16 year pro career in hockey including his WCHL days in Calgary where he was the Tigers' leading scorer.

He moved to Boston in 1927 following the collapse of the western leagues. A nifty stickhandler and remarkable poke checker, he found success in Boston on a line with Percy Galbraith and Marty Barry. In 1929 Oliver played an important role in delivering the Stanley Cup to Boston.

In 1935 Oliver moved to New York where he played well with Art Chapman and Lorne Carr. He played three years with the Americans before retiring in 1937.


Derek said...

Harry Oliver was always on a line with Galbraith - as top line. The center changed frequently but he had the most success with Fredrickson as his center.
Harry finished first among Bruins in goals and points through his first three years, the last three years of no forward passing. The Bruins went on to the Stanley Cup final in his first year and won their first Stanley Cup in his 3rd year. He finished among the teams Top 5 in goals for his first 7 years with the Bruins. Final season – 14 points in 48 games – 1933-34.

Harry Oliver led the Calgary Tigers, of the Western Hockey League, in points for four consecutive seasons before coming to the Bruins. He led the team in goals in three of these four seasons.

Harry began his hockey career with the Selkirk Fishermen of the Manitoba Hockey League. He had just finished his 6th full seasons with Calgary’s franchise in the WHL when that league folded at the end of the 1925-26 season.
They call him “Pee Wee” – but he’s not so little. In fact, Harry Oliver continues to be a big shot even when he’s surrounded by the greatest gallery of hockey stars ever skating under one team’s colors – the world’s champion Bruins, and even though he’s a veteran, 31 years old.
And Oliver isn’t such a mite of a man either – the way he throws his 156 pounds into the whirl of scrimmages and body checks. He is a clean player, a remarkable poke checker and a deadly shot.
“Pee Wee” Oliver first saw an icy world at Selkirk, Manitoba, where men are skaters. After six seasons with the Selkirk team, which made such a splash in hockey throughout Canada in those days – 1924 – Harry became a big star with Calgary in the Western Canada Hockey League always being one of the most foremost leaders in scoring.

Derek said...

Harry Oliver was born at Selkirk, Manitoba in 1898. He played his junior hockey in Selkirk and joined the Selkirk Fishermen in the Manitoba Senior Hockey League in 1918. His first year with the Fishermen they won the Manitoba Senior Hockey League title
and challenged Hamilton for the Allan Cup. He played one more year with the Fishermen before moving to Calgary to join the Calgary Canadiens. He then played 5 years for the Calgary Tigers in the West Coast Hockey League and became an elite player in that league. He was a key member of the Tiger team that won the 1923-24 WCHL championship, which lost to the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup.
Harry joined the Bruins in the club’s 3rd year and led the team in scoring in his rookie season with 18 goals and 24 points. He was a 28-year-old rookie and one only has to wonder what his NHL career numbers may have looked like had he started in the NHL at a younger age. Only 4 players had more goals than Harry Oliver in his first season. He recorded a mere 17 PIM through 42 games. Playing on a the top line with the flashy Frank Fredrickson and the defensive forward, Perk Galbraith the Bruins not only made the playoffs for the first time but advanced through to the 1927 Stanley Cup final against the long established Ottawa Senators. Oliver led the team with 4 goals in the playoffs.
Harry was from the old school of hockey before the forward pass and his greatest NHL success materialized before forward passing was permitted. He led the team in goals and points in his first 3 seasons – the last of these seasons he led the team to its first Stanley Cup. Through his first 7 years he always scored 10 or more goals (82 game projection 16-18 goals), and his final year with the Bruins, 1933-34, was his lowest output when he only lit the lamp five times. He was a true goal scorer as he only hit the 10 assist mark once in his time with the Bruins. He was the first player to score 100 goals as a Bruin. After 10 years of Bruins history (being sold after the
organization’s 10th year) he ranked 3rd in all-time Bruin goals behind Dit Clapper and Marty Barry, and only Lionel Hitchman had played more games in a Bruin jersey. He was sold to the NY Americans prior to the 1934-35 season. After two relatively successful years with the Americans Oliver became ill.

Veteran Harry Oliver May Be Out for the Season
Montreal, January 13th 1937: Harry Oliver, veteran right winger of the New York Americans, was reported resting comfortably in hospital tonight, after an operation that may keep him off the ice for the balance of the NHL season.
His illness started with influenza and then it was found necessary to perform a mastoid operation.
Harry stepped out of the hockey limelight and became an electrician in Winnipeg. In 1952 Oliver and the 1928-29 Cup winning team made their bow at the Boston Gardens in a pre-game ceremony.
Harry was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967.

Harry Oliver, at 155 pounds, was one of the lightest players of any era in hockey. He played with Boston for eight years, moving up from the Selkirk Manitoba Ponds, and the Calgary pro team. In 1934 he was traded to the New York Americans and played with that club three years. In his 11 year career in the NHL he scored 127 goals and had 95 assists. After leaving hockey he became head electrician for an airplane repair depot in Winnipeg before his retirement at 65.
Nicknamed “Speedy” and “Pee Wee” it was said that his shooting and stick-handling set him in a class by himself. He was a gentlemanly player who never received more than 24 penalty minutes in a single season.

Derek said...

He was the first to score 100 goals in a Bruin uniform and was the first Bruin to score at Boston Garden.