September 06, 2015

Billy Bell

Billy Bell was one of the original National Hockey League players.

Bell had been a solid player with the Montreal Wanderers of the National Hockey Association from 1914 through 1917. When the NHA essentially folded over night and became the National Hockey League, the Wanderers and Bell became NHL originals.

The Wanderers didn't last long. Their arena burned down after just six games, and the franchise folded with their players dispersed around the league. Bell did not have to go far, as he joined the Montreal Canadiens. 

Bell's role with the Canadiens changed. With the Wanderers he emerged as a decent goal scorer who played the game with a physical edge that saw him visit the penalty box a lot. But with the Canadiens (and the one season he was loaned out to the Ottawa Senators) his offensive contributions all but dried up (only scoring twice in four years). Reports describe him as a defensive forward, though in reality he was a rarely used substitute.

Bell retired after the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1924, but he did not hang up his skates. He became a referee, although an at times controversial one at that. He was in the headlines again in 1927 when he, and referee partner Jerry Laflamme, was attacked by Boston Bruins defenseman Billy Couture.

It was the final game game of the playoffs, with the Ottawa Senators defeating the Bruins for the Stanley Cup. The series was spoiled by the disgraceful brawl near the end of the game when tempers frayed. Hooley Smith viciously cross-checked Harry Oliver in the face, knocking him unconscious. Eddie Shore came to Oliver's rescue and pounded Smith to a bloody pulp. Then Hitchman and Buck Boucher got into a classic fist fight, and then it was Coutu's turn to get into the act. He punched referee Jerry LaFlamme, knocking him down, and tackled Billy Bell, the other referee, as he was coming to LaFlamme's aid. For this, Coutu was expelled from the National Hockey League for life by NHL president Frank Calder.

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