John "Jack" Liddell MacDonald "Doc" Gibson - Born September 10, 1880 in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario – Died November 4, 1954 in Calgary, Alberta was an ice Hockey player, referee, executive and dentist.
Gibson was a all-round athlete while growing up, excelling in baseball, soccer, lacrosse, cricket, tennis, rowing, swimming, skating, you name the sport, he was good at it. But, it wasn't until he was sent to Pickering College, a private school near Toronto where he learned to play ice Hockey, becoming captain of the school team.
Gibson then played for the Berlin Hockey Club, starting in the 1895-96 OHA-Intermediate season. He helped them win the 1907 OHA Intermediate championship, defeating the Frontenac Hockey Club (Kingston Frontenacs) in the final.
Gibson then went to Detroit, Michigan for school at the Detroit College of Medicine / DCM to become a dentist, joining their Hockey team, DCM for the 1897-98 season. He played for the DCM until 1900 when he graduated with a Dentist Degree / DDS.
While at the Detroit College of Medicine, Gibson also continued to play for the Berlin Hockey Club, who had moved up to the senior OHA ranks in 1898. Its first senior game came against local rival Waterloo on January 6, 1898. The arena was filled with fans from both cities and the excitement was palpable. The rules of the day called for seven men per side with no substitutions, two 30-minute halves, and no forward passing. The game was hard-fought, with players from both sides playing through injuries. Berlin raced out to a 6-0 lead, with Gibson scoring 1 of them, but one top player took a slash to the cheek while another had his ankle cut badly by the puck. Both were dripping blood, but refused to leave the ice. Weakened, the Berlin team allowed Waterloo four goals in the second half but managed to hold on for a 6-4 victory. The mayor of Berlin, D. Rumpel, who also served as the team's manager, rushed onto the ice and awarded Gibson and his teammates each a $10 gold piece in celebration of the win.
Rumpel had apparently won a substantial amount betting on the outcome of the game.
The next morning’s newspaper accounts of the Berlin-Waterloo game mentioned the mayor’s generosity. The OHA executive was outraged. The gift was clearly a blatant violation of their newly passed anti-professional stand (to keep amateur Hockey untainted by money). The Berlin Hockey club was requested to meet with the executive and explain the situation. At the hearing, the Berlin players argued that the coins were not going to be spent, but that a watchmaker was going to attach them to the back of their pocket watches. Unfortunately, very few of the players could produce their coins (most had spent them already) and the entire team was banned from OHA Hockey. Gibson had his coin and offered to return it, but to no avail.
The Berlin Hockey Club was reinstated the following season, and Gibson continued to play for them for the next 2 seasons, along with the DCM team in Detroit. While playing Hockey for the Detroit College of Medicine, the team played a exhibition game at the Palace Ice Rink in Ripley (Hancock) against a team from Houghton, Michigan.
Gibson quite liked Houghton, and after graduating with his Dentist Degree, he returned to Houghton to set up a dental practice.
Gibson immersed himself in the Houghton community, and became members of Knights of Pythias, Fraternal Order of Eagles, and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Gibson also belonged to Company G, Third Regiment, Houghton Light Infantry, of the Michigan National Guards.
Merv Youngs, a reporter for the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette discovered that the towns new dentist was a former Hockey player from Canada, and captain of his dentist school team. Youngs wrote a series of stories about Gibson and his Hockey exploits.
Youngs also persuaded Gibson to organize a local Hockey team, which would become known as the Portage Lake Hockey Club, also nicknamed the Portage Lakers. The name originated from a body of water in the Keeweenaw Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior.
Gibson was soon to meet Charles E. Webb, who would manage Portage Lakers team, and James R. Dee, a local successful businessman, who would later fund the team when it turned professional in 1903, also promoting and organizing a company to build the Amphidrome in 1902. It was the largest enclosed ice rink in the country at the time, and the 1st building in the World specifically for Hockey.
Games were played across the inlet from Houghton, at the Palace in Ripley (Palace Ice Rink), a former Lake Superior Smelting Works building with posts down the middle of the ice.
Gibson was the captain of the Portage Lake Hockey Club, at first a amateur team, with mostly locals, and some of his old medical DCM teammates, but Gibson would soon start to recruit from Canada.
The first team consisted of Gibson, Dr. Earl Hay (also a dentist), Dr Percy Willson, Dr. Robert Bruce Harkness, Wally Washburn, Andy Haller, Burt Potter and two other players - Thompson and E. Delaney with Charles Webb as manager. They played in December of 1900 and early 1901 to March.
"Doc" Gibson as he was now known, and the Portage Lake Hockey Team would change a little for the 1901-02 season. Their team now consisted of Dr. Earl Hay, Dr. Percy Willson, Andy Haller, Wally Washburn, and new players Bobby Rowe, Herbert Meinke, Eddie Howell, Chief Jones and of course Doc Gibson. They would later play a 2 game total goal series against a semi-pro team from Pittsburgh. The game was billed as "The Championship of the United States" and played in March, 1902 at the Palace Ice Rink. Game 1 saw a 5-4 Portage Lakers victory, and game 2 saw a 3-2 Pittsburgh victory, which meant a tie. There was no 3rd game played. The loss of game 2 was the only one for the Portage Lakers during the 1901-02 season.
The success of the Portage Lakers, and the sell-out crowds at the Palace Ice Rink, instigated the construction of the Houghton Amphidrome in the fall of 1902. The Amphidrome was 2 blocks from the railway station for easy access for visiting teams and spectators. The 1st game was played on December 27, 1902 that saw Gibson and the Portage Lakers defeat the University of Toronto Varsity 13-2.
The 1902-3 season was very successful for the Portage Lakers, as they went undefeated during the season against Canadian and American teams, with only a tie (13-0-1). Doc Gibson, still the captain, would be the leading scorer on the team, which would be crowned the Champions of the United States 1902-3 after defeating the Pittsburgh Bankers 1-0 in the final game of the season on March 3rd.
In the fall of 1903, Gibson made a momentous decision. He resolved to make the Portage Lake Hockey Club the 1st professional Hockey team. He would return to Ontario with team manager Webb, and recruit talented players for their team, offering a salary to play in Houghton. The kid with the $10 gold coin, who had been been suspended by the OHA for taking a payment for playing, was about to become "The Father of Professional Hockey"
The new Portage Lake Hockey Team would have Doc Gibson as captain, Hod Stuart, Bruce Stuart, Bert Morrison and goaltender Riley Hern as it's star players for the 1903-4 season. This Portage Lake team was perhaps one of the greatest Hockey teams of all times." In 25 games they scored 257 goals and allowed only 49. Only twice were they defeated - by American Soo, 7-6, in the regular season, and by Pittsburgh, 5-2, in U.S. playoffs best of 3 championship game one. The Lakers then beat Pittsburg, 5-1 in game two, and 7-0 in game three for the American Championship. The 3 games were played at Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh
Then, on March 18, 1904, The local newspaper in Houghton, The Daily Mining Gazette, announces that "the Wanderers of Montreal have challenged the Portage Lakes for the championship of the world." Over 5,000 fans packed into the Amphidrome to watch the 2 game series. Portage Lake defeated the Montreal Wanderers, 8-4 on March 21, and 9-2, to lay claim to the World Championship. Gibson had been quoted as being the top scorer on the Portage Lakers team during the season, but accurate records were not kept about his scoring feats, and he had injured his ankle during the season, and missed at least 1 game. Bruce Stuart was the true scoring ace for the Lakers, with 44 goals in 14 regular season games, and 28 goals in 9 playoff games.
The Portage Lake Hockey Club was not playing in any league, playing teams from both Canada and the United States. The games were considered exhibition games. Gibson and team manager Webb approached James Dee with the idea of forming a professional league, so the Portage Lakers could have a regular schedule with consistent high caliber Hockey played at the Amphidrome. Dee set out with the idea, contacting many other potential teams. Originally called the "American Hockey League" with 4 teams, but after a Canadian entry, the name was changed to the International (Professional) Hockey League (IHL). The 5 teams were - Portage Lake, Calumet Miners, Michigan Soo Indians, Pittsburgh Pro HC and the Canadian Soo.
Portage Lake with home ice in the new Amphidrome on a inlet of Lake Superior and team colors of Green & White; Calumet with home ice in the new Palastra and team colors of Pearl Gray & Cardinal; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with home ice at their local curling rink named the Ridge Street Ice-A-Torium and team colors of Purple & White; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with home ice at their local Curling Rink and team colors of Red & Black (the following year, they changed their team colors to Red & White); and Pittsburgh, PA with home ice in the Duquesne Gardens and team colors of Red & Blue. (Referees wore yellow sweaters during games.) This professional league attracted many of the best of the Canadian players from the established Canadian amateur leagues to come here to play pro in the US. Every player in the International Hockey League received a salary and some were also given lucrative jobs in the community. "Hod" Stuart, from Ottawa, Ontario, who was considered by some to be the "greatest hockey player in the world" was paid $1,800 by Calumet to play for the team and manage their rink for the 1904-05 season! Since the hockey season was only 2+ months long because of the natural ice, most Canadian players returned home to their families and regular jobs in Canada at the end of each season; requiring the IHL managers to organize a new team each season.
Gibson played the 1st full pro IHL season with the Portage Lakers, playing in all 24 games, but he only scored 2 goals. Bruce Stuart again led the team in scoring with 33 goals, while new teammate Fred Lake was second with 14 goals. Gibson still played a strong season, and was voted to the All-American All Star Team at the point position, by the readers of the Calumet Copper Country Evening News for the 1904-5 season, and Pat Egan of the Pittsburgh Times also selected Gibson to his IHL All Star team.
Calumet would win the 1st IHL championship, with Portage Lake finishing 2nd.
In the spring of 1905 Portage Lake sent word to the Stanley Cup committee Board of Governors challenging the Ottawa Silver Seven to a championship series, and in 1906 they did the same to Montreal. Both refused.
Gibson would not play on the 1905-6 Portage Lake team, which now had future Hall of Famers Cyclone Taylor and Joe Hall on the team. Houghton would win the 1906 IHL championship. Gibson would referee 21 games in the IHL during the season.
Gibson did play on the 1906-7 Portage Lake team, but only 2 games with 0 goals. Houghton would again win the IHL championship.
The Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association / ECAHA was now allowing professional Hockey players to join the amateur teams during the 1907 season, which played from January to March. This would affect the IHL, as many of the top players were getting better offers to play in Canada.
The International Hockey League was not able to match the salaries being offered in Canada, and their paying fan base for games played at their rinks was not bringing in enough revenues, so the league folded after the 1906-7 season.
Both Doc Gibson and James Dee are considered the "Fathers of Professional Hockey" for their efforts to start the IHL, known as the 1st fully professional Hockey league in the World.
After practising dentistry and refereeing local games in Houghton for a few years, Gibson also returned to Canada and set up a dental practice in Calgary, Alberta, where he resided until he died in 1954.
Beginning in 1939, a trophy, named the Gibson Cup, was awarded to the champion of the Michigan-Ontario Pro Hockey League. Today, the Gibson Cup is given to the winner of an annual challenge series between the Portage Lake Pioneers and the Calumet Wolverines. The Gibson Cup is the third-oldest hockey cup in North America, behind only the Stanley Cup (1893) and the MacNaughton Cup (1913).
John L."Doc" Gibson was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame as an Administrator in 1973.
John L. (Jack) Gibson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1976.