Arthur Howey "Art" Ross - Born January 13, 1886 in Naughton, Ontario – Died August 5, 1964 in Medford, Massachusetts was a Canadian (and naturalized American citizen) ice Hockey player, coach, manager and executive.
Born in Naughton, Ontario. Art Ross's father, Thomas B. Ross, was the head of a Hudson's Bay Company trading post in the area. The twelfth of thirteen children, Ross grew up speaking English, and was taught French by his mother, and later in life claimed he knew Ojibwe and Montagnais, a native / indigenous Canadian language.
Ross later moved to Montreal with his mother, settling in the affluent Westmount district in 1896. In Montreal Ross attended Westmount Academy, and became active in a variety of sports, though he was best at Hockey. He likely first played organized Hockey in the 1900–01 season, joining the Westmount Amateur Athletic Association. With this club he first met the brothers Lester and Frank Patrick, both of whom would later be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ross and Lester had a financially successful ticket resale business at the Montreal Arena, buying tickets for thirty-five cents and selling them for up to a dollar.
The best Hockey players on their high school team, Ross and the Patrick brothers were invited to play occasional games for local league teams in Montreal. Ross first played in an organized league in 1905, joining Montreal Westmount of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL), the top amateur league in Canada. He scored ten goals in eight games during the season. His opponents regarded him as one of the best rushing defencemen. Most defenders at the time either shot the puck down the ice or passed to a forward; in contrast, Ross skated up the ice, taking the puck into the offensive zone. Later that year, wishing to pursue a career in banking, he moved to Brandon, Manitoba, where he joined the Brandon Elks of the Manitoba Hockey League, the senior league in the province. In 1906, his first season, he scored six goals in seven games while he recorded six goals in ten games in 1907. Around this time, the Kenora Thistles, the Manitoba League champions, wanted to strengthen their team for the Stanley Cup challenge against the Montreal Wanderers in Montreal during January 1907. They paid Ross $1,000 to play both matches, a common practice at the time, and the Thistles won the 1907 Stanley Cup championship. While failing to score, Ross started many plays and proved an important part of the team. Although he played for the opposing team, he received a good reception from the Montreal crowd. Ross did not play for the Thistles when the two teams played for the Cup again in March, which the Wanderers won to take back the Cup.
The following year Ross moved back to Montreal. He joined the Wanderers, the team he had helped to defeat, who played in the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association / ECAHA, the successor league to the CAHL as the premier league in the country. He scored eight goals in ten games over the two-month season that lasted from January to March. He helped the team to finish first in the ECAHA and played in Stanley Cup challenge games from the Ottawa Victorias of the Federal Amateur Hockey League, Winnipeg Maple Leafs and the Toronto Pros of the Ontario Professional Hockey League. The Wanderers were Cup champions throughout these challenges, so Ross became the second player to win the Cup with different teams in consecutive years, after Jack Marshall in 1901 and 1902.
In January 1908, Ross participated in the first all-star game in sports history. The first All-Star game in ice Hockey was played on January 2, 1908 before 3,500 fans at the Montreal Arena between the Montreal Wanderers and a team of All-Stars players from the teams the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. It was held in memory of Montreal Wanderers player Hod Stuart, who had drowned three months after the Wanderers won the Stanley Cup in 1907. The sale of tickets, from 25 cents to $1, raised $2,000 for Mr. Stuart's widow and two children.
Aside from his time with the Wanderers, Ross repeated his practice of playing for other teams who paid for his services in important matches. For the 1909 season Ross demanded a salary of $1,600. Although he settled for $1,200, the average salary of Hockey players at the time was $600. Ross received a cash bonus of $400 to play in a Stanley Cup challenge against a team from Edmonton in December 1908, in which the Wanderers won the two-game, total-goal series 13–10. He finished the season with two goals in nine games.
A new league, the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), was formed in late November 1909. One of the teams, the All-Montreal Hockey Club, hired Ross as a playing-manager, but the league only lasted to mid-January 1910 before disbanding. Ross, who scored four goals in four games in the CHA, then signed with the Haileybury Comets of the National Hockey Association (NHA), a league formed in December 1909, which proved to be the stronger replacement to the ECAHA as the highest level of Hockey in Canada. He received $2,700 to play in the 1910 season, which lasted from January to March, playing twelve games for the team and finishing with six goals. Before the following season, the NHA imposed a salary cap of $5,000 per team. The players, including Ross, were unhappy as this would result in a pay decrease, and began looking to form their own league without a cap. Ross wrote to the Montreal Herald, stating "all the players want is a fair deal ... The players are not trying to bulldoze the NHA, but we want to know where we get off at." The plans were abandoned when they realized all the suitable arenas would be unavailable as they were owned or leased by the NHA. Ross scored four goals in eleven games with the Wanderers, who finished fourth in the five team league. During a match against the Quebec Bulldogs on February 25, 1911, Ross knocked out Eddie Oatman in a fight, provoking a massive brawl between the two teams, which the police had to break up. The fight helped to increase the reputation Ross had as a tough player unwilling to back down from any opponent. The following season Ross had eleven goals in nineteen games as the Wanderers improved to second in the league.
Prior to the 1913–14 NHA season, Ross refused to sign a contract for the Wanderers, requesting a salary increase. As one of the top players on the team, the Wanderers agreed to his demands of $1,500 for the forthcoming season, in which he finished with four goals and nine points in eighteen games. The next season Ross, again concerned with his salary, began negotiating with other players in the NHA to leave their teams and form a new league that would offer higher wages. These actions resulted in his suspension in November 1914 by Emmett Quinn, president of the NHA. Ross responded by declaring himself a free agent and claiming his contract with the Wanderers was no longer valid. Consequently, although having no technical power to do so, Quinn suspended Ross from all organized Hockey. The proposed new league failed to materialize and Ross applied for reinstatement to the NHA, which was granted at a meeting of the team owners on December 18, 1914. The owners realized if they suspended Ross, they would also have to suspend all those he signed, hurting the league. However, Ross's actions led to his release by the Wanderers. At first he trained with the Montreal Canadiens, then joined the Ottawa Senators.
At the conclusion of the 1914–15 season, the Senators and Wanderers finished with identical records of fourteen wins and six losses. A two-game, total goal series was played to determine the NHA league champion who would contest the Stanley Cup with the Pacific Coast Hockey Association winner, the Vancouver Millionaires. Ross, who finished with three goals in sixteen games in the season, scored one goal in the first match against the Wanderers, a Senators 4–0 victory, and though Ottawa lost the second game 1–0, they won the series, 4–1. To help the Senators stop the Wanderers, who were known for their speed, Ross created a new system of defence. Termed "kitty bar the door", it required three defenders to align themselves across the ice 30 feet in front of the goaltender to stop offensive rushes. This style of defence would later be used in a modified version known as the neutral zone trap, later used widely to stop opposition offensive chances.
The following year Ross, who had eight goals and eight assists in twenty-one games, was the second highest paid player on the team; his salary of $1,400 was $100 less than Frank Nighbor made. Even so, Ross left the team in 1916, returning to Montreal in order to look after his sporting-goods store, and rejoining the Wanderers. He scored six goals and had two assists in sixteen games for the team.
The Wanderers, along with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Arenas, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators dissolved the NHA and founded the National Hockey League (NHL) in November 1917. Ross became coach of the Wanderers, but a fire on January 2, 1918, destroyed their home, the Montreal Arena, and forced them to fold after four games. However, the NHL insisted the team continue to play, and recorded two additional scheduled matches as defaulted losses for the Wanderers, even though the matches were not played. With the Wanderers disbanded, Ross retired as a player. His NHL career yielded one goal in three games played.
Ross began his career as a Hockey coach in the midst of his playing days, when at age 24 he led the McGill University Redmen to a 4–2–1 record during the 1910–11 season.
Following his playing career, Ross took a turn as an on-ice official / NHL referee.
Ross was hired to coach the Hamilton Tigers for the 1922–23 season, and adopted new methods in training camp that emphasized physical fitness, including work off the ice. However, the Tigers finished with a record of six wins and eighteen losses, last in the NHL for the third successive year, and Ross did not return the next season.
Ross's next coaching appointment arose from meeting Boston grocery store magnate Charles Adams during the 1924 Stanley Cup Finals. Before the 1924 season, the NHL awarded Adams an expansion team. Adams' first move was to hire Ross as vice president, general manager, coach and scout. Adams instructed Ross to come up with a nickname portraying an untamed animal displaying speed, agility and cunning. With this in mind, Ross named the team the Boston Bruins, after the Old English word for a bear. The team's nickname went perfectly with the original colours of brown and yellow, which were the same colours of Adams' grocery chain, First National Stores.
Ross utilized his many Hockey connections throughout Canada and the United States to sign players. Even so, the team started poorly. Early in the first season the University of Toronto Hockey team was in Boston for matches against local universities. The team's manager, Conn Smythe, who later owned and managed the Toronto Maple Leafs, said that his team could easily defeat the Bruins—Ross's team had won only two of their first fifteen NHL games. This began a feud between Smythe and Ross which lasted for over 40 years, until Ross' death; while mostly confined to newspaper reports, they refused to speak to each other at NHL Board of Governor meetings. The Bruins finished their first season with six wins in thirty games, one of the worst records in the history of the league. Several records were set over the course of the season; the three home wins are tied for the second fewest ever, and an eleven-game losing streak from December 8, 1924, until February 17, 1925, set a record for longest losing streak, surpassed in 2004 and now second longest in history.
With 17 wins in 36 games the following season, the team greatly improved, and finished one point out of a playoff spot.
In 1926 the Western Hockey League, the other top professional Hockey league, was in decline. The Patrick brothers, who controlled the league, offered to sell the remaining five teams for $300,000. Ross realized the potential talent available and convinced Adams to pay the money. As a result, the Bruins acquired the rights to several future Hall of Fame players, the most notable being defender Eddie Shore. Ross signed goaltender Cecil "Tiny" Thompson in 1928, who was with a team in Minnesota, despite never watching him play; Ralph "Cooney" Weiland was also brought over from Minnesota. Ross acquired Cy Denneny from Ottawa and made him a player-coach while he assumed the role of team manager.
On November 20, 1928, the Bruins moved to a new arena when the Boston Garden opened. The team played the Canadiens who won the match 1–0 in front of 16,000 fans. The players signed by Ross helped the Bruins to improve quickly, and they won the Stanley Cup in 1929. Denneny retired after the Cup win and Ross resumed his role as coach, guiding the team to several league records in the 1929–30 season. The team won 38 of 44 games for an .875 winning percentage, the highest in league history; the five losses tied a record for fewest ever, and the four road losses tied a record for second fewest. The Bruins also only finished one game in a tie, a record for fewest ties in a season since the NHL began recording the record in 1926. One of the longest winning streaks was also set during the season. From December 3, 1929, until January 9, 1930, the team won fourteen games in a row, a record that lasted until 1982 and now tied for third longest, as of October 2010. A home winning streak began the same day and lasted for twenty games, until March 18, 1930, which was tied for the longest of its kind in 1976. In 1930–31, the Bruins again lost only one home game, which equalled their previous record.
On March 26, 1931, Ross substituted a sixth skater for goaltender Tiny Thompson in the final minute of play in a playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens. Although the Bruins lost the game 1–0, Ross became the first coach to replace his goaltender with an extra attacker, a tactic which became widespread practice in Hockey.
Stepping aside as coach in 1934 to focus on managing the team, Ross hired Frank Patrick as coach with a salary of $10,500, which was high for such a role. However rumours spread during the season that Patrick was drinking heavily and not being as strict with the players as Ross wanted. After the Bruins lost their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1936 playoffs, the result of an 8–1 score in the second game, a newspaper claimed that Patrick had been drinking the day of the game and had trouble controlling the team. Several days later, Ross relieved Patrick of his duties and once again assumed the role of coach.
Ross took over an improved team. He had recently signed three players, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, who all grew up together in Kitchener, Ontario, and had them play on the same line, soon nicknamed the Kraut Line in reference to the German heritage of all three. Along with them, Ross had acquired a new goaltender in 1938, Frank Brimsek; after Brimsek earned six shutouts in his first eight games, the Bruins traded away Tiny Thompson to allow Brimsek to play. With these players the Bruins finished first in the league in 1937–38; Ross was named as the second best coach in the league, selected for the end of season All-Star Second Team.
The next season the Bruins won 36 of 48 games, and won the Stanley Cup in the playoffs; Ross was named to the First All-Star Team as the best coach in the league for the season and the team only tied two games, which is tied for the second fewest in a season. He hired the recently retired Cooney Weiland to coach the Bruins for the 1939–40 NHL season.
The Bruins would win the Cup again in 1941, and tied their record of only four away losses all season. Ross once again took over as coach of the team before the 1941–42 season began, as Weiland became coach of the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, and led the team to 25 wins in 48 games, which was enough to earn third place in the league. By this time the Second World War had caused several Bruins players, including the entire Kraut Line and goaltender Brimsek, to enlist in their respective armed forces. The Bruins finished second in the NHL during the 1942–43 season with 24 wins in 50 games and Ross was again named in the Second NHL All-Star Team as second best coach in the league.
The Bruins missed the playoffs in 1943–44, the first time in ten years they failed to qualify, but returned to the playoffs the next season, something they did for five straight years.
In 1949, Ross had signed Georges Boucher as coach, but Boucher did not work well with Ross and team president Weston Adams. Looking to hire a new coach in the summer of 1950, Ross phoned Lynn Patrick, the son of Lester, who had just resigned from the New York Rangers after coaching the team to the Stanley Cup Final. Lynn had moved his family back to Victoria, British Columbia, where he grew up as a child, with the intention of coaching the Victoria Cougars, a team in the minor professional Pacific Coast Hockey League. Though reluctant to move back to the eastern United States, Lynn was hired by Ross after he was offered a salary of $12,000. He would coach the team for the next four seasons and become the second general manager of the Bruins when Ross retired at the end of October 1954.
Aside from his career in Hockey, Ross was interested in improving the game. Prior to the start of the 1927–28 season, the NHL brought about the replacement of the league's square goal nets, and adopted a new style of goal net created by Ross. With the back molded into a B-shape, complete with superior mesh, it was better designed to catch pucks and the net was used until 1984, when a modified version was adopted. The Hockey net Art Ross created carries the same width dimension as the current regulation nets. The opening is 6 feet by 4 feet. The base depth is 44 inches, while the deepest parts of the top shelf extend to 24 inches. Since the back curves in a 'B' shape, the Hockey net itself is specialized in design.
Ross also improved the design of the puck (Art Ross Tyer). Ross beveled the edges of the puck, which prevented it bouncing too much, and molded a checker pattern on the edge to make the puck slide better and easier to control, and used synthetic rubber, rather than the natural rubber previously in vogue. Ross patented his innovation in 1940 and his famed Patent Number (2226516) would appear on NHL game pucks for the next 28 years.
Along with New York Rangers coach Frank Boucher, Ross helped to create the red line, which was introduced to help speed up the game by removing the ability for defenders to pass the puck from the defensive to offensive zone; until 2006 it was against the rules of Hockey to make a two line pass. More scoring chances resulted as teams could not simply send the puck down the ice with impunity. In order to help tell the red line and blue lines apart on television, Ross suggested that the red line be striped.
Along with his two sons he donated the Art Ross Trophy to the NHL in 1947.
Art Ross was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949.
Art Ross was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
Art Ross was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to Hockey in the United States in 1984