William Osser Xavier "Bill" Cook - Born October 9, 1896 in Brantford, Ontario – Died April 6, 1986 in Kinston, Ontario was a Canadian ice Hockey right winger, coach and manager.
The Cook family moved to Kingston, Ontario when Bill was young, and it was there on the local Rideau Canal he learned to skate.
Cook joined the Kingston Frontenacs' junior Hockey team in 1913 and played for two seasons before he set aside his Hockey ambitions to serve Canada in the Great War - WWI.
Cook volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in December 1915, enlisting at Kingston in the 50th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. He left for England on April 2, 1916 aboard the SS Metagama. After training for months in England, Cook was promoted to acting bombardier, but shorty after he reverted to gunner. In mid-July, Cook land in France, where he would carry out his duties without becoming a casualty of war. In September 1918, Cook was restored to his previous rank, acting bombardier. He then was sent to Siberia to support Russia in the Russian Revolution, landing in Archangel on October 16. Cook and his brigade stayed in Russia for 8 months, when British and Canadian forces withdrew their forces, and Cook headed back to England on June 11, 1919. Cook then headed back to Canada in early July 1919. Cook was awarded the Military Medal "In recognition of gallant conduct in the field."
Upon his return from the war, Cook rejoined the Frontenacs for one season before joining the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1920. He led the Northern Ontario Hockey Association / NOHA in both goals, 12, and points, 19, leading the Greyhounds to the NOHA championship. He won the scoring title again in 1921–22 with 20 goals and 28 points.
Cook also played for the Guelph Knights, a amateur team in the newly formed Guelph City Hockey League (1920). He wasn't a regular, but played during the 1921-22 season, helping them win the city championship.
Spurning offers from National Hockey League / NHL teams to turn professional in the eastern league, Cook moved to Saskatchewan where he had been granted land for his service in the Great War. The Calgary Tigers of the Western Canada Hockey League / WCHL attempted to recruit him for the 1922–23 season but failed to sign him. Instead, he joined the Saskatoon Crescents. He scored 8 goals and 19 assists in 30 games during his first professional season.
Returning to Saskatoon in 1923–24, the Crescents became the Sheiks, and Cook led the WCHL with 26 goals and 40 points. He was named the all-star right wing for the first of three consecutive seasons. He scored 22 goals in 1924–25. The WCHL rebranded itself the Western Hockey League / WHL in 1925–26. Cook again led in both goals and points with 31 and 44 respectively, and had become known as the best right wing in Hockey.
The WHL had run into financial difficulty in its final seasons, and after 1926, ceased operations. The Montreal Maroons intended to sign both Cook and his brother Bun to join their team for the 1926–27 NHL season. While the team's manager waited in Montreal to meet the brothers, Conn Smythe, manager of the newly formed New York Rangers, travelled to Winnipeg to reach the pair first. Smythe signed both Cook brothers for $12,000.
Bill Cook was officially the first player signed by the Rangers, and was named the team's first captain. The Cook brothers joined Frank Boucher to form the "Bread Line", one of the early NHL's most prolific scoring lines.
Bill Cook scored the first goal in New York Rangers franchise history when the Rangers made their NHL debut on November 16, 1926, against the Montreal Maroons at Madison Square Garden. Cook scored the Rangers 1st goal on Clint Benedict at 18:37 of the 2nd period, which also stood up as the winner, in a 1–0 victory (brother Bun had the assist). Appearing in 44 games, he led the league in both goals, 33, and points, 37. Cook finished as the runner-up to Herb Gardiner of the Montreal Canadiens for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player
Cook recorded 24 points in 1927–28, the seventh highest total in the league, and the Rangers again qualified for the playoffs, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. The Bread Line scored every Rangers goal in the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals.
Twenty-three points in 1928–29 again placed Cook seventh in the league. The Rangers defeated the New York Americans to reach the 1929 Stanley Cup Finals, but were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens. Cook led the Rangers and finished fourth in league scoring in 1929–30 and 1930–31 with 59 and 42 points respectively. In 1931, he was named to the NHL's inaugural All-Star Team at right wing. It was the first of four consecutive appearances; he was placed on the first team in 1931, 1932 and 1933, and on the second team in 1934. Cook's 34 goals in 1931–32 tied Charlie Conacher for the league lead. The Rangers won their 1st Prince of Wales Trophy, as 1931-32 American Division regular season champions, and after defeating the Canadians, faced Conacher's Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1932 Stanley Cup Final. Toronto swept the series with three consecutive victories.
Cook was again the top scorer in 1932–33, leading the NHL in both goals, 28, and points, 50. At 36 years, 5 months old, Cook was the oldest player in NHL history to win a scoring title until 2013 when Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning led the NHL in scoring at the age of 39. The Rangers reached the 1933 Stanley Cup Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cook scored the winning goal in the second game, then scored the championship winning goal, in overtime, in the fourth game. It was the first overtime power play goal in NHL playoff history. The trophy was not available on the night the Rangers won, leading the series to become known as the "Forgotten Cup". Cook accepted the Stanley Cup on behalf of his team in November of that year, seven months after the Rangers victory.
After scoring only 13 goals in 1933–34, Cook improved to 20 goals in 1934–35. In a 7–5 victory over the Maple Leafs on January 29, 1935, the Bread line scored four goals and five assists to reach a combined 1,000 points as a unit over their nine seasons together. The Bread Line was broken up in 1935–36 when Bun was forced out of the Rangers lineup by illness. Bill Cook scored just seven goals that season, and at the age of 40, scored one goal in 21 games before retiring as a player during the 1936–37 season.
Cook scored 228 goals, 138 assists (366 points) in 475 regular season NHL games. 43 of those goals were game winners, including 5 overtime winners. In the NHL playoffs, Cook scored 13 goals, 11 assists in 46 games - 6 were game winners, including 1 overtime winner.
Known as "The Original Ranger", Cook led the team in goals six times, and he was regarded as being the greatest right wing in the game's history when he retired.
Turning to coaching, Cook took over as the manager / coach of the Cleveland Barons in the International-American Hockey League / IAHL in the 1937–38 season. He inherited a team that had struggled the season before and led it to a respectable season, winning 34 of 50 games played combined between the regular season and playoffs. Cook was pressed into service as a player as a result of injuries. His team was able to dress only 10 of 17 players in the deciding game of the Barons' playoff series against the Syracuse Stars. Cook played a regular shift in the game, but the Barons lost, 3–2, in the fourth overtime period.
The Barons finished fifth overall in the IAHL standings in 1938–39, but defeated the Springfield Indians and Providence Reds to reach the league championship series against the Philadelphia Ramblers. They won the best-of-five championship 3-1 to claim the 1939 Calder Cup. Cook coached the Barons to a second Calder Cup in 1940–41, defeating the Hershey Bears in the final.
Cook remained behind the Barons' bench until the conclusion of the 1942–43 American Hockey League / AHL season. He then turned coaching duties over to his brother Bun, but remained the team's general manager.
Cook left the Barons to join the Minneapolis Millers of the United States Hockey League / USHL in 1947. He coached the team for three seasons, leading the team to the Paul W. Loudon Trophy as league champions in 1949–50.
Cook then moved on to coach the Denver Falcons, also of the USHL, in 1950–51 then the Saskatoon Quakers of the Pacific Coast Hockey League / PHCL the following season. Cook left the Quakers midway through the season when asked by Frank Boucher, general manager of the New York Rangers, to return to the NHL club as its head coach. He coached the final 47 games of the Rangers' 1951–52 season, winning 17, losing 22 and tying 8. He remained behind the Rangers bench in 1952–53, but the Rangers missed the playoffs after winning only 17 of 70 games. Cook was replaced as coach following the season as Boucher named himself head coach.
Cook then retired from Hockey.
Cook participated in the closing of the old Madison Square Garden and the opening of the new facility in 1968. In recognition of his scoring the first Rangers goal in the old Garden, he was asked to "score" the first goal in the new facility as part of the opening ceremonies.
On January 10, 1986, just three months before he passed away, the New York Rangers presented him with their alumni association award before a cheering crowd at Madison Square Garden.
William (Bill) Cook was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.
William Cook was elected to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
William Cook was inducted into the Kingston & District Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.