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Every year, the NHL player who has the most points in a season is awarded the Art Ross Trophy. While any NHL fan knows all about the Art Ross Trophy, how many know about the man behind the trophy, the actual Art Ross?
Born in 1885, he is considered to be one of the best defenders in the early NHL era. He revolutionized the game of hockey in many ways, including skating up the ice with the puck rather than just passing it forward.
Over the course of his career, which lasted 13 seasons, he won two Stanley Cups. One cup win came in 1907 with the Kenora Thistles, where he was brought in as a ringer, and one in 1908 when he played with the Montreal Wanderers.
Growing up as a young man in Naughton, Ontario, he would move to Montreal to play organized hockey in 1902. Playing hockey with Lester and Frank Patrick, two future Hall-of-Famers, he developed a successful ticket resale business with them.
Before long, teams started to court Ross and the Patrick brothers and soon Ross was playing for the Montreal Westmount of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League. Scoring ten goals in eight games, it did not take long for others to see him as possibly the best defenseman in the league.
By 1907, and living in Manitoba to play for the Brandon Elks, he would be courted by the Kenora Thistles who wanted to win the Stanley Cup. Paid $1,000 to play two games, he jumped at the chance and helped the team win the cup.
In 1908, he moved back to Montreal and started playing for the Wanderers. In the 1909 season, he demanded $1,600 to play, and received $1,200. This was double what the average player would make. He would win his second cup that year against Edmonton.
Ross would then start playing for the National Hockey Association in 1910, eventually joining the Haileybury Comets, where he was paid $2,700. When the 1913-14 season rolled around, he held out playing for the Wanderers hoping for a salary increase, which the team agreed to. In the next season, he organized the first strike in professional hockey history when he and several top players held out for better salaries. He was suspended by the league for his efforts. He was released from the Wanderers as a result of the strike and joined the Ottawa Senators. While in Ottawa, he came up with the concept of the trap, which he called “kitty bar the door” that prevented an offensive game by tying up rushing players in the middle of the ice.
In 1916, he returned to the Wanderers and managed the team when they joined the NHL in 1917. In 1918, Ross retired from hockey and became a manager. Over the course of his career with the NHA, he would have 56 goals and 16 assists in 131 games. He played only three games in the NHL, scoring one goal.
From 1925-26 to 1944-45, he would serve as the coach of the Boston Bruins and would lead them to the Stanley Cup twice. The first was in 1928-29 and the second was in 1938-39. Over the course of the 804 games he coached for them, he won 394 games. He would also serve as general manager until 1954. The team finished first in the league 10 times during his tenure with the Bruins. He would help to nurture and mentor future Hall-of-Famers Milt Schmidt and Eddie Shore.
Remembered as a player who not only lit the goal lamp but also worked to improve the game, he would develop the B-shape goal net, which would be used until 1984. He improved the design of the puck, and helped to create the concept of the red line.
He is considered to be one of the best defenders to ever play the game, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949. He would donate the Art Ross Trophy with his sons in 1947. In 1984, he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for his service to hockey in the United States.
He passed away at a nursing home in Medford, a suburb of Boston, on Aug. 5, 1964, at the age of 79.