Born as Frederick Wellington Taylor in Tara, Ontario, the fourth of five children to Archie and Mary Taylor, it is not known the exact date that Taylor was born. Most sources cite it was June 23, 1884, so that is what we are going with.
Taylor grew up to be very close with his mother, who was a devout Methodist. Her influence would result in Taylor never drinking, smoking or swearing throughout his life.
At the age of five, he began skating on the ponds in the area, using skates given to him by local barber Jack Riggs, who also taught him how to skate. Taylor would not learn organized hockey until he was six and moved with his family to Listowel, Ontario
In 1897, at the age of 13, Taylor began to play for his first organized hockey team, the Listowel Mintos, where he would spend the next five years. Despite being a few years younger than the other players, he was easily able to keep up and by his third year he was one of the top players in the league.
For the 1900-01 season, the team joined the Ontario Hockey League, the same year that they won the local league championship thanks in no small part to the skilled play of Taylor. The team would reach the provincial junior championship in 1904, only to lose in overtime.
In Listowel, his father Archie worked making about $50 to $60 per month for his five children. The poverty of the family would result in Taylor leaving school when he was 17 so he could bring in money for the family. He would begin working at a piano factory, bringing in $20 a month to raise the family’s total income.
By this point, many teams in Ontario were actively courting Taylor to join their team. In October 1903, he was invited by Bill Hewitt, the father of Foster Hewitt, to play for the Toronto Marlboros. Taylor would turn this down, being happy in Listowel, where he was helping his family with his work.
Hewitt did not take this well. He thought Taylor would accept the invitation. Due to OHA rules to regulate player transfers between clubs, Taylor’s refusal meant he could not play anywhere else in Ontario and, as a result, Hewitt banned him from playing hockey during the 1903-04 season.
Frustrated by having to sit out an entire season of hockey, Taylor began to look elsewhere in Canada to play. In January 1906, he moved to Manitoba and began to play for a team in Portage la Prairie. In his first game, he scored two goals. Playing against the Kenora Thistles, the top team in the league at the time, he was offered the chance to join the team and help them challenge for the Stanley Cup.
While considering the offer, he was approached by the Portage Lakes Hockey Club, which was based out of Michigan, to play for them in the International Hockey League. This league was openly professional and Taylor was offered $400 to join the team. Today, this would be worth about $3,100 today. Taylor agreed and left for his new team where he would score 11 goals in six games, helping the team win the 1906 league championship.
The next season, he scored 14 goals in 23 games, once again leading the team to the league championship.
For Taylor, the league was a great place to hone his hockey abilities. He would state that it was quote:
“a wonderful testing and training ground, and I was a far better player for my experience there.”
With so many Canadian players going to the IHL to make good money playing hockey, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association decided to allow professional players.
In the summer of 1907, while he played lacrosse in his hometown, various clubs including the Quebec Bulldogs, Montreal Victorias and Montreal Wanderers all courted him.
Taylor would choose to sign with the Ottawa Senators because the team not only offered him $500 to play for them, but also promised him a job in the immigration branch of the Department of the Interior. For Taylor, thinking ahead to after his hockey career, he decided that the extra job security was worth it even if he was only making $35 a month at the job.
As soon as Taylor reached Ottawa, he was getting offers to play in rival leagues, including $1,500 to play for the Renfrew Creamery Kings but Taylor chose to stay with the Senators, which proved to be a good move on his part.
The Ottawa Citizen would describe him on Dec. 17, 1907, stating quote:
“Taylor lived up to his reputation as a whirlwind, his speed being something phenomenal. Taylor is a pretty stickhandler and plays any position to perfection. His passing was rather erratic at the start, but as soon as he got on to the style of the other men he was there with spectacular rushes and beautiful combination.”
One of the best players in the league, he was often skating so fast that he was called offside because he skated too quickly for his teammates, resulting in offside calls. He was also an innovator, becoming the first hockey player to wear pads on his shoulders.
Sprague Cleghorn would state quote:
“Taylor, who was always poking around and figuring things out, picked up a couple pieces of felt over at Larry Gilmour’s stable one day, cut them to fit and sewed them to the shoulders of his undershirt, and that’s how padding was born.”
On Jan. 11, 1908, after a game in which Earl Grey, the Governor General was attending, it was written by the Ottawa Free Press quote:
“That new No. 4 Taylor, he’s a cyclone if I ever saw one.”
Another story states that an Ottawa sports writer wrote after Taylor scored five goals in a game quote:
“He may have been known as the whirlwind of the International League but he certainly is the Cyclone of the Eastern Canada Senior Hockey League.”
Wherever it came from, the name Cyclone Taylor stuck.
Taylor would say of the nickname quote:
“That wasn’t the only nickname I got. Once when we played an exhibition game in New York, somebody called me The Jim Jeffreys of the Ice after the boxer. Naturally, this made me feel great because I was young at the time and impressionable but Cyclone fit best.”
In his first season with the team, he scored 9 goals in 11 games.
That same year in February 1908, Taylor met Thirza Cook, who was a secretary in the immigration department and a hockey fan. She had met Taylor the night before after watching him play a game. When Taylor met Cook’s family, who were quite well off, they did not like him because he was a hockey player. He decided to win them over and he saved $10,000 to prove his worth, which took him six years.
On March 19, 1914, the couple were married in their home and Frank Patrick was the best man. Together, they would have five children. Their son John would be offered a contract to play for the Maple Leafs but he chose to get a law degree. He would then be elected to the House of Commons in 1957, serving until 1962. A grandson, Mark, would play from 1981 to 1986 for the Flyers, Penguins and Capitals.
Taylor briefly signed with the Pittsburgh Athletic Club to start the 1908-09 season but he hated the management of the team and soon returned to Ottawa, where he had nine goals in 11 games. The Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup that year.
For the 1909-10 season, Renfrew again came courting Taylor. On Dec 4, 1909, he stated in the press that he would not go to Renfrew if they offered him all the money up there.
The Montreal Gazette wrote quote:
“The efforts of the Renfrew Hockey Club to put a crimp in the Ottawa hockey team by stealing Cyclone Fred Taylor have failed.”
Of course, they did offer him all the money to join the team and on Dec. 30, 1909, he would do so, signing for an incredible $5,250, making him the highest-paid athlete in Canadian history to that point. His salary was only slightly less than Ty Cobb, who played 154 games, while Taylor played only 12. This made Taylor the highest paid athlete in the world on a per game basis. Today, that salary would be about $150,000.
As soon as he took to the ice, he was seen as a local hero in the community. The Ottawa Journal wrote on Dec. 30, 1909 quote:
“Taylor appeared on the ice and in anticipation some 800 people were present. He received a great ovation…Taylor took all as a matter of course and with the interspersion of a good turn out on the splendid amateur Rivers team, a fine practice was the result.”
It was during his time with Renfrew that the legend of the time he skated backwards to score a goal would be born. Frank Patrick would state that he was back in Ottawa to play against his old teammates and the sportswriters asked him how he was going to get past the defense of Ottawa. He laughed and stated quote:
“Why, I can score on those fellows skating backwards.”
Frank Patrick, believed that his friend was simply joking. Then, during the game, Taylor would do something similar to what he said he would, although the legend would grow from the simple play. Patrick would say years later quote:
“On one of his rushes, the Ottawa defense stopped him cold and turned him around with his back to the Ottawa goal. He flipped the puck, back-handed. It nosed past the goaltender. I was on the ice and saw the whole thing and we went on playing.”
The Renfrew Creamery Kings were a stacked club to say the least. Shortly after Taylor signed, Lester and Frank Patrick both joined the team, as did Bert Lindsay and Herb Jordan. Later in the season, the team added Newsey Lalonde. In all, the team that year had five Hall of Fame players.
Due to the high pay of these players, the team earned the nickname of the Renfrew Millionaires.
Even with this stacked line-up, the team finished third in the National Hockey Association that year, and did not challenge for the Stanley Cup. Taylor had an okay year, scoring 10 goals in 12 games.
Taylor would re-sign with Renfrew for the 1910-11 season, and anticipation was high that the team would dominate on the ice.
Fred Whitcroft, owner of the team would say quote:
“Renfrew will have the best team that ever laced up the skates.”
Unfortunately, the team had lost Lester and Frank Patrick, and Lalonde left the team to play for the Montreal Canadiens. The team, with the loss of these players, finished third and Taylor had 12 goals in 16 games.
Renfrew would disband as a team in 1911-12, and the rights to Taylor would go to the Montreal Wanderers. Taylor would refuse to play for the team because he did not want to leave Ottawa. As a result, he sat out the entire season.
There was hope that Taylor would re-sign with Ottawa. On Dec. 23, 1910, the Ottawa Citizen reported quote:
“It is quite probably, however, that the Renfrew magnates will grant Taylor his absolute release in order that the once-idolized cover point of the Ottawas may return to the game as a member of the red, white and black.”
After the season, the Wanderers gave up trying to get Taylor to join the team and he would also turn down a salary of $3,000 to join the Toronto Tecumsehs.
Taylor would say quote:
“I only intend to play hockey for two more seasons and I wish to end up my career in Ottawa. If necessary, I would buy my release from the Wanderers.”
Ottawa then offered him $1,800 and he turned that down as well.
Throughout the off-season, unbeknownst to those courting his services, Taylor had been speaking with the Patrick brothers. They would encourage him to go west and join the Pacific Coast Hockey League. Taylor decided that he would join the Vancouver Millionaires, earning $2,200. His contract also included transportation back to Ottawa and a four month leave of absence from his immigration job. Frank Patrick would use his connections with Sir Richard McBride, the premier of British Columbia, to get Taylor’s immigration job transferred out of Ottawa and into Vancouver.
The addition of Taylor to the league gave it legitimacy and immediately made the Millionaires a contender. The first sell-out game in the history of the PCHA was the first game Taylor played.
The Vancouver Province wrote quote:
“It isn’t any wonder that the Pacific coast fans have gone into raptures over the work of Fred Taylor. The average Ottawa hockey follower would rather pay 75 cents to see Taylor make one of his famous rushes than see ten or 12 games minus the Cyclone. There is no discounting it. He may not be the greatest hockey player in the world but as a drawing card he has all the other fading into oblivion.”
Despite a bout of appendicitis, he was able to play all 16 games for the team, picking up 18 points.
The next season, Taylor moved to the now-removed position of rover, allowing him to combine offence with defence. This also allowed him to explode in his offensive ability. That season, he had 39 points in only 16 games, including 24 goals. The next season, 1914-15, he had 45 points in 16 games, including 23 goals. His play that season helped the Millionaires reached the Stanley Cup Final, where they played his old team of Ottawa.
Vancouver was able to win the first three games to capture the Stanley Cup, helped by Taylor scoring eight goals and two assists.
In 1914, in his capacity as a senior immigration inspector, Taylor was involved in the Komagata Maru incident. The Komagata Maru was a steamship that carried 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu immigrants from India. Taylor was the first immigration officer on the ship and spent a considerable amount of time on the ship. In the end, the ship was refused entry to Canada.
Taylor would say later, quote:
“It was a terrible affair, and nobody was proud of it.”
That same year, he enlisted to fight in the First World War but his job was deemed vital and he was exempted from service.
In 1915-16, Taylor once again led the league in points with 35 points in 18 games, but Vancouver finished second and did not repeat as Cup champions.
After this season, he decided to retire but most in the league didn’t believe he would.
The Kingson Whig-Standard wrote quote:
“Fred has retired more often than Madam Bernhardt, but this last withdrawal appears to be honest-to-goodness. It is hard to realize the old Listowel flyer will live up to his threat. He showed last year he was as good as ever by leading scorers on the coast.”
He would return for the 1916-17 season and had 29 points in 12 games.
As the National Hockey League was born in the east, Taylor stayed with the Millionaires, where he led the league in goals and points, with 43 in 18 games. He would also earn the MVP award for that season and Vancouver took the league championship.
The Millionaires then earned the right to play for the 1918 Stanley Cup against the Toronto Arenas but the Millionaires, lost the series despite Taylor picking up nine goals in the series.
In 1918-19, Taylor continued his dominance when he had 36 points. This was the fifth and last time he led the league in scoring.
Once again, Taylor said he was retiring but he was back playing for the team in the 1919-20 season. He would only play ten games due to a leg injury, recording 12 points.
He then said he was retiring and this time it was final, but Frank Patrick offered to have him only play in home games, resulting in Taylor only having six points in six games.
After sitting out the 1921-22 season, he would attempt a comeback in the 1922-23 season. He appeared in a game on Dec. 8, 1922 but found that the game was too fast for him at that point, and he retired for good.
The Saskatoon Daily Star wrote quote:
“The comeback was not his. His record in professional hockey is unapproachable from several angles and with his well earned laurels, his famous bald head, his trusty hickory and his reliable steel blades, has wisely stepped out of the limelight and into the row of spectators.”
Over his career in the PCHA, he had 263 points in 130 games, which included 159 goals. In the NHA, he had 22 goals in 29 games, and in Stanley Cup play he had 20 points in 11 games.
After his retirement, Taylor continued to work in immigration and became the Commissioner of Immigration for British Columbia and the Yukon. In 1946, he was named the Member of the Order of the British Empire for his service to the country as an immigration officer during the world wars. In 1950, he would retire from his position.
From 1936 to 1940, Taylor was the first president of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.
His final hockey game would officially be in 1937, when he put on his skates and played against a junior team. Despite his age, he still scored two goals and had an assist.
In 1947, Taylor was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Three years later, his best friend, Frank Patrick, did an interview with Macleans and stated that Taylor was the finest hockey player in history. Eddie Shore would say that there was no comparison between Taylor and any player during the career of Shore.
In 1952, Taylor ran as a candidate with the British Columbia Progressive Conservative Party for a seat in the Legislature. He would finish fourth, but attempted to run again in the 1953 election, once again finishing fourth.
In 1958, he flew to the Soviet Union on an hockey tour and upon his return, stated that the Soviet Union would rival the Canadian hockey leagues within a decade. He was very right in that prediction.
In 1960, when construction started on the Hockey Hall of Fame building, Taylor, as one of the first stars of the game, would turn the sod.
The Nanaimo Daily News stated quote:
“The former hockey great proved as adept with a shovel as he used to be with a hockey stick.”
In 1970, at the first home game of the Vancouver Canucks, Taylor dropped the first ceremonial puck. For the rest of his life, he was a season ticket holder and often attended games.
In 1978, Taylor broke his hip and his health began to fail.
On June 9, 1979, Taylor passed away in his sleep.
Taylor is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame. Each year, the Vancouver Canucks award the Cyclone Taylor Award to the team’s most valuable player. As well, since 1966, the Cyclone Taylor Cup has been awarded to the champion of the British Columbia Junio B league.
In his hometown of Listowel, the Listowel Cyclones are also named for him.
Information from Macleans, BC Sports Hall of Fame, Greatest Hockey Legends, Wikipedia, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Journal, Montreal Gazette, Winnipeg Tribune, Vancouver Province, Kingston Whig Standard, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Nanaimo Daily News,