Craig H. Bowlsby
Craig H. Bowlsby is the author of several books, including “Empire of Ice, The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926” and lives in Vancouver B.C. “Empire of Ice” is available through eBay and Amazon. His story about the Seattle Metropolitans was published March 3 in The Seattle Times.
Was the Hart trophy the first individual award in professional hockey? Fans and historians have always assumed so, but a Hockey Hall of Famer from Seattle would have disagreed.
Frank Foyston of the Seattle Metropolitans was declared the Champion All-Around Hockey Player in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1917, preceding the first Hart trophy in the NHL by seven years.
The award was voted on by four scorers chosen from the press, and a cup was presented at the end of the season. The first recipient, Foyston, was judged according to his “clean play, stamina, scoring ability, popularity with teammates, and all around work embodying speed, judgment, and consistency.”
Foyston, a hawk-nosed sniper, received a “handsome” cup, which was called merely the cup for the Best, or Champion, All-Around Player.
Foyston had finished third in scoring behind Bernie Morris of Seattle and Gordon Roberts of the Vancouver Millionaires. But the judges gave Foyston two first-place votes and one second place, which was enough to win.
Cyclone Taylor, who had won the scoring championship the previous two seasons, had received no votes as he had only played half a season, leaving the field open. The four judges were Royal Brougham of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, A.P. Garvey of the Vancouver Province, J.S. Bain of the Spokane Review and Lou Kennedy of the Portland Telegram.
Foyston also ended up winning the Stanley Cup in 1917, with the Metropolitans. That team, born only two years earlier, became the first American city to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Montreal Canadiens.
The second recipient of the award, in 1918, was the great Taylor. However the mercurial Frank Patrick, who ran the league like a Czar, mysteriously declined to make the award available in following years.
It was not known to modern fans what the cup looked like until a few months ago, when one of these cups was unearthed. The PCHA gave each winning player a separate cup, engraved especially for him. Taylor’s cup is the one that surfaced.
Foyston, who was 26 win he won his cup, won another Stanley Cup (and his third overall) with the Victoria Cougars. He died in 1966.
As with many innovations in the PCHA, the award came and went with a flurry of experiments, and was forgotten by time and history.
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