Frank Calder (November 17, 1877 - February 4, 1943) was an executive, a journalist and athlete. He is most notable for serving as the last president of the National Hockey Association (NHA) professional league and the first president of its successor, the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1917 until 1943. He was instrumental in the transition from the NHA to the NHL, a transition made to expel a franchise owner. He presided over the expansion of the league into the United States, and the fending off of rivals to the NHL's status as the premier ice hockey league.
Frank Calder was born to Scottish parents in Bristol, England on November 17, 1877. Calder participated in many sports as a youth, including rugby, handball, golf, and football. As a young man, he immigrated to Canada and became a teacher at a private school. Before leaving the United Kingdom, he flipped a coin to decide whether to immigrate to Canada or the United States. He married a fellow teacher, Amelia Cole, and they had three daughters and one son.
Calder worked as a sports editor at the Montreal Witness. From there, he jumped to the Montreal Herald and Daily Telegraph. After that, he left Elmer Ferguson to be sports editor and moved on to the financial editor's chair which covered what was then Canada's largest market, the Montreal Stock Exchange. He also kept on with sports, creating the Montreal School Rugby League and was secretary of a soccer league.
On November 15, 1914, Mr. Calder was appointed secretary-treasurer of the National Hockey Association (NHA). He served as secretary-treasurer until 1916 when Frank Robinson resigned as president of the NHA.
Formation of NHL
In 1917, the NHA's owners decided to drop Eddie Livingstone's Toronto Blueshirts franchise and took his players. The NHA's president, Frank Robinson, seeing he was as powerless as his predecessor Emmett Quinn was, resigned as NHA president and here was Calder's opportunity as the league's secretary. He decided that the NHA owners allied against Eddie Livingstone needed someone to represent them, and, in effect, Calder was---at least for all practical purposes---the new president of the NHA. He arranged meetings between the NHA's owners to figure out how to get rid of Livingstone. They decided to form a new league, the National Hockey League, in the NHA's place, and then revive the NHA once Livingstone was squeezed out. Calder was elected president of the new league, formed on November 26, 1917. Meanwhile, the owners could not bring back the NHA, as Livingstone made it impossible with his firm stand.
Calder wielded his power as president with such authority that there was no getting cross-ways with him. If he ordered the Quebec Bulldogs franchise forfeited to Hamilton, as happened in 1920, one never was to challenge him. A good example of his authority was when the Hamilton Tigers went on strike in 1925. Rather than talk to the players, he suspended and fined them $200 each.
Calder was adamant about not restricting minorities into the NHL. During the 1927–28 season, upon hearing of the Boston Black Panthers, the first all-Black hockey team, he remarked, "Pro hockey has no ruling against the colored man, nor is it likely to ever draw the line," a reference to the segregation in baseball.
Only one attempt to remove Calder as president of the NHL was made. This was in 1932–33 when the owner of the Chicago Black Hawks, Frederic McLaughlin, circulated a letter to the NHL board of governors to remove him. The board rejected the motion.
Commencing with the 1932–33 season, Calder named the top rookie in the NHL. Starting in 1936–37, he got the NHL's board of governors to let him buy a trophy to give to the league's top rookie and he did this until 1941–42. After his death, the trophy was made permanent as the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Calder received a silver service in 1937–38 for his 20 years as president of the NHL and the league extended their appreciation.
Calder was presiding over a meeting of the NHL's board of governors on January 25, 1943 when he suffered a heart attack, followed by another in a Toronto hospital. On February 3, he felt well enough to travel and returned to Montreal the next day, checking into Montreal General Hospital upon arrival. There he suffered the fatal heart attack that claimed his life that morning. On his passing, Frank Calder was interred in the Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947 as a builder. Two trophies in professional hockey are named for him -- the NHL Calder Memorial Trophy for NHL rookies and the Calder Cup for the American Hockey League (AHL) championship. He originated the rookie of the year award, and the NHL decided to continue awarding it after Calder died, renaming it from the Calder Trophy to the Calder Memorial Trophy.
|National Hockey Association President
|National Hockey League President