George Washington Kendall (aka George Kennedy) (December 29, 1881 - October 19, 1921) was a Canadian sports promoter best known as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team from 1910 to 1921. He contracted the Spanish flu during the pandemic of the late 1910s and eventually succumb to his illness in 1921.
In 1905 Kendall formed the Club Athletique Canadien as a boxing and wrestling organization.
In 1908, Kendall and Joseph-Pierre Gadbois intended to get into the sport of ice hockey. They attempted to purchase the Montreal Wanderers, but were unsuccessful. The formation of the National Hockey Association (NHA) saw the formation of the 'Les Canadiens' team, which they considered an infringement on the name of their club. In October 1910, Kendall contacted Frank Calder, then the Montreal Herald sports editor and announced that he wanted an NHA franchise, intending to purchase the Canadiens. If he was rejected, he would go to court to enforce his rights to the name. The NHA was receptive to Kendall, and on November 12, 1910 he paid J. Ambrose O'Brien $7,500 and took over the Canadiens organization.
A hockey club was only part of his operations. He had already opened a first-class gymnasium and sports club in the east end of Montreal and had set about promoting wrestling and boxing matches that culminated with the staging of the world wrestling heavyweight championship. In 1915, Kendall purchased the rights to distribute the film of the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in which Jess Willard dethroned champion, Jack Johnson. Now, the city's major promoter, Kendall scored another coup for Montreal boxing fans when he arranged a promotional visit to the city by France's wildly popular champion Georges Carpentier who, a few months after his visit, won the World Light Heavyweight Championship.
In 1916, Kendall's hockey team won its first Stanley Cup, but a fire in May destroyed the gymnasium. The loss of the club and the failure of the Montreal Canadians professional lacrosse club forced an end to the CAC. A new organization, the Club de Hockey Canadien was formed, its principal asset the hockey team, although the new organization continued to promote boxing and wrestling.
In 1917, Kendall was instrumental in the forming of the National Hockey League (NHL). Kendall, along with the owners of the Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs was fed up with the disagreements with the Toronto franchise owner, Eddie Livingstone. The group, a majority of the directors of the NHA, voted to suspend the operations of the NHA, and form another professional league without Livingstone. The new league, except for its name, was the same league, having adopted the constitution, trophy and playing rules of the NHA. The suspension of the NHA and the formation of the NHL was intended to be only for a single year, but the dispute with Livingstone dragged on. Just before the 1918– season Kendall and the other NHL owners, met without Livingstone and voted to suspend the NHA permanently.
That same season, Kendall's Canadiens won the championship of the NHL (whose trophy was the O'Brien Cup of the NHA) and travelled to Seattle, Washington to play off for the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals. Kendall, along with most of the Canadiens' players became ill with the Spanish flu and was hospitalized. The series itself was canceled and Joe Hall of the Canadiens died of the illness.
Kendall himself never fully recovered from the illness and he died at age thirty-nine on October 19, 1921. On November 3, 1921, his widow sold the Canadiens hockey team for $11,000 to businessmen Joseph Cattarinich, Leo Dandurand and Louis A. Letourneau.
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto and the Université Laval. Retrieved on 2008-12-25.
- Holtzman, Morey; Nieforth, Joseph (2002). Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey. Toronto, Ontario: Dundurn Press. ISBN 1550024132.
- Jenish, D'Arcy (2008). Montreal Canadiens: 100 years of glory. Toronto, Ontario: Doubleday Canada. ISBN 9780385663243.
Joseph Cattarinich and Jack Laviolette
|Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
Joseph Cattarinich and Jack Laviolette
|Montreal Canadiens general managers
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