|Out of the Mists of the Past
|The Kenora Thistles: 1907 Stanley Cup Champions
Smith briefly retired from amateur hockey for the following two years, but was brought back into the swing in 1899 with a brief stint with his old team, the Capitals. Following yet another year of retirement, Smith established another long-standing affiliation with the burgeoning city of Pittsburgh, signing with a local professional team, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, of the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (W.P.H.L.) for the 1901-02 season. The western Pennsylvania boom town was hockey mad, and sported a glorious indoor artificial ice rink that seated several thousand. Smith netted 11 goals and 9 assists in 14 regular season games to go along with seventeen goals in eight exhibition games.
In 1902-03, Smith returned to the Ottawa Silver seven, now a part of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (C.A.H.L.), but this time as a coach. The Silver Seven, paced offensively by center "One Eyed" Frank McGee, left winger S.C. "Suddy" Gilmour, and defensively by defensman Harvey Pulford and goalie John "Bouse" Hutton, took the league title away from those pesky Montreal Victorias in a two game, total goals series, posting 9 goals to the Victorias' 1. As a result of beating the Vics, the Silver Seven also inherited the Stanley Cup, the first team from Ottawa to do so. A few days later, Smith and his boys defended their new piece of hardware against an upstart team from Rat Portage, Ontario called the Thistles, playing out of the Manitoba and Northwest Hockey League (M.P.H.L.). this time the two game total goals affair was a much closer contest, with Ottawa winning both games and besting Rat Portage 10 goals to 4.
The following season a rejuvenated thirty year old Smith again came out of retirement to lace up the skates. First the Silver Seven defended the Stanley Cup against a
Getting down to the business of regular season league play, the Silver Seven quickly jumped out to a 4-0 record. In the four contests, Alf scored 7 goals, second on the team only to the legendary Frank McGee. Ottawa would not play anymore league games after that. The team resigned from the C.A.H.L. on February 8, 1904, accepting a Cup challenge match from a team from Toronto called the Marlboros. The young Toronto club, led by the brilliant scorer Tommy Phillips was no match for the gritty, experienced Ottawa club, losing two games by a combined score of 17-5.
A week later, the Silver Seven accepted a challenge from the Montreal Wanderers champs of the newly formed Federal Amateur Hockey League (F.A.H.L.). The Wanderers were a hungry, dominant squad led by diminutive player/coach Dickie Boon. The Wanderers played Smith and his boys tough, scoring a 5-5 tie in the first game of the series. The following day, the Stanley Cup trustees ordered that a new two game total goals series be played in Ottawa. the Wanderers felt that they, by virtue of tying Ottawa in game one, should be granted a home game and protested. With no agreement being reached, the series was abandoned and Ottawa hung on to the Cup. The following week, the Brandon Wheat Kings, winners of the rival M.P.H.L. came to town seeking a chance to claim Lord Stanley. Brandon put up a good fight in game one, losing 6-3, but were overwheelmed in the follow-up by the score of 9-3. In seven Stanley Cup challenge games, Alf manage to pot 13 goals while bruising his way to a hefty 20 penalty minutes. The Silver Seven went into the spring of 1904 once again on top of the hockey world.
The following season Smith and the Silver Seven joined the F.A.H.L., dominating the regular season with a 7-1 record and a league leading 60 goals versus a league low 19 goals against. Smith scored 13 of those goals. Once again, the Silver Seven accepted a Cup challenge from the west, this time from a team from Dawson City who had travelled over 4,000 miles by dog sled, train, and foot to make the tournament. Smith and his squad handled the the Yukon boys 9-2 in game one, and mushed them 23-2 in "game" two.
In a late winter rematch versus the Rat Portage Thistles, Smith and the Silver Seven were accused of doctoring the ice in rder to hamper the Thistles' speedy playing style, yet nothing could be outright proved and the Ottawa club got by the fiesty Thistles 4-2 and 5-4. In the five total Stanley Cup challenge matches, Smith scored 11 goals.For a third straight spring, the Silver seven were in possession of the Stanley Cup.
Hockey dominance continued for Smith and his crew the following season. The club was in its third league in as many seasons, the new Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey League (E.C.A.H.L., later the E.C.H.A.). Smith and his two brothers, Harry and Tommy combined for 48 of the team's league leading 90 goals, with Alf potting 11 of those. Before the end of the regular season, Ottawa accepted challenges from local amateur teams. A team from Queen's University featuring future Ottawa teammate Marty Walsh was their first victim. Ottawa trounced the young club in a high scoring two game tournament, 26-14. The following week it was the F.A.H.L. champion, a club from Smiths Falls, Ontario. Though Ottawa swept the two games, the scored were considerably closer, 6-5 and 8-2, thanks to Smith Falls' brilliant young goalie Percy LeSueur. Smith was so impressed with LeSueur's play (and probably so unimpressed with his own goalie, Billy Hague's rather poor performance), that within a week the gifted goaltender was employed by the Ottawa juggernaut.
The end of the E.C.A.H.L. regular season found Ottawa tied with the Wanderers for first place. A two game, total goals series was set up. In the first, the Wanderers thoroughly trounced the once invincible Ottawa team by the score of 9-1. Three days later the second match was layed, this time with LeSueur in Ottawa's net. The Silver seven won 9-3, but it wasn't enough to overcome the huge eight goal deficit of game one. Though Alf played brilliantly, scoring 11 goals in five post-season affairs, the Cup went east to Montreal and the Silver Seven were into spring just another hockey club.
Coach Smith lost his most valuable asset in the 1906 offseason when Frank McGee announced his retirement from hockey. Alf's brother Harry assumed McGee's vacant spot at center but it wasn't enough to unseat the powerful Wanderers, who finished undefeated. Playing alongside his talented brother, Alf managed to score a career high 17 goals.
Near the conclusion of the 1906-07 regular season, Alf was lured out west to help the injury plagued Kenora Thistles defend their newly won Stanley Cup, which they wrested away from the Wanderers just a month and a half before. For Smith, financial compensation aside, the move was most likely a decision made for two reasons-- one, it gave him a chance to get revenge against his hated E.C.H.A. rivals-- the other reason is more speculatory, but nonetheless quite logical-- Smith had his eyes set on securing the services of Kenora legend Tommy Phillips after the series had concluded. With Alf came his long-time teammate, Harry "Rat" Westwick.
Smith and Westwick got to Kenora just in time to play the Thistles' final regular season game against the Portage la Prairie Plains, with Alf scoring two goals. However, the following week the Stanley Cup trustees ruled in favor of a complaint by the Wanderers that Smith and Westwick were ringers and should not be able to play in the imminent series. A compromise was reached between the two team whereby Smith and Westwick could play for Kenora if the two game total goals series was played at a neutral site-- Winnipeg. Smith played well in the two game series, scoring two goals, but the Wanderers took game one 7-2 and, even though they won game two 6-5, lost the hard fought series 12-8. Kenora went back home empty handed, but Smith did not. With the loss he had all but guaranteed his team of employing Tommy Phillips the following season.
The 1907-08 season saw an improved Silver Seven take the ice with a offensive line-up for the ages, seven legendary hall-of-famers on the ice all at once, including Phillips and Fred "Cyclone" Taylor, arguably the best two players of their generation, but the Ottawa boys were unable to unseat the Riley Hearn led Wanderers, finishing one game out of first at 7-3. Smith managed to score twelve goals in nine games in hs swan song as an active player for the Silver Seven.
With former teammate H.L. "Billy" Gilmour assuming his long held spot at right wing, Alf decided to leave Ottawa and try his hand at playing elsewhere. Past connections led him back to the W.P.H.L. where he managed and played two games for the Duquesne Athletic Club, scoring three goals. Unfortunately, Smith's hot temper got the better of him and he was fired from his position for rough play. Alf did not let that dissuade him from finishing his curtain call as a player. He signed on and played three games for the Pittsburgh Bankers, adding two final goals to his prodigious career tally.
Smith journeyed back home to Ottawa that winter to coach some of his former Silver Seven teammates with the the Ottawa Cliffsides of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association (O.A.A.A.). Recognizing the fact that the Stanley Cup was now firmly entrenched in the realms of professionalism, a new trophy was needed to represent the amateur game. H. Montagu Allan graciously donated a cup in the Febraury of 1909, and it was Smith's Cliffsides who were the first to win it, in a hard fought match against Montreal on March 6th. The Cliffsides were to lose their trophy only 9 days later in a match versus Queen's University, a team that Smith's Silver seven beat for the Stanley Cup four years prior. Interestingly enough, the Allan Cup was not even finished until after Smith's Cliffsides lost it, and so they never actually physically held the famed trophy, and were photographed with it only after they had lost it to Queen's U.
The following season, the F.A.H.L.'s Renfrew Rivers called upon Smith to coach their Senior squad. Later he went on to coach hockey clubs in Moncton, New Brunswick, and North Bay, Ontario.
Alf Smith died on August 21, 1953. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
TEAM PHOTOS FEATURING ALF SMITH:
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