Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1907 Montreal Victorias Russel Blair Jersey

Montreal native Russel Blair, born on this date in 1880, made his debut with the Montreal Victorias organization with their junior team in the Montreal City Junior Hockey League in the 1894 season as a 14-year-old. He remained with the club through 1897.

After one year away from the Victorias in 1897-98, Russel returned to the Victorias for two more seasons with their intermediate level team before another year away from the Victorias in 1899.

He rejoined the Victorias organization for the 1900 season, making his debut with the senior level club.  Blair tallied 9 goals in 7 games of the abbreviated schedules which were the norm during hockey's infancy.

Russel Blair photo RusselBlair2.jpg

For the next three seasons Blair average a goal per game, all with the Victorias, totaling 24 goals during each of the three eight game schedules as he established himself as a great two way player who excelled on defense as well as offense. He also earned himself a reputation as a clean player in what could be a very rough game.

It was then that Blair's game moved into a higher gear as he began to average two goals per game as a left winger, beginning with 17 goals in the 8 games of the 1904 season, with 7 of those goals coming in one game against the rival Montreal Shamrocks. His 17 goals were good for third in the Canadian Amateur Hockey League scoring race.

He exceeded his average from 1904 with 19 goals in the eight games of 1905 to finish second in league goal scoring to teammate and future Hall of Famer Russell Bowie.

1905 Montreal Victorias team photo 1905MontrealVictoriasteam.jpg
The 1905 Montreal Victorias team

After the Victorias moved to the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association, Blair was limited to 7 goals from just 4 games in 1906.

He set a career high with 25 goals in 10 games in 1907, which earned him an Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association 1st Team All-Star team award. Despite the career high of 25 goals, Blair was only third in ECAHA scoring.

He would play 6 games in the 1908 season, scoring 8 goals, the Victorias last in the Eastern Canada Hockey Association.

When the ECHA became a professional league in 1909, the Victorias chose to retain their amateur status and left the league, joining the Interprovincial Hockey League. Over the next two seasons, Blair would only play one game in each season, but proved his worth with two goals in each game.

As a senior level player, Blair played in 69 games from 1900 to 1910, scoring a total of 114 goals.

While several websites credit Blair with having won as many as three Stanley Cups, the glory days of the Victorias came from 1895 to 1899, as the club won or retained the cup six times, including holding the cup from December 30, 1896 to March 4, 1899. While Blair was a member of the Victorias organization during that time period, he was not yet a member of the senior level club and therefore not on the roster of the cup winning squads. Blair did compete for the cup once during the 1903 Canadian Amateur Hockey League playoffs, which were won by the Ottawa Silver Seven 9 goals to 1 over their two game, total goal series, the Victorias final attempt at the cup.

Blair was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.

Russel Blair photo RusselBlair1.jpg

Today's featured jersey is a 1907 Montreal Victorias Blair Russel jersey as worn during Russel's career best season of 25 goals. The Victorias wore maroon sweaters with a white "V" crest throughout the vast majority of their history, although there are sporadic photos showing the team in white sweaters during their early days or a single player, such as the goaltender pictured above in the 1905 team photo.

The team wore a script "V" during the early days of their Stanley Cup success before changing to a bolder, symmetric "V" in 1898, as their team photo shows six of their eight players wearing the new logo, while two still have the script version!

While not a hard and fast rule, it's quite remarkable how many times a team photo from hockey's early days, up through the 1920's, has at least one player wearing a sweater which does not match the rest of the team, generally being their previous version or with one player in a white version, such as the above 1905 team photo.

Montreal Victorias 1989 photo MontrealVictorias1898sweater.png

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