Monday, January 26, 2015

1927-28 Ottawa Senators Frank Nighbor Jersey

Born on this date in 1893, Frank Nighbor began his career with the Pembroke Debating Club Hockey  Team for the 1907-08 season with 5 goals and 4 assists in 6 games.

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A young Frank Nighbor as a member of the
Pembroke Debating Club Hockey Team

When teammate Harry Cameron was invited to join the Port Arthur Bearcats at the senior level for the following season, he refused to join the club unless they also included Nighbor. While the Bearcats agreed, to have Nighbor join the club, they did not agree to allow the teenager to play, and he rode the bench until a rash of injuries forced them to insert him into the lineup. He sized the opportunity, and showed the club the error of their ways by scoring 6 goals in his debut.

Nighbor was then signed by the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association for their debut season, the club that would eventually evolved into today's Toronto Maple Leafs. Nighbor would lead the club in scoring with 25 goals in 19 games, good for fourth place in the NHA, which brought the attention of Lester and Frank Patrick, who were the owners of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.

The PCHL was in their second season and were directly competing with the NHA for the most talented players, and Nighbor was lured westward to join Frank's Vancouver Millionaires, where he joined the likes of future Hall of Famers Cyclone Taylor and Didier Pitre. After scoring 10 goals in 11 games in 1913-14, Nighbor would increase that total to 23 in the 17 games played in 1914-15, equal with Taylor for second on the club in goals.

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Nighbor was lured west to Vancouver in 1913

After winning the PCHL championship with a 13-4 record, the Millionaires would face the Ottawa Senators of the NHA in a best of five series. Vancouver swept Ottawa by winning three straight games, with Nighbor leading the way with 4 goals and 10 points to lead the Millionaires in scoring as they claimed the Stanley Cup.

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The Stanley Cup winning 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires

Following his success in Vancouver, the Ontario native returned home to join the very same Senators he had defeated for the 1915 Stanley Cup for the 1915-16 NHA season and immediately lead the club in scoring with 19 goals and 24 points in 23 games.

While Nighbor was known as an excellent defensive forward and a master of the poke check, he really found his offensive game in 1916-17 when he cut loose with 41 goals and 51 points in just 19 games to lead the NHA in scoring.

While behind the scenes maneuvering would bring an end to the NHA and give rise to today's National Hockey League for the 1917-18 season, it would remain business as usual on the ice for Nighbor and the Senators, aside from an injury which would limit him to just 10 games. He would maintain his scoring prowess, totaling 11 goals and 19 points in those 10 games.

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Nighbor became a stalwart for the Ottawa Senators

He would rebound with 19 goals and 28 points in 18 games in 1918-19 before a 26 goal, 41 point season in 1919-20, good for third overall in the NHL. With Ottawa winning both halves of the split season, they advanced directly to the Stanley Cup Finals versus the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans. Nighbor would score 2 of the Senators 3 goals in their Game 1 victory. He scored the final goal in a 3-0 Ottawa win in Game 2 before Seattle responded with a win in Game 3. The series was then shifted to Toronto due to the soft ice conditions in Ottawa.

Despite 2 goals by Nighbor in Game 4, the Metropolitans evened the series at two games each. The deciding Game 5 went to Ottawa 6-1, with Nighbor scoring the final goal on his way to leading the series in goals with 6 as the Senators would win their first Stanley Cup as members of the NHL and first since 1911.

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The 1919-20 Ottawa Senators

After 29 points in 24 games for Nighbor in 1920-21, the Senators would repeat as Stanley Cup champions after defeating Nighbor's old club, the Vancouver Millionaires 3 games to 2 in a best of five series.

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The well dressed 1920-21 Ottawa Senators

Nighbor's game would shift to a more defensive role after the 1920-21 season and his contributions would help the Senators return to the Stanley Cup Finals once again in 1923, this time defeating the Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Canada Hockey League to win the cup for the third time in four seasons.

Ottawa Senators 1922-23 photo OttawaSenators1922-23.jpg
The Senators pose with their Stanley Cup in 1923

Nighbor would contribute 11 goals in 1923-24 and 12 more in 1925-26, his final two seasons with 10 goals or more.

Despite his reduced offensive contributions, Nighbor's value as an all-around player was recognized following the 1923-24 season when he was named the first winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player.

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The inaugural winner of the Hart Trophy, Frank Nighbor

He again was recognized for his style of play and respect among his fans and peers in 1925 when he was invited to Rideau Hall in Ottawa, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada by Lady Byng, the wife of Viscount Byng of Vimy , who showed Nighbor the trophy she intended to donate to the NHL to be give to it's most gentlemanly player and asked him if he thought the league would accept it. When he replied that he thought the league would accept it, she surprised him by awarding him the trophy on the spot.

Following the 1925-26 season, Nighbor was named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for the second consecutive year.

He was still not done with collecting silverware though, as the Senators would reclaim the Stanley Cup in 1927, the fourth of Nighbor's with the Senators and fifth of his career when Ottawa defeated the Boston Bruins 2 games to none with a pair of ties in the first Stanley Cup Final contested solely among teams from the NHL.

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The Stanley Cup champion 1926-27 Ottawa Senators

Nighbor would play two and a half more seasons for the Senators until the now financially struggling club traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second half of the 1929-30 season, the same franchise he signed with for their inaugural season back in 1912. He would retire following the season with 438 games played between the PCHA, NHA and NHL, with a combined 257 goals and 125 assists for 382 points and four Stanley Cup titles.

Nighbor was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.

Today's featured jersey is a 1927-28 Ottawa Senators Frank Nighbor jersey. Back in the early days of professional hockey, the Senators made it a habit of celebrating their status as World's Champions by wearing a commemorative patch on their jerseys the following season, as was the case in 1921-22, 1923-24 and 1927-28.

The Senators would adopt their classic barberpole look in 1903 and wore it all the way through their final season of 1933-34, with but a few variations along the way, most notably spending a season in vertical stripes in 1910-11 and adding an "O" crest in 1929-30.

ottawa senators jersey photo: Ottawa Senators Jersey OttawaSenators27-28jersey.png

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