SIHR’s Behind the Boards

A Family Business: The Smiths of Ottawa

SIHR’s Behind the Boards

A Family Business: The Smiths of Ottawa

Oskar Tallqvist
Posted November 26, 2020

Viewed 1326 times

The Smith Brothers

Six of the seven Smith brothers: Alf, Dan, Jack – Harry, Tommy, Billy. 

Various family constellations have been part of the ice hockey world throughout the history of organized competition, most often made from a set of brothers. The Montreal Hockey Club (AAA), for instance, the first club to capture the Stanley Cup in 1893, had the Hodgson brothers, Billy and Archie, on the roster during the 1888 AHAC season, and the MacKerrow twins, Clarence and Andy, during the 1895–96 season, just to mention two early examples from the late 19th century.

During the 1900s several well-known families made a significant mark on the game. The Patricks – with brothers Lester and Frank playing in and running the PCHA during the 1910s and the early 1920s, and Lester’s sons Lynn and Muzz and his grandsons Craig and Glenn all playing in the NHL – are sometimes referred to as “Hockey’s Royal Family”. Other prominent hockey families throughout the 1900s were the Bouchers (Georges “Buck”, Billy, Frank, Bobby), the Bentleys (Reg, Doug, Max), the Conachers (Lionel, Charlie, Roy) and the Howes (Gordie, Mark, Marty).

In the early days of organized hockey, when team rosters weren’t as big as they would later become, siblings would occasionally form the nucleus of a team. Such was the case with the Taber Chefs of the Southern Alberta Senior Hockey League in the early 1910s. The team name, the “Chefs”, was a pun on the surname Cook, of which the team had six! Four were brothers: Arnold, Wilbur, Lloyd and Leo. Goaltender Albert and skater Ernie Cook were not related to the other four and hailed from the Manitoulin Island area of Ontario, whereas the brothers hailed from Lynden, Ontario. Lloyd Cook would later become a member of the Vancouver Millionaires, winning the Stanley Cup in 1915.

One of the largest and most prominent hockey families of the late 1890s and the early 1900s was the Smith family from Ottawa. The Smiths were highly skilled players, most notably Alf, Harry and Tommy Smith, who played together briefly on the same line of the 1905–06 Ottawa Hockey Club, champions of the ECAHA and challenge winners of the Stanley Cup in February and March of 1906. (Ottawa would later lose the trophy to the Montreal Wanderers on March 17, 1906). Alf and Tommy were posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962 and 1973, respectively.

The Smiths counted seven hockey playing brothers, all of them forwards born in Ottawa to Henry (1843–1931) and Anne Smith (née McLaughlin, 1849–1930). Henry, a general contractor by profession, was originally from Bristol, Quebec, and Anne was born in Bell’s Corners, Ottawa. The couple married on January 13, 1870, at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa and had 15 children, 11 of whom reached adulthood, and of the four surviving daughters two would become Catholic nuns: Rev. Sister St. Hilda of the Grey Nuns in Buffalo, New York, and Sister (Minnie) Mary of Nazareth of the Precious Blood Monastery in Ottawa.[1]

Alf (1873–1953), the eldest son, was not only a successful player as a member of the famous Silver Seven team between 1903–1906, but also a successful coach with the Silver Seven and later also in the NHA and NHL. Alf, a right winger with a rough and tumble playing style and a good nose for the net, made his debut in the AHAC with the Ottawa HC in 1894–95, and in 1896–97 he was accompanied on the team by his younger brother Daniel “Moxie” Smith (1876–1926). Alf and Moxie also played together on the 1897–98 Ottawa Capitals, a team which Moxie would return to for the 1899–1900 OHA season.

Jack Smith (1878–1911), the third son, came up through the intermediate ranks of the Ottawa HC, also playing with the Ottawa Capitals in the OHA in 1899–1900 with Moxie before graduating to the Ottawa HC team of the CAHL for the 1901 season. That club was coached by his brother Alf during his 1899–1901 hiatus as a player. Jack scored 6 goals in 4 games with Ottawa HC, finishing at the top of the league standings, but a Stanley Cup challenge series against the Winnipeg Victorias never materialized. After living in Vancouver for seven years, Jack returned to Ottawa in 1911 where he died at age 32 from inflammatory rheumatism.

Harry Smith (1883–1953) first made a name for himself as a high calibre goal scorer with the Arnprior Hockey Club, winning the 1904 Citizen Shield as champions of the Ottawa Valley leagues. Harry, much like his younger brother Tommy (1886–1966), would become one of the better goal scorers during the early days of the professional game, and was noted as having one of the best and hardest shots in the game. Both Harry and Tommy were of relatively small stature, even for the era, but they made up for it by carrying the rough Smith family edge on the ice, an example first set by their older brother Alf, although Tommy was not as explicitly dirty as Alf and Harry.

Both Harry and Tommy tended to jump from team to team, chasing the biggest paychecks available to them, seldom staying with the same team for more than one or two seasons. During the 1908–09 season Alf, Harry and Tommy each represented Pittsburgh teams in the WPHL, Alf with the Bankers and the Duquesne, Harry with the Bankers and Tommy with the Lyceum. Tommy won the Stanley Cup with the Quebec Bulldogs in 1913. In December 1914 he claimed that he would play in Mexico “if the money is strong enough.” [2]

Harry Smith appears to have had the talent and the overall goal scoring prowess to carve out a Hockey Hall of Fame career, like Alf and Tommy did, but outside of his mercenary team jumping ways, which did not lend him any consistent team success. He also had problems with staying in shape and controlling his on-ice temper. During the 1906–07 season he was arrested by Montreal police alongside his brother Alf and defenseman Charlie Spittal after a rough game against the Montreal Wanderers, though he was later acquitted of assault charges, and in December 1907, at the onset of the 1907–08 season, while with the Winnipeg Maple Leafs, he was expelled from the Manitoba Hockey Association alongside teammate Joe Hall after a violent qualifying test game against the Winnipeg Hockey Club.[3] Joining the Pittsburgh Bankers instead he was involved in a riot at the Duquesne Gardens on February 15, 1908, where he went into the stands swinging his stick at spectators after he had been accidentally struck by a chair thrown onto the ice by a spectator, apparently aimed at his teammate Edgar Dey.[4]

Billy Smith (1889–1977), a centre forward just like his older brothers Harry and Tommy, came up through the Ottawa City League ranks where he first played for the Primrose in 1905–06 and the Russells in 1906–07. His breakthrough season was in 1907–08 with the Emmetts in the city league, leading the league with 25 goals in 8 games. In 1908–09 he played on the Federal Hockey League version of the Ottawa Senators – a green-shirted team partly made out of several old Silver Seven players such as his older brother Alf, Bouse Hutton, Art Moore and Harry “Rat” Westwick – leading the team with 18 goals in 5 games, three goals shy of league leading Ed Hogan of the Renfrew Creamery Kings.

Billy – unlike Alf, Harry and Tommy – never gave his hockey playing services to the professional game, but stayed amateur and continued to be one of the more prolific goal scorers in the IPAHU and the Ottawa City League during the 1910s.

George Smith (1891–1954), the youngest of the seven Smith brothers, 17 and a half years Alf’s junior, also came up through the Ottawa City League ranks, playing for the Emmetts and Cliffsides Seconds, but unlike Billy he never distinguished himself as one of the better goal scorers in the league, and his career was brief, playing only between 1909–1914. George would later serve in World War 1 and World War 2.

Anne Smith’s obituary from the October 31, 1930, issue of the Ottawa Journal mentions that her husband Henry had issued a challenge on behalf of his seven sons for a match with any other hockey team of brothers, but that the challenge was never accepted.[5]



[1] Ottawa Journal, Apr. 21, 1931

[2] Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 12, 1914

[3] Montreal Gazette, Dec. 23, 1907

[4] Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 17, 1908

[5] Ottawa Journal, Oct. 31, 1930

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