|Hockey Hall of Fame, 1952|
Johnson in 1912 with the New Westminster Royals.
February 26, 1886|
Montreal, QC, CAN
|Died||March 25, 1963
White Rock, BC, CAN
|Height||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)|
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)|
|Played for||Montreal Hockey Club
New Westminster Royals
Thomas Ernest "Ernie, Moose" Johnson (February 26, 1886 – March 25, 1963) was a Canadian ice hockey player whose professional career spanned from 1905 to 1931. He was a member of four Stanley Cup winning teams between 1905 and 1910 with the Montreal Wanderers of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA) and later the National Hockey Association (NHA). He moved west, and switched from left wing to defence, in 1911 to join the newly formed Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). He spent the following decade playing with the New Westminster Royals, Portland Rosebuds and Victoria Aristocrats where he was named a PCHA first-team all-star eight times and played in the 1916 Stanley Cup Finals with Portland. He later played minor professional hockey in California, Minnesota and Oregon before retiring at the age of 45. Johnson was known for using perhaps the longest stick in the game's history, giving him a 99-inch reach. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.
Johnson's playing career began in 1902 in the Montreal City Hockey League where he would, at times, play with his junior, intermediate and senior teams all in the same weekend. He moved on to the Canadian Amateur Hockey League in 1903 and played two seasons with the Montreal Hockey Club, scoring 9 goals in 11 games in that time. He then moved on to join the Montreal Wanderers of the newly formed Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association in 1905, and finished tenth in league scoring with 12 goals. The Wanderers tied with Ottawa HC for the best record in the league with 9–1 records, necessitating a playoff to determine the league champion. Johnson scored a goal in the first game of the two-game, total goal series as Montreal won 9–1 on home ice. Ottawa came back to lead the second game 9–1, and tie the series, but two late goals by Montreal's Lester Patrick gave Montreal the victory, 12–10 on aggregate, to win both the ECAHA championship, and the Stanley Cup as Canada's national amateur champions.
The ECAHA turned professional in 1906–07, and the Wanderers signed Johnson to a contract. Along with teammates Jack Marshall, Hod Stuart, Frank Glass and Riley Hern, Johnson became the first professional player ever allowed to compete for the Stanley Cup as the Wanderers defended a challenge by the New Glasgow Cubs of the Maritime Hockey League prior to the ECAHA season's start. The Wanderers lost a second challenge for the Cup, this time by the Kenora Thistles in January 1907 but finished the ECAHA season with a perfect 10–0 record to earn the right to challenge Kenora to a return matchup in March. Johnson improved to 15 goals in 10 games during the season, and was named to the second all-star team on left wing. He scored five more goals in the six games played over three Stanley Cup challenges, including two in the final game of the second series against Kenora to help the Wanderers regain control of the Cup.
Johnson was again named to the second all-star team on left wing in 1907–08. His offence fell in the ECAHA season, as he recorded nine goals in 10 games for the ECAHA champion Wanderers, but he added 11 goals in five Stanley Cup challenge games as the Wanderers successfully defended their title on three occasions. Johnson was an offensive star in the challenges, scoring four goals on one game against the Ottawa Victorias in a January 1908 challenge, and again scoring four in a game against the Winnipeg Maple Leafs in a March 1908 challenge. He ended the season by scoring the game-winning goal in a single game challenge by the Toronto Professionals just days after Montreal had defeated Winnipeg. He scored one goal as Montreal again defended the Stanley Cup against the Edmonton Eskimos in a challenge that preceded the 1908–08 ECAHA season, and added ten more during the campaign, but Montreal lost the league title to Ottawa, and with it control of the Stanley Cup.
In 1909–10, the Wanderers jumped to the newly formed National Hockey Association (NHA). Johnson scored seven goals during the season to help the Wanderers win the inaugural league championship, and consequently re-capture the Stanley Cup from Ottawa. The victory marked the fourth time Johnson and the Wanderers had won the trophy since 1905. Johnson completed his second NHA season in 1910–11, scoring six goals and recording 60 penalty minutes in 16 games.
Johnson grew up in the same neighbourhood of Pointe-Saint-Charles in Montreal as fellow Wanderers player Frank "Pud" Glass. The two were inseparable companions off the ice and also teamed well together on the ice. Johnson and Glass played together on the 1902–03 Montreal St. Lawrence team in the Montreal City Hockey League before rejoining in the 1906 season on the Montreal Wanderers.
New Westminster, Portland and Victoria
When Lester and Frank Patrick formed the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) in 1911, they sought to lure the NHA's top stars out west. Johnson, by then considered one of the game's best players, was among the players who jumped at the higher salaries the Patricks were offering. Johnson was placed on the New Westminster Royals, and switched positions from left wing to cover-point (defence). He remained a star on offence, scoring nine goals in 14 games, and was named to the PCHA's first all-star team, as New Westminster won the inaugural PCHA championship. Prior to the 1912–13 season, and despite being branded an "outlaw" by the NHA, Johnson appeared ready to return to the Wanderers as he signed a new contract with the eastern team. However, he previously signed a contract with the Royals, and ultimately chose to remain with New Westminster.
Johnson was again named to the all-star team that season, then played a third year in New Westminster in 1913–14 though he missed a month of the season after suffering a deep laceration on his leg during a game. Following the season, he moved to Portland, Oregon when the Royals transferred south to become the Portland Rosebuds. He again made the all-star team in 1915, the first of five consecutive seasons in which he did so. Johnson again faced contract issues prior to the 1915–16 NHA season when he refused to sign Portland's offer, demanding better terms. He eventually signed with Portland, and was reported to have turned down lucrative offers to return to the NHA.
The Rosebuds won the PCHA championship that season, and in doing so became the first American team to compete for the Stanley Cup. For Johnson, it marked his first in a Stanley Cup final in six years, and was not without controversy. The Rosebuds faced the NHA's Montreal Canadiens, and the entire series was played in Montreal. As a consequence of his jumping to the PCHA in 1911, Montreal Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhein had won a judgement against Johnson for $2,000 for breach of contract, but it was not enforceable unless he returned to the jurisdiction of Quebec's courts. When it became known that Lichtenhein would gain Johnson's salary for playing in the series, Johnson contemplated refusing to play. He decided to play in the series anyway, and scored one goal in the five game series. The Canadiens won the best-of-five series 3–2.
Lester Patrick, managing the Spokane Canaries, thought he had an agreement to secure Johnson's playing rights for the 1916–17 season. Portland had come to verbal agreement with Patrick that they would do so if he would relinquish claims on four players Portland sought to sign. When it was determined that some of those players would not report to Portland, the Rosebuds refused to relinquish Johnson, leading Patrick to claim he had been "double crossed". Remaining with the Rosebuds, Johnson posted a career high 21 points in 1916–17.
When the Rosebuds relocated to Victoria, British Columbia to become the Victoria Aristocrats, Johnson moved north with the team. His offence had declined since 1917, as he scored only five, six and five points in the following three seasons, and no goals in that third season of 1919–20. He improved to five goals and seven points in 1920–21, and was named a first-team all-star for the eighth time. However, when his play was met with jeers from the home fans in the 1921–22 season, Johnson felt it was time to retire.
Johnson returned to hockey in 1925 when he played a season in the California Professional League before spending the winter of 1926–27 with the Minneapolis Millers of the American Hockey Association. He again returned to the game in 1928–29 with the Portland Buckaroos of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, then played two seasons in the California Hockey League between 1929 and 1931 with the Hollywood Millionaires and then the San Francisco Tigers before retiring for good at the age of 45. Johnson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.
Johnson was one of the most dominant rushing defensemen of the late-1900s and 1910s. Drawing frequent comparisons to Cyclone Taylor – as Brad Park would to Bobby Orr sixty years later – Johnson was noted for his long, smooth skating stride which allowed him to cover a large amount of ice very quickly and contribute to the attack. He was a consistent scoring threat from the back end through his whole career; in his rookie and sophomore seasons with the Wanderers, he was among the top ten goal scorers in the league, and scored eleven goals over five challenge games during the successful 1908 post-season.
Johnson’s offensive upside was such that his coaches would occasionally play him on the left wing, as against the Kenora Thistles in a 1907 challenge match. Si Griffis, playing for the Thistles at the time, claimed that it was Johnson’s play which determined the Wanderers’ victory. In six playoff games that year, Johnson scored five goals.
Although he sometimes drew complaints about his inconsistent checking through the first half-decade of his career, Johnson was able to effectively use his speed to break up plays and transition the puck. Nevertheless, Johnson was able to round out his defensive game by the midpoint of his career, and became infamous for his use of the poke check. Combined with his 5’ 11” height and 31-inch wingspan, Johnson’s use of abnormally long sticks gave him a reach of anywhere from 81 to 99 inches. In this way, he was able to check nine feet of ice at any given time. One of very few players who could do so at the time, Johnson was as capable skating backwards as he was going forwards. His favourite defensive tactic was to face an oncoming puck carrier head on, skating backwards whilst continuously jabbing and poking at the puck.
Johnson’s poke check could also be used to force turnovers and generate offensive rushes. Combining good breakaway speed with positional awareness, Johnson would charge an oncoming attacker, use his poke check to strip the player of the puck, bank it off the sideboards and race after it. While on the attack himself, he would often deliberately make as if he were dumping the puck in. Instead, when thirty feet from the opposing net, he would deliberately fire the puck along the boards so that it rimmed around behind the opponent’s goalie; however, rather than chase after it, he would subsequently cut across the slot and pick up the puck as it came out the other side.
Johnson was the first hockey player to earn the nickname “Moose”, and became infamous for his rough style of play – though he was rarely known to be dirty, as contemporaries Sprague Cleghorn and Billy Coutu were. He was the frequent source of injuries on whichever team he played for – while playing for the Portland Rosebuds in 1915, he had his jaw broken, two ribs fractured, two stitches each in his right leg and left ankle, a flattened shin bone and a badly bruised thigh. The prior season with Portland, he received seventeen stitches in one shin after it was laid open to the bone by an opposing player’s skate, and had his eye loosened in its socket from an especially violent body check. Nevertheless, in tribute to his toughness, Johnson missed only one game in those two seasons.
To his supporters, Johnson’s proneness to injury was a result of his physical style of play and the retaliation that came with it, and he was often touted as a relatively clean player. Notwithstanding, his detractors pointed to a few notable incidents as evidence of his being overbearing, such as when he was involved in a brawl with Frank Patrick of the Vancouver Millionaires while drunk on the ice after a losing effort:
“…The climax was reached when Johnson and Patrick came together in the second period, a scrap being started immediately. Previous to this Johnson had checked Patrick across the face…the men came together and it took practically all members of both teams and the referee to pry them apart.
…The big fellow had made himself disagreeable throughout the game, hacking, checking and doing everything possible to hurt the Vancouver [players]. Not satisfied with this, he had to trip the referee…Johnson then picked his quarrel with Frank Patrick and they came to blows. They rolled over the ice locked in each other’s arms and it took quite a bunch of husky fellows to pry them apart”.
Johnson accumulated eight seasons where his penalty totals were triple or quadruple the number of games played.
Johnson’s gritty play, however, complemented his offensive prowess exceptionally well. He was named to the ECAHA Second All-Star team in 1908, and the PCHA First All-Star Team in 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1921.
Off the ice
Johnson was born in the neighbourhood of Pointe-Saint-Charles in Montreal, Quebec on February 26, 1886. As a 14-year-old in 1900, he suffered an accident in which he survived a 2,300 volt electrical shock, but the incident resulted in the loss of two fingers on his right hand. Upon moving to the pacific coast, Johnson took on a job working for the Union Pacific Railroad, working with the railway during the summers in between hockey seasons. He settled in Portland when his career ended and worked full-time as a brakeman for Union Pacific until he retired to White Rock, British Columbia in 1954. He suffered a stroke in 1961, and died two years later at the age of 77.
Regular season and playoffs
|1911–12||New Westminster Royals||PCHA||14||9||0||9||13||—||—||—||—||—|
|1912–13||New Westminster Royals||PCHA||13||7||3||10||15||—||—||—||—||—|
|1913–14||New Westminster Royals||PCHA||16||3||5||8||27||—||—||—||—||—|
Stanley Cup challenges
- "Moose Johnson biography". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- Duplacey, James; Zweig, Eric (2010). Official Guide to the Players of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Firefly Books. p. 265. ISBN 1-55407-662-5.
- "Wanderer won". Montreal Gazette. 1906-03-14. p. 2. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Stanley Cup leaves Ottawa". Regina Leader. 1906-03-19. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Moose Johnson statistics". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Cup comes back". Montreal Gazette. 1907-03-26. p. 4. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Close call for champions and Cup". Montreal Gazette. 1908-03-16. p. 2. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- Podnieks, Andrew (2003). Players: The ultimate A–Z guide of everyone who has ever played in the NHL. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. p. 940. ISBN 0-385-25999-9.
- "Turning Back Hockey's Pages" D.A.L. MacDonald, The Montreal Gazette, March 10, 1934.
- "Eastern hockey stars signed by Patrick for Vancouver clubs". Calgary Daily Herald. 1911-11-13. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Patrick may be disappointed". Montreal Gazette. 1912-10-31. p. 10. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Wanderers throw down gauntlet through signing Ernie Johnson". Ottawa Citizen. 1912-10-23. p. 8. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Vancouver and New Westminster open coast season". Calgary Daily Herald. 1912-12-05. p. 8. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Each coast hockey club has an injured player". Calgary Daily Herald. 1913-12-23. p. 8. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Coast league already has some "holdout" problems". Regina Leader. 1915-10-21. p. 21. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Art Ross signs with the Senators". Toronto World. 1915-12-04. p. 5. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- McFarlane, Brian (1990). 100 Years of Hockey. Summerhill Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-929091-26-4.
- ""Moose" Johnson may not play in game tonight". Saskatoon Phoenix. 1916-03-28. p. 6. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Canadiens beat Portland 2–1 fifth and deciding game for Stanley Cup". Toronto World. 1916-03-31. p. 8. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Patrick hockey chief, says he's double crossed". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 1916-11-17. p. 6. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Hockey star quits following jeers of fans". St. Petersburg Independent. 1922-02-20. p. 14. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Minneapolis releases Oatman, Moose Johnson". Saskatoon Phoenix. 1927-10-26. p. 9. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Six hockey stars in Hall of Fame". Ottawa Citizen. 1952-08-19. p. 15. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Another Fred Taylor". Ottawa Citizen. 1910-03-21. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
- Oregon Daily Journal. 1915-01-24 https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19100221&printsec=frontpage&hl=en. Retrieved 2016-07-31. Missing or empty
- Oregon Daily Journal. 1915-03-28 https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19100221&printsec=frontpage&hl=en. Retrieved 2016-07-31. Missing or empty
- Oregon Daily Journal. 1915-03-28 https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19100221&printsec=frontpage&hl=en. Retrieved 2016-07-31. Missing or empty
- Ottawa Citizen. 1915-03-28 https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19100221&printsec=frontpage&hl=en. Retrieved 2016-07-31. Missing or empty
- Vancouver Daily World. 1917-03-05. Missing or empty
- De Geer, Vern (1963-03-29). "Morning". Montreal Gazette. p. 21. Retrieved 2011-03-07.