Tommy “T.P.” Gorman
Ottawa Senators, 1917-1924
New York Americans, 1925-1927
Chicago Blackhawks, 1933-1934
Montreal Maroons, 1934-1938
Montreal Canadiens, 1940-1946
Canadian Division Title, 1935-1936
Prince of Wales Trophies, 1943-1946
Playoff Appearances: 1919-1924, 1929, 1934-1937, 1941-1946
Stanley Cup Finals Appearances: 1920-1921, 1923, 1934-1935, 1944, 1946
Stanley Cup Victories: 1920-1921, 1923, 1934-1935, 1944, 1946
Tommy Gorman was a true founding father of the NHL, literally being present at the creation of the league on the night of November 26, 1917. Even though he ranks eighth today for his time Gorman was one of the greatest general managers of all time.
During the salad days of the NHL Gorman swiftly became its greatest general manager while overseeing operations of the original Ottawa Senators. During the early years when the NHL challenged the PCHA and, later, the WCHL/WHL for the Stanley Cup Gorman’s Sens won three Stanley Cups.
He was also the greatest general manager of the 1920s, leading Leo Dandurand and Lester Patrick by a comfortable margin.
Even more significantly, according to my rating system, Gorman was the greatest NHL general manager from 1920 until 1931 (when Leo Dandurand surpassed him for a brief time) and then he regained his number one again from 1935 until 1940; and then, more amazingly regained his number one rank for the third time from 1946 until 1948 when he was surpassed for good by the third greatest general manager of all time (whose name will be revealed five weeks from now).
Although he was one of the greatest general managers in the game, Gorman never played a minute of hockey.
Gorman was born and raised in Ottawa; throughout his life Gorman developed a knack for creating friendships with important and connected individuals; first, working as a page boy for the Canadian parliament; then, later, when he was an adult working in journalism as a writer then sports editor of the Ottawa Journal.
It was there he attracted the eye of Ottawa Senators owner Ted Dey in 1916. Dey asked Gorman to help him recruit hockey talent. Even though he never played a minute of hockey himself he had a keen eye for talent. He was instrumental in recruiting Lionel Hitchman, King Clancy, Frank Finnigan, and Alec Connell into the NHL during his years in Ottawa.
Gorman left the Senators in 1925 when he got tired of squabbling with the other partners who owned part of the team. (his departure marked the beginning of the end of the original Ottawa Senators as a viable NHL franchise).
Gorman went to America and became the manager (and occasional head coach) of the hapless New York Americans.
He left hockey in 1929 and dabbled in horse-racing but in 1932 he was lured back into the NHL when he was named head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. Showing that he had not lost his knack for building teams he turned the Hawks from losers to Stanley Cup champions in only two seasons. During the second season Gorman became the Hawks GM and led the team to its first Stanley Cup win ever—only to resign shortly thereafter after he got sick of the interference from Hawks owner Major Fred McLaughlin.
Gorman moved on to the Montreal Maroons and did double duty as head coach and general manager. What followed has never been repeated since: Gorman became the only NHL head coach to win consecutive Stanley Cups while coaching two different teams.
But the Maroons were falling on hard times. The Great Depression killed attendance and the Maroons folded for good in 1938.
Gorman returned to horse-racing, managing a race track until the Montreal Canadiens lured him back to hockey when they named him general manager of the team in 1940. The Habs were in terrible shape and T.P. began the rebuilding process by hiring Dick Irvin Sr. from Toronto to become head coach while providing Irvin with first class talent to rebuild the team.
Gorman signed future Canadiens luminaries like Elmer Lach, Ken Reardon, Butch Bouchard, Bill Durnan, and the greatest Montreal Canadien of all time: Maurice Richard.
The Habs added two more Stanley Cup titles to Gorman’s already well-filled hockey ledger in 1944 and 1946 but Gorman’s dual interests in horse-racing and hockey did not sit well with board members of the Montreal Arena Company. They told Gorman to choose between the horse-track and hockey. He chose the former and left the Habs in 1946; never to return to hockey again.
When he died in 1961 he was the last surviving founding member of the NHL. Two years he was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
(Next week’s column will feature the seventh greatest NHL GM of all time.)