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1923 V128-1 Paulin's Candy #35 Bill Cook RC Rookie HOF for sale
1923 V128-1 Paulin's Candy #35 Bill Cook RC Rookie HOF for sale

1923 V128-1 Paulin's Candy #35 Bill Cook RC Rookie HOF

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1923 V128-1 Paulin's Candy #35 Bill Cook RC Rookie HOF

William Osser Xavier Cook (October 8, 1895 – May 5, 1986) was a Canadian professional ice hockey right winger who played for the Saskatoon Crescents of the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) and the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL). A prolific scorer, Cook led the WCHL in goals twice and the NHL three times. He was named an all-star seven times between the two leagues. Known as "The Original Ranger", Cook was the first captain of the New York Rangers, scored the first goal in franchise history and led the team to two Stanley Cup championships.

Turning to coaching following his playing career, Cook led the Cleveland Barons to two Calder Cup championships and the Minneapolis Millers to a United States Hockey League championship. He coached the New York Rangers during the 1951–52 NHL season until his retirement in 1953. Cook was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952 and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.

Early life
Cook was born on October 9, 1895,[1][2][3] in Brantford, Ontario. He was a middle child of a large family,[4] and the eldest of three sons, preceding his brothers Frederick ("Bun") and Alexander ("Bud").[5] The family moved to Kingston, Ontario, where he learned to skate on the Rideau Canal.[6] He joined the Kingston Frontenacs' junior hockey team in 1913 and played for two seasons before his career was interrupted by the First World War.[5]

He volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915,[7] and served with the Canadian Field Artillery for nearly two years in France and another at the Belgian front.[8] Cook participated in several engagements, including at Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Hill 70.[7] He then fought into 1919 in Siberia as part of the allied intervention in the Russian Civil War.[9]

Upon his return from the war, Cook rejoined the Frontenacs for one season before joining the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1920.[10] He led the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) in both goals, 12, and points, 19,[11] while the Greyhounds won the NOHA championship.[12] He won the scoring title again in 1921–22 with 20 goals and 28 points.[11]

Playing career
Saskatoon Crescents
Spurning offers from National Hockey League (NHL) teams to turn professional in the eastern league,[13] Cook moved to Saskatchewan, where he had been granted land for his service in the war.[5] The Calgary Tigers of the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) attempted to recruit him for the 1922–23 season but failed to sign him. Instead, he joined the Saskatoon Crescents.[13] He recorded 25 points in 30 games in his first professional season.[10]

Returning to Saskatoon in 1923–24, Cook led the WCHL with 26 goals and 40 points. He was named the all-star right wing for the first of three consecutive seasons.[11] He scored 22 goals in 1924–25.[10] The WCHL rebranded itself the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Crescents became the Sheiks in 1925–26. Cook again led in both goals and points with 31 and 44 respectively,[11] and had become known as the best right wing in hockey.[13]

New York Rangers
The WHL had run into financial difficulty in its final seasons, and after 1926, ceased operations. The Montreal Maroons intended to sign both Cook and his brother Bun to join their team for the 1926–27 NHL season. While the team's manager waited in Montreal to meet the brothers, Conn Smythe, manager of the newly formed New York Rangers, travelled to Winnipeg to reach the pair first. Smythe signed both Cook brothers for $12,000. Bill Cook was officially the first player signed by the Rangers, and was named the team's first captain. The Cook brothers joined Frank Boucher to form the "Bread Line", one of the early NHL's most prolific scoring lines.

The Rangers made their NHL debut on November 16, 1926, against the Maroons. Cook scored the franchise's first goal, which also stood up as the winner, in a 1–0 victory.[15] Appearing in 44 games, he led the league in both goals, 33, and points, 37. He finished as the runner-up to Herb Gardiner of the Montreal Canadiens for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. The Rangers finished first in the American Division, but were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. Cook recorded 24 points in 1927–28, the seventh highest total in the league. The Rangers again qualified for the playoffs, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship.[19] The Bread Line scored every Rangers goal in the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals.

Twenty-three points in 1928–29 again placed Cook seventh in the league. The Rangers defeated the New York Americans to reach the 1929 Stanley Cup Finals, but were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens.[20] Cook led the Rangers and finished fourth in league scoring in 1929–30 and 1930–31 with 59 and 42 points respectively. In 1931, he was named to the NHL's inaugural All-Star Team at right wing. It was the first of four consecutive appearances; he was placed on the first team in 1931, 1932 and 1933, and on the second team in 1934. Cook's 34 goals in 1931–32 tied Charlie Conacher for the league lead. The Rangers won the American Division title, and after defeating the Canadians, faced Conacher's Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1932 Stanley Cup Final. Toronto swept the series with three consecutive victories.

Cook was again the top scorer in 1932–33, leading the NHL in both goals, 28, and points, 50. At 36 years, 5 months old, Cook was the oldest player in NHL history to win a scoring title until 2013 when Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning led the NHL in scoring at the age of 39. The Rangers reached the 1933 Stanley Cup Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cook scored the winning goal in the second game, then scored the championship winning goal, in overtime, in the fourth game. It was the first overtime power play goal in NHL playoff history. The trophy was not available on the night the Rangers won, leading the series to become known as the "Forgotten Cup". Cook accepted the Stanley Cup on behalf of his team in November of that year, seven months after the Rangers victory.

After scoring only 13 goals in 1933–34, Cook improved to 20 goals in 1934–35.[16] In a 7–5 victory over the Maple Leafs on January 29, 1935, the Bread line scored four goals and five assists to reach a combined 1,000 points as a unit over their nine seasons together. The Bread Line was broken up in 1935–36 when Bun was forced out of the Rangers lineup by illness. Bill Cook scored just seven goals that season, and at the age of 40, scored one goal in 21 games before retiring as a player during the 1936–37 season.

Coaching career
Turning to coaching, Cook took over as the manager of the Cleveland Barons in the International-American Hockey League (IAHL) in the 1937–38 season. He inherited a team that had struggled the season before and led it to a respectable season, winning 34 of 50 games played combined between the regular season and playoffs. Cook was pressed into service as a player as a result of injuries. His team was able to dress only 10 of 17 players in the deciding game of the Barons' playoff series against the Syracuse Stars. Cook played a regular shift in the game, but the Barons lost, 3–2, in the fourth overtime period.

The Barons finished fifth overall in the IAHL standings in 1938–39, but defeated the Springfield Indians and Providence Reds to reach the league championship series against the Philadelphia Ramblers. They won the best-of-five championship three games to one to claim the Calder Cup.[30] Cook coached the Barons to a second Calder Cup in 1940–41, defeating the Hershey Bears in the final. Cook remained behind the Barons' bench until the conclusion of the 1942–43 American Hockey League (AHL) season. He then turned coaching duties over to his brother Bun, but remained the team's general manager.

Cook left the Barons to join the Minneapolis Millers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) in 1947. He coached the team for three seasons, leading the team to the Paul W. Loudon Trophy as league champions in 1949–50. He moved on to coach the Denver Falcons, also of the USHL, in 1950–51 then the Saskatoon Quakers of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PHCL) the following season. Cook left the Quakers midway through the season when asked by Frank Boucher, general manager of the New York Rangers, to return to the NHL club as its head coach.[33] He coached the final 47 games of the Rangers' 1951–52 season, winning 17, losing 22 and tying 8. He remained behind the Rangers bench in 1952–53, but the Rangers missed the playoffs after winning only 17 of 70 games. Cook was replaced as coach following the season as Boucher named himself head coach.[35] Cook then retired from hockey.

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