Friday, May 25, 2007

Cyclone Taylor

Long before there was such a thing as the National Hockey League, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor was already established as the first legend of hockey.

Taylor grew up in Listowel, Ontario, a small town of about 2,500 people. When he was young Cyclone would skate to school everyday during the five month long winter, and before long it became as natural to him as walking. In 1902, at the age of 19, he began to play for Stratford, and it didn't take long for people to take notice of him. In 1904 he was invited to play in the Manitoba Senior Amateur League. At first Taylor was placed at left wing, but because of his incredible ability to skate, he was eventually moved to old school position known as rover.

In 1907 he joined the Ottawa Silver Seven and was moved back to defense.
"The Ottawa coach felt I could play defense, and the results made him look good. We beat Montreal 8-5, and I scored five goals on individual rushes." said Taylor

The Ottawa Free Press covered the game and a reporter named Malcolm Bryce praised Taylor for his outstanding game writing: "I understand that this boy, Taylor, was nicknamed 'Tornado' when he played in Manitoba. And I further understand that when he moved into the International League they called him 'Whirlwind.' But starting today, based on his performance last night, I am re-christening him 'Cyclone' Taylor."

When asked to comment on his nickname Cyclone stated: "That wasn't the only nickname I got. Once when we played an exhibition game in New York somebody called me 'The Jim Jeffreys of the Ice' after the boxer. Naturally this made me feel great, because I was young at the time and very impressionable. But Cyclone fit the best."

Taylor's excellent play helped Ottawa win the ECAHA championship and subsequently the Stanley Cup. By 1910 he was playing for the Renfrew Millionaires, and making $5,260 a year, which made him the highest paid hockey player at that time.

"If I'd been smart I could just as easily have gotten $10,000, because they wanted me very badly."

The transaction caused a stir right across Canada. He became the highest paid Canadian athlete up to that time and remained so for many years. Taylor scored 22 goals in 28 games over the next two seasons before the team was disbanded.

Cyclone's amazing ability to skate from one end of the rink to the other and score became so well known that it wasn't long before people all over were talking about him. In fact many claimed to have seen him score a goal while skating backwards. When asked about this Cyclone replied by saying, "No, I never did score a goal while skating backwards. I know there are a lot of elderly people in Ontario today who would swear they saw it happen. But it's just one of those stories that was blown up."

From 1912 to 1921 Cyclone played for the Vancouver Millionaires, often playing forward. Taylor fell in love with the west coast, and the west coach loved him right back. He averaged more than a goal per game and led the city to it's only Stanley Cup championship. In 1915 he scored six goals in the Millionaires' three-game domination of Ottawa in the championship series. The unstoppable Taylor's excellence in the series elevated his hero statusright across Canada.

At the age of thirty-six decided to retire from the game of hockey. In his career Cyclone scored and amazing 198 goals in 180 games, and captured two Stanley Cups. In 1945 was one of the original inductees elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. After playing eighteen years of hockey Taylor claims he never once got a scar or lost a tooth. The two biggest factors that contributed to that was his skating ability and that he wasn't a rough or dirty player.

What many consider one of the best skaters ever to grace the ice, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor died on June 9, 1979, leaving behind a legend of a player who will never be equaled.


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