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At the start of the 1906-07 winter season, a mid-30s, Stanley Cup champion named Tom “Attie” Howard faced the prospect of being teamless after fifteen years due to a very public row with the Amateur Hockey League. During the 1905-06 season, the New York Amateur Hockey League executive committee barred several players from Howard’s team, the Brooklyn Skating Club, and even warned Tom himself about abusive play (1). In protest, the Brooklyn Skating Club substituted five second string players at their January 6, 1906 game (2). Additionally, Brooklyn Skating Club intentionally played the game undermanned. While the executive committee received protests from both teams, the focus remained on the Tom Howard and the Brooklyn Skating Club (3). A New York Times article indicated the committee considered additional disciplinary measures against Tom, like expulsion, for refusing to play. Within a few days of that protest game, the Brooklyn Skating Club resigned from the league (4) and the team disbanded, which made any judgement a moot point. With more than half of the season remaining, some sportswriters cheered the return of “clean play” equating with Tom’s leaving the game (5). Another consequence of Brooklyn Skating Club’s leaving resulted in Clermont Avenue Rink’s decision against hosting ice skating for the 1906-07 winter (6), which limited hockey games to St. Nicholas rink (7). However, these outcomes play a third line to the larger issues on public parade, which focused on “amateur vs professional”.
Tom "Attie" Howard
The issues arbitrated during the 1905-06 New York amateur hockey league were a microcosm of the discussions occurring in the larger hockey community. In 1905-06, fame favored the amateur hockeyist. But, being amateur precluded any compensation of any kind. Amateur players found to be receiving money or even gifts for performance would be disbarred. Even playing against professional teams equated to being considered professional, as Berlin, now Kitchner, discovered (8). For hockeyists at the time, professional teams lacked stability nor garnered the prestige of the amateur leagues. As a result, allegations and investigations in to professionalism were serious matters. When the Amateur Hockey League’s executive committee decided to charge Tom with “professionalism” (9), Tom faced being locked out of amateur hockey, the associated fame, and his history.
Unfortunately for Tom, Investigative trips to Canada and possibly tensions between owners doomed the Brooklyn Skate Club. The committee’s investigation discovered that hockey players in Ottawa, Montreal and other Canadian cities gossiped about compensation if they signed with the Brooklyn Skating Club (10). Twice before, the Amateur Hockey League investigated Tom on “professionalism” charges. Each time, an owner of an opposing team levied the charge, Brooklyn Skate Club in 1901, (11) and New York Athletic Club in 1903 (12). Each time, the story threads changed from scandal to indignation in the voices for the court of public opinion. Before the committee rendered final judgement on the third “professionalism” charge, the Brooklyn Skating Club resigned from the league. Regardless, the strongest voices of the court, which included Brooklyn Life, New York Times and others, convicted Tom Howard of all counts of “professionalism”. Tom decided to retire from playing, but he was not done with hockey. For now, amateurism won.
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