A name like Sprague Cleghorn is bound to be stuck in your mind. A bit of a forerunner for what it means to have a “hockey name”. Older hockey fans will remember Cleghorn as one of the toughest men to lace up the skates. In fact rumors are that Evelyn Byng, the wife of Lord Byng who was the twelfth Governor General of Canada, donated the Lady Byng Trophy to the NHL in 1924 on account of being repulsed with Cleghorn’s play.
Born and bred out of Montreal, Quebec, Cleghorn was a four time Stanley Cup champion having won two with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Ottawa Senators. During the beginning of establishing the National Hockey League, Cleghorn was charged twice with on ice infractions that evidently led to his legacy. One such incident caused him to take a bad tumble to the ice and break his ankle. Upon returning back home to Montreal, he fell on the slippery sidewalks and broke the other one. If that’s not karma, I don’t know what is.
Upon hanging up the skates or the gloves if you will, Cleghorn didn’t get away from the game and instead turned to coaching. He was picked up the lead the Pittsburgh Shamrocks of the International Hockey League in the late 1930’s. Just like the issues of hockey today, Cleghorn was let go after one season due to the accusation of the team not paying him. He sued and won.
After the Pittsburgh debacle, not many teams we’re looking for a beat up tough guy with business sense. Naturally, Cornwall came calling.
The Cornwall Cougars were a senior team playing out of the Quebec Provincial Hockey League. The Cougars were in operation for a little under three years and were hardly a powerhouse. Cleghorn first set up in Cornwall running hockey clinics around town when he was appointed as coach. Cornwall was the only Ontario entry as they face off against Quebec squads from Victoriaville, Sherbrooke, Saint Hyacinthe, Lachine and Drummondville.
Cleghorn wasn’t noted for his coaching. After going six games without a win and being shut out by 11 goals, Cleghorn was canned. Soon after the entire team folded and the legacy of the Cornwall Royals would soon come to fruition.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958 but didn’t live to see it happen. Cleghorn was hit by a car two years earlier in his hometown of Montreal and succumbed to his numerous head injuries. Sprague Cleghorn will be forever remembered as one of the few who reaches the Hall for his fists.