Tuesday

Smokey Harris

This is Smokey Harris. He is the answer to the trivia question "Who scored the first goal in Boston Bruins history?"

The Bruins were the first American NHL based team. Grocery magnate Charles Adams fell in love with hockey after watching the Montreal Canadiens defeat the Calgary Tigers in the 1924 Stanley Cup playoffs. By November Adams was granted a team, and on December 1st, 1924 the Bruins played their first NHL game, hosting their expansion cousins the Montreal Maroons at the Boston Arena.

The Maroons opened the scoring that night, with Dinny Dinsmore scoring on an unassisted effort at the 9 minute mark of the 1st period.

Cue Harris. At 3:30 of the second period he took a pass from Carson "Shovel Shot" Cooper and beat Maroons goaltender Clint Benedict to open the scoring. Exactly 6 minutes later Cooper scored the only other goal of the night, securing the Bruins a 2-1 victory in their very first game.

Despite the good start, the Bruins would have a long season, winning just 6 of 30 games on the schedule, finishing dead last. The Bruins line up featured few names that would go on to star in the NHL: Many were formerly hockey stars on the west coast, including Wilfred "Smokey" Harris.

Harris only played in 6 games with the Bruins that year, scoring 3 goals. For whatever reason the veteran was released and headed back west where he was a legend. People forget that these were the days of the NHL's infancy and many of the PCHA players and teams were every bit as good as the eastern league. But since the NHL eventually won over continental dominance, many of the great western players have been forgotten.

Born in Port Arthur, Ontario, Harris headed west and was a fantastic hockey star for about 20 years from 1911 through 1932. Known as a fast skater, smooth stickhandler and master "hook-checker," Harris was a strong, physical player in the PCHA, starring with the Vancouver Millionaires and Portland Rosebuds. A four time PCHA champion (3 in Vancouver, 1 in Portland), he participated in as many Stanley Cup championship series, too. But he never got his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup.

Harris, who also took regular turns on defense, later extended his career in the California pro league, playing in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It should be noted that Fred "Smokey" Harris is not the same person as "Smoky" Harris. That's actually his brother Henry, who also starred out west and toiled briefly with the Bruins. The younger sibling seemed to inherit his older brother's nickname at times.

As for the origins of the nickname - that remains a mystery to this author.

2 comments:

Gail Dance 3:24 PM  

The older 'Smokey' Harris was my Dad's older brother, the name came from a Royal [think Princess Patricia?}who watched her first hockey game,in Canada, my Aunt Helen Shannon, told me when Uncle Smokey skated down the ice the 'Royal' said he was so fast he looked like a "puff of Smoke", therefore the nick name. My name is Gail Harris/Nielsen/Dance. My Dad & I never met,after 1yr.of age, he did play hockey too,don't know where
but was called 'Smokey' too after his older brother.

Sandy Williams 6:57 AM  

Hi Gail:
I have a few pictures of your dad. Your aunt Eva was my Grandmother.
email me at kokum@coppervalley.bc.ca if you wish.
Colin Williams

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