Wednesday

Bill Cook

Bill Cook started his hockey career upon returning from service in the armed forces in the first World War. Having been given farm land by the Canadian government for his service in WWI, Cook headed out to Saskatchewan for four years he starred in the Western Canadian Hockey League with the Saskatoon Sheiks while tending to his farm. He won the scoring championship on three occasions including scoring 31 goals in 30 games in 1924-25. It marked the second time in three seasons that Cook led the WCHL in scoring.

The New York Rangers entered the NHL in 1926 and the Rangers purchased both Bill Cook, already 30 years of age, and his brother Fred ("Bun"), later adding Frank Boucher to form the Bread Line, one of the all time great trios in NHL history. In Cook's first season he captured the NHL scoring championship, scoring 33 goals in 44 games. He would go on to add 34 and 28 goal seasons. All three of those years he led the NHL in goal scoring.

However the four time NHL All Star's biggest goal came in 193 when he scored the overtime winner in the finals to give the Rangers the Stanley Cup. It was the Rangers second championship, as Cook captained the Rangers to the 1928 Stanley Cup as well.

A burly right winger with the desire or Rocket Richard and the physical prowess of Gordie Howe, Frank Boucher once proclaimed Bill to be better than both.

"He's my choice for the best right winger hockey ever knew" said Boucher, a fine player himself who is often referred to as the Gretzky of the 1930s and 1940s. "He was better than The Rocket and, in my estimation, better than Gordie Howe as well."

Cook, who scored the first goal in franchise history, played a very similar style to that of Gordie Howe - a hard and physically dominating style, overpowering his opponents, going through them instead of around them. But like Gordie he had some great skills as well, especially his nose for the net.

"Bill didn't have a bullet shot, or at least not a long bullet shot like the golf style slap shot Bobby Hull perfected" describes Boucher. "But he had a very hard wrist shot from close in and could score equally well backhand or forehand."

In 474 games with the Blueshirts, Cook tallied 229 goals and 138 assists for 367 points, along with 386 penalty minutes in 11 seasons in the Big Apple.

Following his playing days Bill tried his hand at coaching, including three years with the NHL Rangers.

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952, Cook passed away on April 6th, 1986.

Many people think of Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Jari Kurri, or Mike Bossy as the greatest winger ever. We shouldn't forget the sharpshooter Bill Cook.

1 comments:

Keith Lenn 3:05 PM  

Joe,

As usual, great bio on Bill Cook, a guy even most Rangers fans have never heard of.

Here's my bio:

Most hockey fans that are interested in hockey history have heard of William Osser "Bill" Cook. Cook is associated first and foremost as the first real star of the New York Rangers organization having played for the Blueshirts from 1926 through 1937. Before blossoming into one of the NHL's brightest stars, Cook was also a standout player in the early 1920s for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Saskatoon Crescents.

Cook had it all - he was an intelligent hockeyist, charismatic, and a physical force. If Cook were around for us to see play today we would be in awe of his uncanny stickhandling skills, his "hard and fast" skating, and his fantastic shooting ability. And if you were an opponent of Bill Cook you surely wouldn't want to get on his bad side for his temper and mean streak were among the most volatile of his era. He was arguably the greatest RW of the 1930s.

When Bill Cook scored the first goal in Rangers history, the lone goal in a 1-0 blanking of the Maroons, a legend was born. Cook was signed to a Rangers contract when Conn Smythe convinced him (it really didn't take much convincing from some accounts I have read) to join the New York Rangers for its inaugural season and leave the Saskatoon Crescents of the WHL.

Cook's debut in the NHL was a success beyond anyone's belief. Cook scored a league-high 33 goals and a league-high 37 points. The following season, while Cook did not match his point totals of the season before, he led his team to a much grander prize - the first Stanley Cup in Rangers history. Cook scored 5 points in 9 postseason games that year but altered his play some to become a more physical presence on the ice.

Cook's scoring fell off in the 1928-29 season but he regained his scoring touch in 1929-30 when he went 29-30-59. Cook notched 30 goals the following season and then in 1931-32 led the NHL with 34 goals. The next season he led the NHL again in goals with 28 and in points with 50, leading the Rangers to its second Stanley Cup in a 6-year span. Cook remained a productive player through the 1934-35 season before tailing off his last two seasons.

In only 474 NHL games Cook scored 229-138-367. His other pro totals were 88-53-141 in only 117 games. Bill Cook played professional hockey at a high level for 13 consecutive seasons (NHL and WCHL/WHL). He was named to the NHL First-Team All-Stars three times and once to the Second-Team. He also was named to three WCHL/WHL all-star teams for a total of 6 First-Team all-star squads in only 15 years of major league hockey. He led a major league in goals five times, assists once (yes, he did pass the puck one year!), and points four times. And as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds he led his league in goals and points twice.

Bill Cook placed among the top 10 NHL scoring leaders in each of his first seven seasons. In five of those years he was in the top five, twice leading the league.

With Cook's playing days far behind him, In 1968 he was included in the ceremonies which closed down the old Madison Square Garden. In Brian McFarlane's The Rangers, Cook is quoted as saying, "They brought me back because I scored the first goal in the old Madison Square Garden. Then they gave me a puck and sent me out on the ice to put one in the net to christen the new Garden. Now that was quite an honor." Cook was brought back to the Garden in January of 1986 to accept the 4th annual Ranger Alumni Association Award, an award that was special to Cook because the 400 plus members of the Alumni Association voted directly for the recipient for the first time since the award's inception.

It should also be noted that Bill Cook enlisted to fight in World War I at the age of 17 and showed courage and bravery in such difficult battles as Ypres, Vimy Ridge, the Somme, and Flanders. He also served in Russia after the war to help put down the Bolsheviks where once again he was noted for his courage under fire. Cook died in Kingston, Ontario in 1986.

Bill Cook was called by Frank Boucher "the best right winger hockey ever knew - despite the fact that others disagree and give their votes to Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe. I say Cook topped them both."

According to Joe Primeau, "Nobody fooled around with Bill because he was tough - real tough...Bill was the best (right winger) we ever played against."

Lester Patrick on Bill Cook: "I need the Bill Cooks. The other players, when it comes right down to it, will follow the Bill Cooks."

--Keith Lenn

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