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When the Detroit NHL
franchise first moved into
Olympia Stadium, the Cougars
(now Red Wings) also located
their top farm club in the same
The Detroit Olympics, first
of the Can-Pro League and then
part of the International Hockey
League (IHL), gave the Detroit
NHL team an in-house option
to call up players as injury
replacements or to take the job
of under-performing players who
would be demoted to the minor
The easy shifting of rosters kept the NHL players on their toes, knowing
that if they didn't put out, iron-fisted GM/Coach Jack Adams could farm
them out (and thus reduce their salary) without even having to buy them a
The Olympics existed from 1927 until 1936 when they were moved to
Pittsburgh during the Great Depression because Detroit fans could only
afford to support one hockey team, not two, even though the Olympics
(like the mid-1930s Red Wings) were a championship club.
At the end of their Motor City history the Olympics won three consecutive
IHL regular season titles (1933-34, 1934-35 and 1935-36) and two straight
IHL playoff finals (1935 & 1936).
Once shifted to Pittsburgh as the original Hornets franchise, the team
still served as a Detroit farm club. Eventually this team moved to Rochester,
NY in 1956 where the Rochester Americans remain as the fourth oldest American
Hockey League franchise. (The Amerks are the team which gave "Hockey Night
in Canada" commentator Don Cherry his first coaching job in 1971.)
In their day the Olympics featured some top line talent, including
several players who would later be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in
DID YOU KNOW the original player-coach of the Olympics was Hockey
HoFamer Frank Foyston?
By the time he came to Detroit Foyston had won three Stanley Cups
with three different teams in three different leagues. He is one of only
nine players to win Cups with three different franchises.
Foyston was an All-Star almost everywhere he played, skating at center,
rover or either wing position.
One of the most dominant playmakers of early pro hockey, Foyston was
one of the first major leaguers to top 200 career goals and finished with
242 regular season tallies plus 37 more in the playoffs during his 16 big
However, his only NHL experience was a season and a half with the
Detroit Cougars for whom he scored 17 goals with seven assists in 64
Foyston turned pro with the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey
Association (the forerunner of the National Hockey League) for the 1912-13
season. Toronto captured the 1913-14 NHA title and in the annual east-west
showdown defeated the Victoria Cougars of the Pacific Coast Hockey
Association to win the 1914 Stanley Cup Championship. Foyston scored twice
in the three game series including the Cup-clinching goal in Toronto's 2-1
deciding game victory.
Foyston went west for nine seasons when the new Seattle Metropolitans of
the PCHA coaxed "Frank the Flash" to join them at the beginning of the 1915-16
schedule. Foyston scored seven goals with three assists for the Mets in the
four game 1917 Stanley Cup Challenge when Seattle upset the Montreal Canadiens
to become the first US-based team to capture the Cup.
Foyston was even better the next time the two teams met for the S-Cup in 1919,
getting nine goals plus an assist in five games before the series was abandoned
(tied 2-2-1) hours before the deciding contest at Seattle because of the North
American influenza epidemic which claimed thousands of lives. Most of the Canadiens
players and their manager George Kennedy fell ill with the flu and were hospitalized.
Canadiens' defenseman Joe Hall died four days later. Kennedy (real name George
Washington Kendall, who took the name Kennedy as a teen-aged wrestler) was
permanently weakened by his illness which led to his death in 1921 at age 39.
After the Mets won their fifth PCHA regular season title in 1923-24, both
the team and the league folded. Seattle averaged only 1,000 fans per game in
their final year of operation.
Foyston then joined the Victoria, BC Cougars of the Western Canada Hockey
League. The Cougars were WCHL regular season champs and beat the Canadiens
in a four game 1925 Stanley Cup Challenge. Foyston scored once as Victoria
became the last non-NHL club to capture the Cup.
The Cougars were again champs of the re-named Western Hockey League
in 1925-26, but this time lost a four game Stanley Cup set to the NHL Montreal
Maroons with Foyston held scoreless.
Like the PCHA two years before, the WHL disbanded in 1926. Most of the
Victoria Cougars player contracts, including Foyston's, were sold to the new
NHL expansion franchise which had been granted to Detroit. Keeping the team
name of its new players, the Detroit Cougars would join fellow newcomers the
New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks as the NHL's "Class of 1926."
The Detroit team played its first season at Riverside Arena in Windsor, ONT
(built in 1921) while construction of a spacious permanent home on Grand River
Avenue on Detroit's northwest side was underway.
Clearly past his prime (turning age 36 at mid-season of 1926-27), Foyston
still managed 10 goals and five assists in 41 games (schedules were shorter then)
for Detroit's inaugural NHL campaign.
During training camp of 1927, new boss Adams determined Foyston could best
help the franchise as player-coach of the new Olympics farm club. Thus, for the
first time in his professional career, Foyston was sent to the minors.
However, the struggling Cougars wouldn't make the playoffs until the end of
their third season in 1928-29 and still needed help, so Foyston was brought back
up to the big club on January 10, 1928. Officially the Cougars purchased Foyston
from the Olympics in a check that was handed from one accounting pile to another
at the Olympia offices of both teams. Foyston tallied a respectable seven goals
plus two assists in 23 games to finish out the 1927-28 season.
Foyston then returned as player-coach of the Olympics for the next two
seasons, posting an admirable 18 goals plus six assists in 42 games as he reached
age 38 in 1928-29 while guiding the team to a 27-10-5 record. He had two goals and
one assist in limited duty in his last playing season of 1929-30, spending about half
the time as a behind the bench coach.
After his Detroit days Foyston bounced around the minors a bit as a manager-
coach. He bossed the Syracuse Stars in 1930-31 and the Bronx Tigers in 1931-32.
Foyston at last returned to where he'd had his glory days as a player, coaching the
Seattle Seahawks of the the North West Hockey League for several seasons. His
1934-35 club finished first with a 20-9-3 record, but were upset in the playoffs.
The Hockey Hall of Fame first voted on inductees in 1945 and then periodically
in 1947, 1950 and 1952. Once a Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum in Toronto had
been completed, annual elections began in 1958. Foyston was one of the 15 players
plus seven others in the builders category who formed that 1958 group of 22
inductees, the largest HHOF Class ever.
Born in Minesing, Ontario in 1891, Frank S. Foyston passed away in his adopted
home of Seattle, Washington on January 19, 1966, exactly two weeks shy of his
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