A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.
Cleghorn was the filthiest player ever. Kneeing, butt-ends, high sticks to the face, purposeful cutting with skate blades, ramming guys faces into the boards. He beat up Lionel Hitchman so viciously that Cleghorn’s OWN manager suspended him over it. One night he beat the snot out of Newsy Lalonde (no pushover himself) so badly that people in attendance thought that Lalonde was dead, laying on the ice. This is a guy that had to be snuck into arenas to avoid angry mobs.
Cleghorn even beat his own wife with his crutches after he broke his leg in 1918. THAT’s dirty. Samuelsson was well known for low hits, but didn’t go nearly as a far as Cleghorn enjoyed going.
If there’s any good side to a nutjob like Cleghorn, it’s that he was a phenomenal offensive player. Most people have never heard of him, but he was truly great, though violent.
Born in the upscale Westmount area of Montreal, Cleghorn had a hall of fame career but was regarded as one of the dirtiest players of his era. He played on Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1920, 1921 and 1924.
In 1909–10, Cleghorn began his career with the New York Wanderers, becoming a professional with Renfrew of the National Hockey Association (NHA) the next season. He then played for the Montreal Wanderers for six seasons. In the NHL, he played defence for the Ottawa Senators from 1918 to 1920. In an attempt at league parity, the NHL transferred him to the Hamilton Tigers in December 1920, but Cleghorn refused to report. The Senators asked that he be allowed to return to their team. George Kennedy, owner of the Montreal Canadiens, threatened to have Ottawa thrown out of the league. Cleghorn eventually signed with Toronto, but was released in March after the St. Pats lost their play-off and he signed with Ottawa during the playoffs in time to be a member of the 1921 Stanley Cup-winning team.
The league transferred Cleghorn to Hamilton in 1921, and again he refused to go. Just before the start of the 1921–22 NHL season, Sprague was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Harry Mummery and Amos Arbour. He played four seasons in Montreal and after the 1924–25 NHL season, was purchased by the Boston Bruins for $5,000. Sprague played his final three seasons in the NHL with Boston (1925 to 1928). He then moved to the minor-league Newark Bulldogs (1928–29) as a player-coach. Later, he coached the CAHL Providence RedsMontreal Maroons (1931–32). He later coached the Pittsburgh Shamrocks of the International Hockey League (1935–36) and the Cornwall Cougars of the Quebec league (1947–48). (1930–31) and NHL
Even in an era of rough play, Cleghorn was notorious for being among the dirtiest of the lot, and ranked amongst the league leaders in penalty minutes for nine of the first ten seasons of the NHL’s history. In 1923, Cleghorn hit Ottawa Senators player Lionel Hitchman in the head with his stick. Charged with aggravated assault, Cleghorn was found guilty and fined $50.
Hold on, it’s time to consult the checklist here:
- Charged with aggravated assault stemming from an on-ice incident. Bad on-ice behaviour. Check.
- Hit wife with his crutches and refused to be transferred to other teams. Douchebag off of the ice. Check.
- A Hockey Hall of Famer who predates most dirtiest player ever conversations. Check.
I think we have a winner for the reverse Masterton name rights and as a bonus, he played for the Ottawa Senators. Armed with this knowledge, I had to consult what possibly is the worst book ever written about the Ottawa Senators — The Ottawa Senators: The Best Players and the Greatest Games authored by J. Alexander Poulton — to see if there is any mention of Cleghorn. (Ed. note: This book can be purchased at Chapters for under $10. Upon completion, it should be used with kindling to start a fire.)
Fortunately, a few paragraphs were devoted to Cleghorn:
The 1921-22 regular season … was a fairly uneventful season for the Senators, except for the brief reunion with Sprague Cleghorn. After the 1921 Cup victory, the Ottawa Senators unceremoniously dropped Cleghorn from their roster, preferring to go with younger talent such as King Clancy. A natural force on the ice, Cleghorn did not have to wait long before being picked up by the Montreal Canadiens where he was teamed up with his brother Odie, but Cleghorn still held a grudge against his former team. Cleghorn declared war on the Senators, and when they met again for the first time on February 1, 1922, he was out for blood.
Cleghorn did little to hide his contempt for his former club after the puck was dropped. He started by viciously checking Senators captain Eddie Gerard and then slashing him on the head, opening up a cut above Gerard’s eye that required five stitches to close. A short while later, Cleghorn set his sights on Ottawa’s top scorer, Cy Denneny, and gave him a nasty cut above the eye that spurted blood all over the ice. Not yet satisfied, Cleghorn set his sights on the Sens’ Frank Nighbor. Cleghorn got his chance when Nighbor had the puck in the corner with his back to the play. Cleghorn rushed into the corner and slammed Nighbor down to the ice, landing on his elbow hard enough that Nighbor couldn’t play the rest of the game. Cleghorn had single-handedly removed three of the Senators’ best players from the match. Ottawa police on hand that night offered to arrest Cleghorn and make him spend the night in jail for his obvious assault on the Senators players, but the referees persuaded the police to let the NHL handle its own discipline. For his offences, Sprague Cleghorn received a match penalty, a warning from the league president Frank Calder and a $15 fine.
A match penalty, a warning and a $15 fine? Apparently the NHL’s discipline committee hasn’t changed much in the past 90 seasons.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Sprague Cleghorn Trophy, your reverse Masterton. Can I get some nominees please?