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02-23-2011, 01:13 AM
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Harold "Bullet Joe" Simpson

Morning Leader, Jan 11, 1923:
As we announced yesterday, our selection for the position of right defense on the Leader's all-star prairie league hockey team will not likely cause much controversy.

He is Harold "Joe" Simpson of the Edmonton Eskimos, of whom there is no better all-round defense player in the circuit.

Simpson has all the requirements of the ideal hockey player. Besides being good on the check and fast on his skates, he is a clean, conscientious player and is in the game for the full sixty minutes.

Simpson is probably best known for his "corkscrew" rushes which first earned him fame when he helped the 61st Battalion win the Allan Cup.

Simpson was out of hockey for two or three years during the war and signallized his return to the game by helping the Selkirk team, composed largely of juniors the season before, qualify for the Allan Cup final at Toronto in 1919. The Selkirk boys lost out to Hamilton but only after a game struggle.

The following year Simpson played brilliant hockey on the Selkirk defense and it was no fault of his that his team was beaten to the tape in the Manitoba league by the famous Falcons. When the Selkirk team toured the west at the tail-end of the season Joe was the first member to attract special attention, but he refused to turn pro until he became disgusted with the talk in Winnipeg that he was staying in the amateur ranks for monetary gain. Then he hiked to Edmonton where he has become the idol of the hockey public.

Simpson is easily the most dangerous defense man in the prairie league. He ranks high among the goal-getters and possesses the punch to come through with a tally when it is most needed.

We may be wrong, but our guess is that our choice of Joe Simpson will receive the endorsement of 90 percent of the railbirds on the prairie circuit.
Simpson's performance in the Stanley Cup Final of 1923 against Ottawa (held in Vancouver, a neutral site).

Game 1
Edmonton started red hot favorites with the crowd. Every time little Joe Simpson came down the ice with his sensational bursts, the six thousand fans cheered him to the echo
A corkscrew rush down the right wing by Simpson resulted in a snappy shot on Benedict.
Simpson went down the right wing and held the puck until he was within a few feet of Benedict. His shot was saved by pretty work.
Edmonton went into the lead when Morrison scored, subbing in for Keats, went in with Simpson and took a pass close in from Joe, which he shot past Benedict like lightning.
Simpson made a rush which carried him in for a shot. The Ottawa defense picked up the puck but Simpson had caught them before they had crossed the blue line and returned for another shot.
Game 2

"Little Joe" Simpson was the star of the Esks. He made thousands of friends by his brilliant dashes and his undeniably sporting spirit. He played the man and the puck in equal proportions but he played with conspicuous regard to the rules. Newsy Lalonde's expressed opinion that Joe Simpson is the greatest hockey player in the world will find general support in the coast country. He is a wonderful athlete and a gentleman on and off the ice.

Every time he rushed in Saturday's game he was given an ovation. His work was the outstanding incident. He was half the Edmonton attack, and his uncanny faculty for keeping his feet and his legs under difficulties is amazing. He was given a rough ride all evening by the Senators. All the penalties incurred, including Benedict's, were caused by attacks on "Little Joe." The first period alone, Clancy, Benedict, Nighbor, and Broadbent brought him down with trips or slashed wickedly at his form as it gyrated around them or flashed past. Benedict tried to separate him from his legs behind the goal and the fans razzed the tall iceberg as Ion banished him for two minutes. Judging by the support accorded him Simpson could displace Mayor Tisdall if he sought the job of bossing Vancouver.
A moment later Simpson passed to Keats in front of Benedict. The Edmonton centre missed the pass.
Simpson carried the puck the length of the ice and passed to Gagne, Gagne missing.
Joe Simpson stickhandled his way all through the Ottawa defense for what seemed to be a certain goal but lost out by Benedict making a sensational save.
Memories of Simpson's career from later

Billy Finlay, Vancouver Sun, Nov 10, 1932:
Simpson was the "Babe" Ruth of the Western Canada circuit. His presence on the ice was always one of the big attractions wherever he performed. The flashy defense star was one of the most colorful players ever to perform at the Arena, and that is saying a lot when it is considered the many outstanding puck chasers who have flashed forth in the past twenty years.

"Newsy" Lalonde, who had many a mixup with the former Edmonton puckist when managing Saskatoon Sheiks, and who is now coaching the Montreal Canadiens, recently remarked that Simpson was one of the best defense men he had ever seen in his career.

We well remember when Simpson started his career. In fact, we were refereeing a senior amateur game in Winnipeg when Joe blossomed forth as a rover for a Winnipeg team. He had previously performed in junior hockey in the town of Selkirk, 25 miles east of the Manitoba capital.

Simpson wasn't any standout as a rover, but when he got his chance on defense it wasn't long before he had the fans sitting up and taking notice and it took some pretty smart playing in those days to outshine the opposition in Winnipeg hockey.

It was after he joined the army and played hockey for the 61st Battalion that Simpson really came to the front. His wonderful playing both on defense and attack had more than anything else to do with the team capturing the Allan Cup, emblematic of the amateur hockey championship of Canada. It was that year that he became famous as "Corkscrew" Joe, owing to his style of dodging through the opposition.

Simpson never showed his real class in the National Hockey League. He was a bit past his prime when he moved east after Frank Patrick disposed of the Western Canada league players. He gave earnest service to the New York Americans, but never the same scintillating flash that marked his career in western hockey.
George Mackintosh, Edmonton Journal, March 6, 1941:
Says Baz O'Meara in the Montreal Star: "Someone was writing about Stanowski as the nearest approach to Joe Simpson that has been seen in years...the Joe Simpson who played in the east was only a shadow of "Bullet Joe" who thrilled western audiences...It was too bad so few sport writers in the east saw him at his best. They would have seen a player who could break faster than Hamby Shore, skate faster than Clancy, handle a stick like Gottselig, shoot like Sprague Cleghorn...But the east did something to him...He became a wobbly skater, put on about 20 pounds that he never seemed to be able to shed, and was always too amiable to be impressive...Stanowski is a greater rusher but is still a long way from being a Simpson as Joe was at his peak."

Mr O'Meara is right. "Joe the Bullet" was past his best by the time he went east, but when he was with Edmonton the guy was the biggest attraction in hockey. There's been no player quite like him since, and it's doubtful if another like him ever will come along. From the strict defensive angle there have been plenty of better performers than Simpson, but none his equal at serving up rushing thrills.
Simpson had a hard shot. Gorde Hunter, Calgary Herald - Dec 15, 1962:
If I'm not mistaken, the shots of that era (Babe Dye, Bullet Joe Simpson, Duke Keats) were just as hard as the ones propelled by Hull, Howe, and Mahovlich today.
Was Simpson the best offensive defenceman in the world at his peak?

He scored 99 points from 1921-22 to 1924-25, first among all defencemen. Georges Boucher and Harry Cameron would also be up there.

He appears to have been better than his western competition, Lloyd Cook and Art Duncan.
Calgary Herald, March 21, 1923
Joe Simpson, reputed to be one of the greatest hockey stars in the game today, is better than either Duncan or Cook, but he hasn't a mate that completes a pair equal in strength to the Vancouver couple.
Joe Simpson for Frank Nighbor - the trade that almost was

In the summer of 1924, Ottawa and Edmonton agreed to swap Frank Nighbor and Joe Simpson straight up, before the deal fell through.

Remember while reading this that various sources certainly have agendas, so not everything can be taken at face value. But it certainly appears that the trade was very close to being made.

Aug 16, 1924, Calgary Daily Herald
Latest advice from eastern sport circles give foundation for the report that Ottawa is after Joe Simpson, Edmonton hockey defence flash, and it is said that the Senators have gone so far as to offer Frank Nighbor, noted hook-check star and centre man of the Ottawa club, in exchange for Simpson.

Kenny MacKenzie, Eskimo manager...does not look with any great favor on the idea of trading Nighbor for Simpson. He figures Nighbor has seen his best day.
In fact, Simpson's play would drop off sooner than Nighbor's. Not that surprising - both were 31 years old at the time, so it was definitely a deal where both players could be expected to be on the decline. MacKenzie's statement is probably just negotiating through the press, in any case.

Ten days later, the same paper carried the following report:

Calgary Daily Herald, Aug 26, 1924
When the curtain rolls up on the 1924-25 hockey season—and that's only in a matter of a month or so—there will be one famous flashing figure missing from the lineup of the Edmonton Eskimos, the same being Joe Simpson. If it had not been announced by Manager MacKenzie some time ago that he was willing to trade Simpson, the news that the greatest defense man in the game was to leave the club would have been a shock not only to Edmonton hockey fans, but to fans all over the Western Canada circuit

Simpson will perform for the Ottawa Senators during the coming season, and in exchange the Eskimos will get Frank Nighbor. one of the most brilliant forwards in the National League. According to information given out by Manager MacKenzie, the deal was consummated yesterday, and it’s an even trade. Simpson for Nighbor. with nothing to boot either way. Tongues will wag over this deal as probably they have never wagged before since the inception of the Western Canada League.
Simpson was obviously very highly rated out west. And Ottawa must have seen something they liked also.

An Eastern paper the next day gave some reasons why Ottawa might want to do the deal.

Aug 27, 1924, Montreal Gazette

In the first place, the Canadian Press wire carried a despatch from Calgary, where the western magnates have been in session, stating that "Bullet Joe" Simpson, sensational defence man of the Edmonton Eskimos, had been traded to the Ottawas for Frank Nighbor, centre man of the Senators, who was voted last winter the most valuable all-round player in the National League.


Right on top of this came an announcement from Toronto that Reg "Hooley" Smith, brilliant centre man of the Canadian Olympic hckey team, had signed with the Ottawas.


It is quite evident that the Ottawas plan a big shake-up and it is said that they have offered several of their players to Cecil Hart for the new club in Montreal.
Looks like Smith was to replace Nighbor at centre. Other speculation from the Journal via Morning Leader had a potential lineup with George Boucher and Joe Simpson on defence, and King Clancy back as a substitute.

Aug 27, 1924, Morning Leader
The Journal states that it has learned unofficially that the Senators are also after Frank Boucher, of Vancouver, and he may be in an Ottawa uniform before the new year, and it also claims to have learned unofficially that it was doubtful if Nighbor will go west. There are rumors that he will retire from the game.

The Journal then goes on to speculate on the following lineup for the 1924-25 season: Joe Ironstone, goal; George Boucher and Joe Simpson, defence, Cy Denneny, Hooley Smith, and Punch Broadbent, on the forward line. Hitchman will be spare defence player and Clancy Finnegan and probably Frank Boucher substitute forwards.
The speculated lineup looks pretty heavy in defensive talent, with Boucher and Simpson starting, Hitchman as a sub, and Clancy as a forward sub. The last paragraph in the above quote suggests another possibility - Ottawa was planning to move some of their defensive depth to Montreal. Montreal coveted Clancy, according to this article.

In any case, the deal ended up falling through. Some reports had Nighbor possibly refusing to report to Edmonton, upon which the deal was conditional. And in the end, the deal was blocked by the Toronto club.

Morning Leader - Aug 28, 1924
Where the Edmonton Eskimos will stand when the season gets under way about December 8 was not revealed at the miracled meeting. But one point seems fairly well disposed of - Kenny Mackenzie will not be able to put over his trade of Joe Simpson for Frank Nighbor. Toronto St. Pats appear to have settled that little matter by their statement that they will refuse to waive the Ottawa star out of the N.H.L. The National League, it may not be generally known, has adopted the major league baseball plan of waivers, and no player can be sold or traded out of the circuit unless all other members of the loop are offered and refuse to purchase his services.

Last edited by overpass: 05-14-2011 at 11:34 PM.
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