Birth: Brantford, Ontario, October 8, 1895
Died: May 5, 1986
Career Highlights1922-26 - Three Western Canada Hockey League scoring titles
1927 - Art Ross Trophy-New York Rangers
1928 - Stanley Cup - New York Rangers
1933 - Stanley Cup - New York Rangers
1933 - Art Ross Trophy-New York Rangers
1952 - Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
Before Gordie Howe, there was William Osser Cook. Considered by many to be the greatest right winger ever to play the game, Cook was an undeniably focused and gifted competitor who winged the New York Rangers’ famous Bread Line with his brother Bun and Frank Boucher.
He made his junior hockey debut with the Kingston Frontenacs in 1916 after having learned to skate on the nearby Rideau Canal where he impressed the local fans who compared him with the legendary Scotty Davidson.
Following a stint in the army during the Great War, Cook came back to suit up with the Kingston Frontenacs’ intermediate outfit and helped the team reach the Ontario Hockey Association finals that year. The next season, he led the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to the championship of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
Cook made his professional debut in 1921-22 with the Saskatoon Sheiks of the Western Canada Hockey League. During his five years of painting frostbite protection wintergreen on his feet before putting on socks and skates to play, the team’s name changed to the Crescents and he attained star status by winning the league’s scoring championship three times. This included a personal high of 31 goals in 30 games during the last year of the Western Hockey League in 1925-26.
In preparing for its initial National Hockey League season in 1926, Conn Smythe signed Cook to the New York Rangers from the defunct WHL. Not only was he the first skater officially signed by the club, he also became the team’s first captain. Fittingly, he scored the first goal in franchise history and the only goal in the game against the Montreal Marooons on November 16, 1926.
In these nascent days of the franchise, Cook was joined by his younger brother, Bun, and center, Frank Boucher, to form one of hockey’s most successful forward lines. Famously known as “The Bread Line,” they dominated opposing defenses for several years with their precision passing and relentless energy. The Bread Line led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup triumph in 1928 scoring every one of the team’s goals in a thrilling five-game final series against the Maroons.
Cook and his linemates continued to play exceptionally well right up to their loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1932 Stanley Cup finals. They were in top form the next year, however, Cook leading the way with his second scoring title and the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win against the Leafs. It was Cook who scored the memorable, first-ever NHL Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal.
“The Original Ranger” was a consistently impressive scorer for New York right up until his retirement after the 1936-37 season. On top of his two scoring championships in 1927 and 1933, Cook was selected as the right wing on the NHL First All-Star Team three times and the Second Team once. His 229 regular-season goals accounted for nearly one-fifth of the Rangers’ total during the club’s first decade of play.
For the six subsequent years after retiring as a player, he coached the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Barons, during which time he guided them to the 1939 and 1941 Calder Cup championships. In 1950, he coached the Minneapolis Millers to the Paul W. Loudon Trophy in the United States Hockey League and the next season he coached the Denver Falcons before returning to Saskatoon.
While coaching the Saskatoon Quakers of the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1951-52, Cook was asked by his old linemate, Frank Boucher, now general manager of the New York Rangers, to return to and revitalize the Broadway players. Cook spent the next two seasons coaching his old club before permanently retiring from the game at the conclusion of the 1952-53 season.
On January 10, 1986, in long-due honour for the substantial contribution he made to the team, the New York Rangers presented Bill Cook with their alumni association award before a cheering crowd at Madison Square Garden. He passed away three months later.