In a discussion regarding the origins of today's annual All-Star Game, some hockey historians point to the 1934 Ace Bailey benefit game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and stars from the rest of the NHL. Others trace the All-Star tradition back to the first "official" match in 1947, when the NHL's stars duked it out with the Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs. But the first hockey game ever to follow an All-Star format pre-dates the NHL. On January 2, 1908, a benefit game was held in honor of the Montreal Wanderers' former star cover-point Hodgson "Hod" Stuart.
Stuart was one of the finer athletes ever to come out of Canada. He starred in hockey, lacrosse, football and track and field. In hockey, he was a superlative defenseman. He skated, set up seemingly impossible plays, rushed, and was as hard as cold steel. Sadly, he drowned near Belleville, Ontario in the summer of 1907, only months after leading the Montreal Wanderers to the Stanley Cup title. Before the beginning of the 1908 Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association season, Ed Sheppard and William Northey from the Westmount Arena came up with the idea of holding a benefit, with the proceeds going to Stuart's widow. The game would be played at the Arena, the former home of the Wanderers, and Montreal would play against stars selected from the rest of the league.
Riley Hern - Goal
Art Ross - Point
Walter Smaill - Cover-point
Pud Glass - Rover
Ernie Johnson - Left Wing
Ernie Russell - Center
Cecil Blachford - Right Wing
Percy LeSueur - Goal
Rod Kennedy - Point
Frank Patrick - Cover-point
Grover Sargent - Rover
Jack Marshall - Left Wing
Joe Power - Center
Eddie Hogan - Right Wing
Smaill was filling in at cover-point for the Wanderers' Bruce Stuart, who was banged up from a game out west.
On the league side, Patrick stood in for Jack Laviolette. Patrick, the former McGill University team captain, was given a Montreal Victorias uniform to wear.
By game time, there were about 4,000 fans rocking the Westmount Arena rafters. Proceeds from the game were expected to hit the $2,000 mark.
The first half belonged to the Wanderers. The stars looked out of sync, wholly unfamiliar with each other. Forwards got into tangles and many rushes which should have resulted in scoring chances were broken up. On the other hand, Montreal's forward line was firing on all cylinders. Their skating was strong and their attacks were ever so clever. Patrick opened the scoring five minutes in on a dazzling rush from deep in his own end. This goal seemed to set the tone and the Wanderers took a whopping 7-1 lead into the intermission. The only penalties handed out in the first half were to Patrick and Glass for their part in a bumping bee behind the Montreal goal. They'd be the only infractions in the entire game.
When the All-Stars lined up to start the second half, Grover Sargent switched places with Jack Marshall on the front line, a move that seemed to work wonders. The league luminaries played hard, aggressive hockey, scrapping back as if they had a gun to their heads. Kennedy cashed in the first goal of the second half -- the first of five in a row for the All-Stars -- and the Wanderers fell back on their heels. Marshall's tally at the 26-minute mark made the score 7-6 and brought the crowd to its feet. At this point the Wanderers resolved to tighten the bolts and, in a four-minute span, Blachford bagged his second and third goals of the night. The W's came out on top by a gaudy 10-7 count.
Referees Bob Meldrum and Tom Melville had an easy time handling this match. Offsides were infrequent and both teams played squeaky-clean hockey. Apart from the Glass-Patrick shoving match, there was no monkey business.
The Hod Stuart benefit raked in just over $2,100 for Stuart's widow. Warm wishes were extended to the players and to the Westmount Arena staff, who lent the rink for free, and to Ed Sheppard and William Northey for their "diligence in organizing and carrying out all of the details associated with the match."