Clemente’s Corner: The Legacy of Jack Adams

Here’s a quiz question that could stump even the biggest hockey fan: Name the only person in history to win the Stanley Cup as a player, manager and general manager? 

Stumped? The answer is Jack Adams. 

If that name is familiar it’s because Adams has a trophy named after him: the Jack Adams Award. It is given each year to the coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.” 

Who was Adams?

Why does he still matter?

Should collectors even consider chasing his cards?

These are the questions I was searching the answers for when I read recently that Adams’ rookie card had turned 100 years old.  

You Don’t Know Jack

Jack Adams with the Vancouver Millionaires, circa 1920.

Adams was born in Fort William in Ontario, Canada in 1894. He played for the Toronto Arenas, Vancouver Millionaires, Toronto St. Patricks and Ottawa Senators between 1917 and 1927. He won the Stanley Cup twice as a player – with Toronto in 1918 and Ottawa in 1927 – and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959 as a player. 

After retiring, Adams embarked on a 36-year association with the Detroit Red Wings as head coach and general manager. He coached the Red Wings from 1927-28 to 1946-47, guiding the team to Stanley Cup Championships in 1936, 1937, and 1943. He held the record of winningest coach in Red Wings history until 2014. He later became the first president of the Central Professional Hockey League.

By 1947, Adams had built a farm system which produced superstars such as Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe. It was this core group of players that helped the Red Wings win another four Stanley Cup Championships in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955. As mentioned, he remains the only person to have won the Stanley Cup as a player, coach and GM.

Adams – known as “Trader Jack” for his ability to close blockbuster deals – could also play dirty both on and off the ice. In 1942, Adams was involved in an incident where he had an outburst, claiming referees had intentionally made bad calls against his team. Ultimately, a referee got punched during Game 3 of the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals. As a result, Adams became the first coach to be suspended for a Stanley Cup Final game.

In 1957 Adams traded Red Wings star Ted Lindsay and future star goaltender Glenn Hall to the Chicago Blackhawks because of union-organizing efforts. As part of Adams’ union-busting moves, he also spread rumors saying Lindsay had criticized his former teammates. Adams even showed a fake contract to reporters, claiming Lindsay was being paid $25,000 per year, when in fact he was making half that salary each season.

“When [Adams[ broke up our team, I tell you, of the five Cups that Montreal won, we should have won all five of them. I’ll give them one, maybe,” Lindsay told CBS Detroit in 2017. “He screwed us.”

Those efforts resulted in most of the core leaving. Adams was eventually fired in 1963. His 36-year tenure as GM would be the longest in NHL history. Adams became founding president of the Central Hockey League, a job he held until his death in 1968.

Why Adams Still Matters

Adams matters because he was such a major part of the game during the first half of the 20th century. As a result, he is remembered today with an annual NHL award, and the Jack Adams Memorial Arena in Detroit is named in his honor.

The Jack Adams Award

Hockey is a sport with a very long and storied history. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of the here and now, delving into the sport’s past can be a fun adventure. In the case of Adams, we are dealing with a great hockey brain, but also a controversial figure who both helped and hurt the Red Wings at a time when the team dominated the North American game.

Collecting Adams Cards

1923-24 William Paterson #24 – Jack Adams (RC)

Adams has plenty of trading cards to collect, although the vast majority of them date back to another era. As mentioned, his rookie card, No. 24 in the 1923-24 William Paterson set, turned 100 years old this year. High grades of the card have sold for thousands of dollars, but the value largely depends on condition.

During the 1924-25 season, Adams had two cards issued. One was part of the William Paterson set (No. 53), while another card was released that season as part of Champs Cigarettes. The is unnumbered and has an uncorrected error: it lists his name as “Jock” both on the front and back.

1924-25 William Paterson #53 (left) and 1924-25 Champ’s Cigarettes #NNO (right) cards of Jack Adams. Note that the Champ’s card misspells Adam’s first name as “Jock.”

Of course, coming across most of Adams’ cards isn’t easy. Pre-war cards are rare and expensive. For collectors looking for something newer tied to him, look no further than Leaf and In The Game card releases of the last two decades.  

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

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Author: Clemente Lisi

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

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