Friday, January 7, 2011

The Stat-Man

Yesterday, I wrote about the National Hockey Leagues quest to determine how many miles a player skated in a contest during the 1943-44 season. Of course, the gathering of this stat never flourished beyond a one-game experiment.

As is evident today, there is a vast amount of relevant statistical information which was documented by various leagues throughout time. One individual is credited with being of vital importance to exposing this data to those who have an interest in such matters - James C. Hendy.

Born on May 6, 1905 in Barbados, British West Indies, the 2 year-old (some reports indicate his age to be 6) Hendy moved with his family to Vancouver. There, he fell in love with the game of hockey while watching the stars of the Old Patrick League. In his early years, he was a telegrapher for the C.P.R.

Shortly after moving to New York City, Hendy began producing a publication called The Hockey Guide in the early 1930s. The Guide contained a collection of stats. From the outset, financial remuneration certainly wasn't a driving force behind his involvement. A December 1939 newspaper report shed some light on the undertaking. Operating, for the first time, with a $2,000 advance from League President Frank Calder, 25,000 copies were printed. Since the Guide was viewed as a publicity tool for the NHL, free copies were distributed to a large number of newspapers. The minor leagues had to pay for copies, and the National Hockey League required a large quantity for their own purposes. Any profits from sales to the general public were eaten-up by the retailer.

Later in his career, Hendy became a Press Agent / Publicity Director for the New York Rangers. He left that position in early September 1946 and was replaced by Stanley Saplin. By the end of September 1946, Hendy was named the Publicity Director of the American Hockey League. This was the first such appointment of it's kind in professional sports.

His journey up the hockey ladder continued in January 1948. His experience in newspapers, publicity and hockey, lead to him being named the President of the United States Hockey League. In 1949, he became the general manager of the Cleveland Barons in the AHL. He remained with the franchise until his death in January 1961.

In a Canadian Press story on his passing, they noted that "he was the first person to assemble and publish the statistics of all professional hockey leagues, a job that he continued until the end of World War 11."

James Hendy was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 1968.

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