Jun 282009

Excerpt from my book  “The Bruins: Brian McFarlane’s Original Six”

Born in 1876, Charles Francis Adams, a poor boy from Newport, Vermont, never owned a hockey stick as a youth. But he was adept with a broomstick, working his way around the potato sacks, the feedbags and other merchandise in the corner grocery store where he first was employed as a chore boy. The proprietor, noting the meticulous attention young Adams gave to sweeping up the dust and debris, said, “That lad shows a lot of promise. He’ll probably be running his own store some day.”

It was the start of a brilliant career in the grocery business, one that would propel Adams all the way to the chairmanship of First National Stores, one of the major chains in the United States. The same unique, visionary qualities that made him hugely successful in business also served him well in the world of sport. A horse racing enthusiast, he was the founder, president and owner of Suffolk Downs, and he was instrumental in getting pari-mutuel betting legalized in Massachusetts. In the mid 1930s, he was principal owner of the Boston Braves of baseball’s National League and used his powers of persuasion to get Sunday baseball approved in Boston.

“Where he got his interest in sports I don’t know,” his son Weston once said. “As a young man he worked so hard he had no time to play games himself.”

When young Adams moved from Vermont to Brookline, Massachusetts, he discovered hockey and was hooked for life. He and Weston attended most of the club games played at the Boston Arena, and in time he even sponsored a team, the Irish-Americans.

In 1924 Adams journeyed to Montreal to see the Stanley Cup finals and became even more enthused. “Those pros in the NHL can really play this game,” he told his business associates. “I’m determined to get a team for Boston.”

Weston would say, “When Dad got an idea in his head there was no stopping him. He gambled all his life on the things he believed in. And he had a strong belief in the future of hockey.”

Adams applied for an NHL franchise at a meeting in Montreal on October 12, 1924, and was told that a man named Thomas Duggan had been granted two franchises on the condition they be placed in major U.S cities. Adams snapped up one of the franchises for a fee of $15,000. Requests for franchises also came from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but these applications were shelved. Adams hired veteran hockey star Art Ross to run his team and to serve as governor. The Bruins played home games at the Boston Arena, which soon proved to be too small to house his new team. The Boston Garden, which opened in 1928, would not have been constructed if Adams had not guaranteed $500,000 rental for five seasons.

Charles Adams enjoyed the thrill of three Stanley Cup championships. The first came the year the Garden opened, with the Bruins defeating the Rangers in a best-of-three final series. A decade later, in 1939, the Bruins defeated Toronto for the Cup, and two years later they ousted Detroit in the finals.

Adams was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960 as a builder, indicating the high esteem in which he was held by his peers and associates in the game.

Following his father into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 was Weston Adams, who had been associated with the Bruins since his father purchased the NHL franchise in 1924. Weston played goal at Harvard, and in 1932 he took over as president of the Boston Tigers, a Bruins’ farm club. He succeeded his father as Bruins president in 1936, served with distinction with the U.S. Navy in World War II — rising to the rank of commander — and returned to play a key role in a merger of the club with the Boston Garden Arena Corporation. He became chairman of the board of Boston Garden in 1956 and two years later was elected chairman of the Bruins as well. By 1964 he was club president again and remained in office until 1969 when he retired in favor of his son, Weston Jr.

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