Highlander’s “Sportsman DNA”

By March 5, 2017 No Comments

Brock “The Highlander” Arthur did not just wake up almost 20 years ago and decided to start boxing. He was actually genetically programmed to be a boxer, it was in his DNA.

A while ago, Brock mentioned to me that his great grandfather was also involved in boxing, as well as other members of his family were deeply involved in professional sports, so we decided to do some digging into his ancestors pro sports and pro boxing activities.

Here are the facts:

1. John Denneny (Brock’s Great Granfather)

John was one of the most prominent and widely respected sports personalities not only in the Cornwall area but on a national level as well – as a player, coach, manager and referee. He was on a first name basis with such prominent sports figures as Lional Coacher, Connie Smythe, Frank Selke Sr., Mike Rodden and Elmer Ferguson to mention only a few.

In 1915, at age 16, he played for Cornwall in the National Lacrosse Union – the strongest league in Canada at the time.

In hockey, he payed Senior “A” for Cornwall Internationals and his abilities were such that he was recruited at age 17 to play with St. Michaels College, Toronto; then a farm club for N.H.L. Toronto St. Pats later known as Maple Leafs. An unfortunate industrial accident resulting the loss of his left arm ended what was considered to be a most promising professional career in both hockey and lacrosse.

He was however, determined to remain involved in sports and took to refereeing and coaching.

As a referee, over a period of 25 years, he handled over 1000 games in the Senior OHA and several leagues, doing as many as 6 games a week, and in the National Lacrosse Union (the best in Canada).

As a coach it would be difficult to find his equal in success and diversification:

  • Cornwall Juniors to Memorial Cup Semi-Finals in 1921
  • Holy Name Juniors to two consecutive Ottawa District Citizen Shields and Memorial Cup playdowns.
  • Cornwall Colts – Ottawa District Champs 1929
  • Cornwall Intermediates – Ottawa District Citizen Shield – 1941 and into Allan Cup playoffs against Ottawa Air Force – a team of mainly NHL players and Canadian Champions
  • Cornwall Calumets to Eastern Canadian Hockey League Championship and Allan Cup Quarter Finals in 1949-1950.
  • In Box Lacrosse he coached the Cornwall Professional Team for 2 years 1931-1932 competing in a four team league with Montreal Maroons, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadians.
  • Holy Name to Eastern Ontario Junior Softball Championship in 1931.
  • Dover’s Senior Baseball Team in Ontario-Quebec League.
  • In football he coached both Senior and Junior City Teams.
  • John also managed and trained a professional boxer, George Gibbons who fought for Welterweight Championship of Canada.

Even with his handicap, John Denneny never lost his desire to compete and a good example of this was swimming across the St. Lawrence River from St. Lawrence Park to Cornwall Island and back, non-stop. He was nationally recognized in newspaper headlines for his remarkable feat.

In 1969, he was recognized as Lion’s Club Sportsman of the Year. He was one of the founders of the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame and inducted as a member in two categories, Hockey and Lacrosse.

2. Cyril “Cy” Denneny (Brock’s Great Granfather’s Brother)

John Denney’s brother, Cyril “Cy” Denney, played on 5 Stanley Cup Teams, 4 with Ottawa Senators and 1 with Boston Bruins. Cyril Joseph Denneny (December 23, 1891 – September 10, 1970) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who played for the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins in the National Hockey League and the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association. His brother Corbett Denneny also played in the NHL.

Cy_DennenyCy Denneny was born in Farran’s Point, Ontario, near Cornwall, Ontario. He was the son of James Israel Denneny who was a top lacrosse player in the late 19th century and was descended from the Dennenys of County Monaghan, Ireland.

Denneny played senior hockey in Cornwall, starting with the Cornwall Sons of England of the Lower Ottawa Valley hockey league in 1909–10. His professional playing career began with the Toronto Ontarios/Shamrocks of the National Hockey Association (NHA) in 1914. (The name of the team changed during the season) He had tried out for the Montreal Canadiens in 1912 but failed to make the team and he returned to senior hockey. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators in 1916 and he would play with the Senators until 1928. He was member of four Senators Stanley Cup-winning teams; in 1920, 1921, 1923 and 1927. With the Senators during the 1917–18 season, Denneny set an NHL record by opening the season with four straight multi-goal games. Though the record still stands, it was tied in 2013 by San Jose Sharks’ forward Patrick Marleau. Denneny was sold to Boston in 1928, where he would be the playing-coach of the Bruins’ 1929 Stanley Cup-winner.

In 1929, Denneny retired to become an NHL on-ice official. In 1932, he re-joined the Senators as head coach, but the team was in decline due to financial difficulties which forced management to sell top players in order to survive. The team finished last and Denneny was not retained as coach.

Denneny was one of the top scorers in the NHL from 1917 through 1925. While leading the league in scoring during the 1923–24 NHL season, he did so by recording 22 goals and one assist for a total of 23 points, the lowest winning total in NHL history. When he retired, he was the all-time top scorer in NHL history. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. In 1998, he was ranked number 62 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. He was the first and remains the fastest player in NHL history to score 200 goals (181 GP). During a six-week span in the 1920–21 NHL season, Cy and his brother Corbett (Toronto St. Patricks), each scored six goals during a game—a feat accomplished by only five other players in the history of the NHL.

Despite not being a swift skater, Denneny had one of the most deceptive and accurate shots in the league, which enabled him to achieve his scoring feats so rapidly. He was one of the first known players to use opposing defencemen as screens, and would beat goaltenders with head fakes and subsequently with shots that often would not even leave the ice. Denneny was also one of the very first players to use a curved blade, which he used to take high-rising shots as well as “sinkers” that would fool goaltenders. He was a very physical player who often acted as a bodyguard for his more passive linemates, Jack Darragh and Frank Nighbor.

3. Corbett Denneny (Brock’s Great Granfather’s Brother)

Charles Corbett “Corb” Denneny (January 25, 1894 – January 16, 1963) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who played professionally from 1912 to 1931, including nine seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Toronto Arenas, Toronto St. Pats, Hamilton Tigers and Chicago Black Hawks. Corbett also played for the Vancouver Maroons of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) and the Saskatoon Sheiks of Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL, then WHL). He twice won the Stanley Cup (1918, 1922) with the original versions of the NHL’s Toronto franchise.

Corbett_DennenyHe was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario. As a child Denneny excelled in lacrosse, signing a pro contract at age 14. In track and field, Denneny tied the 100 yard world record in a meet in Toronto. In the winter, Denneny played hockey and he moved to Toronto to play both sports. After his playing career ended, Denneny returned to Toronto, coaching the Toronto Tecumsehs minor league team. He later joined the YMCA, becoming head masseuse and eventually director of health services. Denneny, who was often listed as ‘Dennenay’ in newspaper reports eventually adopted the spelling. His brother, Cy Denneny also played ice hockey and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Corbett Denneny first played professional ice hockey for the Cobalt McKinley Mines of the Cobalt Mining Hockey League, playing two seasons from 1912 to 1914. He then joined the Toronto Ontarios of the National Hockey Association (NHA) for their 1914–15 season. He then played for the NHA’s Toronto Blueshirts for the 1915–16 part of the 1916–17 seasons, before being traded to the Ottawa Senators where he would play with his brother Cy.

He returned to Toronto for the inaugural 1917–18 NHL season playing for the “Torontos”, operated by the Toronto Arena Company. He stayed with the organization as it changed to the “Toronto Arenas” and “Toronto St. Patricks”, and was a member of two Stanley Cup winners, in 1918 and 1922. During a six-week span in the 1920–21 NHL season, Corbett and his brother Cy (who still played for the now-NHL Ottawa Senators), each scored six goals during a game—a feat accomplished by only five other players in the history of the NHL.

After the 1922 Cup win, Denneny was traded to the Vancouver Maroons of the PCHA and lost the 1923 Stanley Cup against the Ottawa Senators and his brother Cy. In the 1923–24 season, he returned to NHL with Toronto and was traded to the Hamilton Tigers for whom he played for one season. After that season he was picked up by the WCHL’s Saskatoon Sheiks, playing in the final two seasons of that major professional league. After the WCHL folded he played for the Sheiks in the Prairie Hockey League until he was traded back to the NHL, playing for the Toronto St. Patricks in the season they became the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was returned to the Sheiks when the trade was not finalized and finished the season with the Sheiks. Denneny started the 1927–28 season with a return to the NHL when traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, playing his last games in the NHL before being traded back to the Sheiks mid-season. He would play three more professional seasons with the Minneapolis Millers (American Hockey Association/AHA), Newark Bulldogs (Canadian-American Hockey League) and Chicago Shamrocks (AHA), retiring after the 1930–31 season.

Author The Punch

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