Jack Adams: The First Mayor Of Hockeytown

The one person most responsible for setting the foundation for the Detroit Red Wings franchise and its early success, was John James “Jack” Adams otherwise known as “Jolly Jack” and “Jolly Jawn” and other names I can’t repeat by some of his players who disliked his tactics as a coach or general manager.

Jack Adams circa 1962.

Although he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, (In the inaugural NHL season of 1917-1918, playing for Toronto, Adams he won his first Stanley Cup) Adams is the only person to have his named engraved on the Cup as a player, coach, and General Manager.

In Detroit’s first season in the NHL (1926-1927) the team was known as the Cougars and played its games in Windsor Arena. The following year the franchise named Jack Adams its coach and began play at Olympia Stadium in Detroit. In 1930 the team was nicknamed the Falcons, and when grain merchant James Norris purchased the franchise in 1932, the team was renamed the Detroit Red Wings.

From 1927 to 1962, Jack Adams, was THE BOSS of the Detroit Red Wings. In the early days, he was the coach, business manager, traveling secretary and publicist.

It has been written that “Adams was loud, brash, and pugnacious, first as a player and then an executive, famous for storming the official’s room at Olympia to berate referees for calls that he objected to.”

As coach and/ or general manager, under his reign the franchise captured 7 Stanley Cups, the first being in 1935-36, just a few months after both the Tigers and Lions won their first championships.

When he retired as coach and handed over the reigns to Tommy Ivan following the 1946-47 campaign, Adams put his whole effort into his general manager duties and developed a superior farm system. His greatest find, and the one player he was most proud of was “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe whom he coached in his Howe’s first year with the Wings.

For Adams, the team he assembled after the war that included the likes of Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Terry Sawchuk finished in first seven consecutive seasons while winning seven Stanley Cups.

Adams however was ruthless with his players when it came to negotiating salaries, and when Lindsay attempted to form a Player’s union, he traded away the star to Chicago in a vindictive and ridiculous move. Adams also was noted for shaking up the team’s chemistry over the years.

Six weeks after winning the 1955 Stanley Cup, Adams shocked the hockey world by trading away half of his team in two trades five days apart.

“We would have won at least three more cups had those trades and others not been made” says in expressing a sentiment shared by many of his former teammates. “Our team had a winning personality and great chemistry. Lindsay in fact contends that chief scout Carson Cooper, later fired by Adams, should be the person largely credited for Wing’s success in the 1950s.

Adams left the Wings in 1962 and the following year he became the founding president of the Central Hockey League, a post he held until his death at age 73 in 1968.

Each year Adams his remembered by the NHL as the Jack Adams Award is given to the Coach of the Year.