Cooper Smeaton

J. Cooper Smeaton

James Cooper Smeaton (July 22, 1890 – October 3, 1978) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player, referee and head coach. He served as the National Hockey League (NHL)'s referee-in-chief from 1917 until 1937. Smeaton served as a Stanley Cup trustee from 1946 until his death in 1978. Smeaton was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.


Smeaton was born in Carleton Place, Ontario. When he was three years of age, Smeaton's family moved to the Westmount suburb of Montreal, Quebec. During his youth, Smeaton played baseball, football and ice hockey for the Westmount Amateur Athletic Association.[1] By 1908, Smeaton had started refereeing ice hockey games, including those of the Montreal Insurance Hockey League.[2]

Smeaton moved to New York in 1910 and played one season of point for the New York Wanderers, while working for Spalding Sporting Goods. Smeaton returned to Montreal for family reasons and joined Sun Life Insurance and started refereeing amateur games as a sideline. [3] In 1913, he joined the National Hockey Association (NHA) as a referee. In his first game in 1913, between the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers, he was confronted by Newsy Lalonde after calling an offside. Smeaton promptly fined Lalonde $5 (Lalonde who was known as a bit of a "tightwad" never repeated the incident).[4]

Smeaton, sitting in the middle in the front row, with players and staff of the Grand-Mère Hockey Club prior to the 1914 Allan Cup challenge series between Grand-Mère and the Regina Victorias.

In 1914, Smeaton joined the Canadian military to serve in World War I. Smeaton served with the 11th Canadian Siege Battery in France. He was awarded the Military Medal for his service.[5] Smeaton would later be active in the Norman Mitchell VC Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Mount Royal, where he lived. In September 1959, Smeaton organized a fund-raising intra-squad game by the Montreal Canadiens to benefit the branch's welfare fund.[6]

Smeaton became the NHL's first referee in chief when the NHL formed in 1917. Smeaton was offered the general manager's job of the expansion New York Rangers in 1926, but turned it down to remain in Montreal.[7] He served as referee until 1930 when he became the head coach of the Philadelphia Quakers. The Quakers played only one season, 1930–31, finishing out of the playoffs. The following season, Smeaton resumed refereeing. He refereed in the NHL until 1937 when he retired. Smeaton, who officiated numerous Stanley Cup and Allan Cup finals, would be inducted as an on-ice official into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.[8]

Part of the reason Smeaton retired from hockey was to attend to his business career. He retired to accept a promotion to assistant branch manager at Sun Life.[9] Smeaton later became Ottawa branch manager before returning to Montreal to become Montreal branch manager in 1944.[10] Smeaton would continue at Sun Life until retiring in 1954. Smeaton served as president of the Montreal Life Insurance Underwriters Association.[11]

P. D. Ross appointed Smeaton trustee of the Stanley Cup on February 24, 1946, replacing the late William Foran.[10] During his term as trustee, the NHL was given control over the Stanley Cup, allowing the league to reject challenges for the Cup from other leagues. As part of his duties Smeaton would, on occasion, present the Cup to the Stanley-Cup winning championship team.[12][13]

Smeaton remained active in retirement with golf. Smeaton died on October 3, 1978 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.[14] He was survived by his wife Victoria. Smeaton is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.[15]

NHL coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Division rank Result
Philadelphia Quakers 1930–31 44 4 36 4 12 5th in American Missed playoffs


  • Diamond, Dan; Eric Zweig; James Duplacey (2003). The Ultimate Prize: The Stanley Cup. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-3830-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fischler, Stan (1976). Those Were The Days: The Lore of Hockey by the Legends of the Game. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company. ISBN 0-396-07015-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  1. ^ Fischler 1976, p. 33.
  2. ^ "Insurance Hockey League". Montreal Gazette. February 15, 1908. p. 2.
  3. ^ Fischler 1976, p. 34.
  4. ^ Fischler 1976, p. 35.
  5. ^ "Ross Appoints Cooper Smeaton as Co-Trustee of Stanley Cup". Montreal Gazette. February 25, 1946. p. 16.
  6. ^ "Canadiens Here Wednesday Next". Town of Mount Royal Weekly Post. September 17, 1959. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Smeaton offered N.Y. Management". Montreal Gazette. March 3, 1926. p. 18.
  8. ^ Hockey Hall of Fame. "Officials By Induction Year -- Legends of Hockey -- The Legends". Legends of Hockey. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  9. ^ Fischler 1976, p. 36.
  10. ^ a b "Cooper Smeaton is named Stanley Cup Trustee". Ottawa Citizen. February 25, 1946. p. 10.
  11. ^ "Insurance Men Told of Business Ethics". Montreal Gazette. March 14, 1947. p. 57.
  12. ^ Diamond, Zweig, and Duplacey, p. 40
  13. ^ "Court:Non-NHL teams could vie for Cup". TSN. February 7, 2006. Archived from the original on December 16, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2006.
  14. ^ "Smeaton dies at 88". Montreal Gazette. October 4, 1978. p. 52.
  15. ^ "J. Cooper Smeaton". Find-A-Grave. Retrieved November 19, 2012.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Pittsburgh Pirates coaches
Frank Fredrickson
Head coach of the Philadelphia Quakers
Succeeded by
Position abolished