The NAHL: Alfred “Ralph” Winsor

With a multitude of accomplishments, The Boston Globe and others bequeathed the mantle of “Father of Modern Hockey” to “Ralph” Winsor Jr.  To summarize, many credit Ralph with the modern hockey stick, skate curve, and effective use of substitution (prior to the on-the-fly line changes of today). In his role as the first American-born college hockey coach, Ralph devised a new tactic specifically to counter Hobey Baker. Ralph shifted the point and cover point to force the forwards to the boards. The tactic was moderately successful in stopping Hobey. To help visualize this shift:



Not only did Ralph modernize hockey, he supported his country in war and hockey.

While most well-known as Ralph Winsor Jr., he was really the third and last Alfred Winsor from Brookline, Massachusetts. His Father, also known by Alfred Winsor Jr., was a Civil War veteran from Company H, 45th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, “The Cadet Regiment”. Originally mustered-in as a private in the Boston Cadets in May 1862, Alfred received a promotion to 1st lieutenant upon mustering with the 45th Regiment in September 1862. During Alfred’s nine months with the Union Army, he fought in North Carolina. Alfred mustered out prior to being called to suppress draft riots in Boston in July 1863. Afterwards, Alfred returned to his life as a merchant at Alfred Winsor & Son. By the time of Ralph’s birth, Alfred achieved prominence within Boston’s social circles.

Although born in 1880, Ralph’s story begins at Harvard in 1898. At the time, the popular team ice sport slowly shifted from ice polo to ice hockey. While a few Boston-area high schools played this Canadian game, Ralph may not have played at Nobles and Greenough. Thus, Ralph develops his hockey sense during those years at Harvard. In his senior year 1902, he captains the team to victory as player-coach. Starting with the 1902-1903 season, he coaches the Harvard team until 1917 pro bono.

As mentioned before, Alfred Winsor became quite wealthy running businesses. Ralph followed in dad’s footsteps. After working in a banking firm for two years, Ralph assisted his father running the various steamship and railway companies. One line famously ran from Puget Sound to Yokohama, Hong Kong and Manila. However, Ralph explored other avenues such as Real Estate.

The household grew to the point where three Irish Maids helped run the house. As war grew closer, Ralph traveled to the Irish Free State in April 1915. He claimed to be “bringing back relatives”.  On the trip back in May, Ralph saw the wreckage and bodies from the torpedoed R.M.S. Lusitania. But, he made it back. The 1920 Federal Census shows three maids, Nora Keohane (1895), Hannah Donovan (1912) and Nora Kelly (1905 or 1915).

In 1917, Ralph answered the called and joined the U.S. Navy. As a Lieutenant (junior grade), he became Officer-in-Charge (O.i.C.) of Navy Intelligence for the First Naval District. As O.i.C., he probably would regularly brief CAPT William Rush on suspected submarine activity or suspicious persons reporting. Additionally, he would have been well acquainted with George Brown, the First Naval District Athletic Director, due to his time with the Boston Athletic Association. Eventually, Ralph decided to coach First District Naval Hockey team in Dec 1917. However, Harvard’s decision to not sponsor a hockey team for 1917-18 probably made a greater impact on his decision.

After the war, Ralph continued to pursue many different activities. During the 1918-19 influenza crisis, the Winsor estate became an place for invalid soldiers and sailors. In 1926, Alfred passed away and Ralph took over the businesses. However, Ralph never really left hockey. In 1922, he stepped in to coach the Harvard team for a season or two. In 1932, he led the U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team to its third silver medal at Lake Placid. Ralph passed on in Clearwater, Florida in 1961. His wife, Gertrude, whom he quietly married in 1926, followed in 1971. For all his efforts, Alfred “Ralph” Winsor was an inaugural inductee of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. A private man who dedicated himself to a public life.

1. The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts  15 Sep 1961, Fri  •  Page 26
2. Evolution of Hockey Positions. Lain Fyffe. 2012. Hockey Historysis.
3. Alfred “Ralph” Winsor. Jim Howard. 2017. SIHR Behind the Boards.
4. Alfred “Ralph” Winsor. US Hockey Hall of Fame. Inducted 1973.
5. Federal Census 1920. Brookline, Massachusetts. Courtesy of
6. History of the Forty-Fifth Regiment. Library of Congress. Courtesy of Hathitrust Digital Library.
7. Harvard College: Class of 1902. Sixth Report. June 1922. Courtesy of
8. Alfred Winsor Jr. Muster-in Boston Cadets. Courtesy of *note: requires paid account.
9. Alfred Winsor Jr. Muster-in. Company H, 45th Massachusetts Volunteers. Courtesy of *note: requires paid account.
10. Boston Irish Maidservants – Looking Back. John Rattigan. December 2016. Boston Irish.