Interlude: Winnipeg’s Forgotten Hockey Royalty, “King” Attie Howard

By the end of 1930, Thomas Atcheson “Attie” Howard became one of hockey’s most important forgotten legends. During his time in the limelight, hockey drastically changed from a predominantly amateur sport to a self-sustaining professional entity. Additionally, game play drastically changed. Approved rule changes included multiple substitutions and reduction to six players on the ice. With such a storied life, a simple posting can only highlight a few major events and aspects of hockey’s King.

Thomas Howard was player, coach, and fan of hockey. Although Tom played in college, he is better known as a Winnipeg Victoria Forward. His playing career peaked with winning the Stanley Cup. Although seemingly acquired by St. Paul hockey club in 1899, Tom signed a contract to coach at Yale.

In 1900, Tom started his coaching career. In a professional capacity, Tom coached at Yale for ten years, Columbia University, Yale, Dean of Hockey at Jamaica High School,  and was possibly considered for the general manager role for the New York Americans. However, it appears Tom’s love was always amateur hockey and returned to coach the sport time and time again.

Tom wasn’t just a player. He wasn’t just a coach. He was a fan of the game, especially when his sons played. Both of his sons joined the Navy Reserve and played for the Boston Yard team. Well, an account of a game between The Wanderers (of New York) and the Boston Yard Team highlighted how hockey was a family affair, even if they were in the stands.

Hockey fights are family affairs for the HowardsHockey fights are family affairs for the Howards Tue, Feb 19, 1918 – Page 15 · New York Herald (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

For each major change in hockey in the teens and twenties, people consulte Tom or his Almanac. Whether it was the transition from seven to six man squads or amateur over pros, newspapers sought Tom’s opinion. Additionally, Tom supported his wife as she coached the St. Nicholas Blues, a women’s hockey team.

Tom retires around 1927 and moves to Los Angeles with his son, Tom Jr. The last note in a long, storied life came from The Winnipeg Tribune:

Toms obitToms obit Fri, Nov 30, 1945 – Page 5 · The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Tom’s Wife, Kathleen, lived on until 1967. Tom’s kids, well, more on them later because Tom’s story doesn’t end here.

Interlude: Winnipeg’s Forgotten Hockey Royalty, the Howards

Attempting to repeat 1895, the Winnipeg Jets are trying to upset strong favorites in order to win the 2018 Stanley Cup. In Dec 1895, the Winnipeg Victorias amateur hockey club bested Montreal to secure the cup with a team that became known as “the Winnipeg Seven”. While some fame befell the Winnipeg Seven, Thomas Acheson “Attie” Howard stands out due to his very publicized move to Yale. However, hockey was a family affair for the Howards.

While Thomas Howard’s journey started in 1871, not much was able to be discovered about his early years. Tom’s first appearance is an unassuming marriage announcement to Kathleen Cronn in the May 1893 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune. A couple of years later, Thomas Howard, Jr. came into the world in 1895. Finally, Jack T. Howard completed hockey’s royal family in 1897.

The list of Tom’s accomplishments only started with winning Lord Stanley’s “Challenge Cup” in Dec 1895. In 1899, Tom agreed to become Yale’s head coach of Men’s Ice Hockey. In the 20’s, he joined Spalding to sell sticks and become the editor of Spalding Official Ice Hockey Guide, an almanac on hockey and winter sports. By 1927, Tom and Kathleen retired to Tom Jr’s place in Los Angeles. A lone obituary in the Winnipeg Tribune on 30 Nov, 1945 noted the passing of Tom “Attie” Howard on the 18th. But, this wouldn’t be a story on family if it was only about Tom.

In New York City, Kathleen Howard came into her own as possibly hockey’s first female coach. Noted as “Mrs. Tom Howard” in most newspaper articles, she argued that hockey was for women. Mrs. Howard clearly coached the St. Nick’s Reds throughout the teens. It’s not clear when things changed.

In April 1918, Kathleen organized a hockey match between St. Nick’s and a Boston team with all proceeds going to the employees of the Brooklyn Ice Palace. The Brooklyn Ice Palace created ice using a mechanical process and ammonia. A State Ice Controller ordered the ice rink to close to save materials for the war effort. While the Brooklyn Ice Palace eventually reopened and the St. Nick’s Reds started playing again, Mrs. Howard seemed to fade into the background. She moved to California with her husband and passed away in 1954.

Newspapers gushed over Tom and Kathleen’s kids, Tom Jr. and Jack. From all accounts, Tom limited Junior’s playing due to a possible heart condition. When Tom Jr played, commentators praised his ability. Unfortunately, few articles mention Jack. One of Jack’s last mentions was in an article about how he and his brother played for a Boston amateur team in the mid-20s.

In the midst of the twenties, Tom Jr. married Natalie Matthews. They eventually move to Los Angeles, where they end up taking care of their parents. Tom H. Howard possibly passes away in the 60s, but Natalie lived until 92 (1987).

This only touched upon highlights of, possibly, the first royal family of hockey. Most amazingly is the story of Kathleen Howard. She brought the tradition of women’s hockey from Canada to New York City and Boston. She started a team and organized games. She, quite possibly, was the first female hockey coach in the United States.

Unfortunately, deep mysteries abound. What happened to Jack/John T Howard after Boston? Did Tom Jr. and Natalie have children? For now, the Winnipeg Jets have a chance again to go for the Cup, and recreate the magic of the 1895 Winnipeg Victorias.