The Ottawa Senators’ decision to retire Daniel Alfredsson’s number was considered an easy choice for many people. Of course, Alfredsson is just the second Senators player to have the honour.
The number 8 was retired first. It still hangs in the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre and belongs to a man named Frank Finnigan, who was known as the ‘The Shawville Express’ in the National Hockey League.
Finnigan was born on July 9, 1901, and raised in Shawville, Quebec. A couple of his first jobs were for W. A. Hodgins, a brickyard and Pontiac Rural, a local telephone company.
Paid to Play
An article by Roy MacGregor reports that a 13-year-old Frank Finnigan picked up a whopping $10 in Quyon, Quebec for playing in a hockey game against the Fitzroy Harbour team from Ontario. Fitzroy is not far from Kanata, where the Senators would eventually play. However, the story does not reveal if it was Quyon or Fitzroy declared the winners of the match.
According to the book ‘Tallying the Tales of the Old-Timers’ by Joan Finnigan – Frank Finnigan’s daughter – it is possible that the hockey game of Quyon versus Fitzroy was played on the ice out on the Ottawa River.
MacGregor also notes in his story, the Grade 9 graduate also played for the University of Ottawa. The team paid him to play and told Finnigan that, if asked, he was to say that he was studying at the University.
Finnigan joined the Ottawa Senators in 1924. In 1927, the Senators, with a team of 11 players, took on the Boston Bruins in a best-of-five series. Reports say the home games were packed at the Ottawa Auditorium with up to 9,000 people and the costs for standing room tickets came in at a massive 25 cents. It was then that Finnigan won his first Stanley Cup, and is also the last time an Ottawa Senators team got their name on the trophy.
He spent 14 seasons in the NHL with stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and he would win his second Stanley Cup in 1932. Finnigan also played with the St. Louis Eagles before deciding to retire from hockey.
He tallied 555 regular season games, 116 goals, 88 assists and 39 playoff games.
Finnigan returned to life in Shawville and opened a hotel in 1953 called Finnigan’s. He made an offer to his son, Frank Finnigan, Jr. to work with him.
“I’ll make it worth your while, is what he said,” laughed Frank. “The hotel never had dances or anything, it was just a tavern and it was a pretty popular place.” They closed the business in 1980.
“He was a good guy, who was pretty strict but was fair,” said Frank. “He never played favorites, he was a good provider and he did what he had to do.”
In 2012, Finnigan was one of fourteen inductees to the Shawville Hockey Wall of Fame and about 300 people came out to the Shawville arena to celebrate. The wall is in the building, which Finnigan officially open in 1967 during a ceremonial face-off before a hockey game.
Frank Sr. helped with the campaign for the return of the Ottawa Senators, which would be successful. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to watch any games.
Frank Jr. dropped the puck for the first Ottawa Senators game that took place at the Civic Centre on Oct. 8, 1992. The Senators pulled off a 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
“It was very nice and quite the do,” said Frank Jr, of the ceremonial face-off.
Christmas Day 2016 marked 25 years since the passing of The Shawville Express. He was the last surviving member of the 1927 Ottawa Senators team.
The legend of the man, Frank Finnigan, also lives on in a simpler form in Shawville with a street name, back dropped by the home in which he used to live.