1858 – 1949
Avid sportsman, newspaperman, businessman and politician, Ross played an influential role in the development of hockey in Ottawa.
Born in Montreal, Ross moved to Ottawa in 1885 and after a few years settled in Sandy Hill where he lived most of his life, first at 413 Wilbrod Ave. (1901), them Laurier Ave. E. (1911 – 1919) and finally 17 Blackburn Ave. (1920 – 1948). A natural-born athlete (he had been a championship rower and played college football), he also loved to skate and play hockey. He married his love for sport with his background in journalism and a talent for business in a career that included purchasing and becoming managing editor of the Ottawa Journal for 60 years as well as playing hockey for the Ottawa Hockey Club and managing it for several years.
It was at a season-end banquet in March 1892 after Ross, as one of Hockey Club vice-presidents had toasted Governor General Lord Stanley, that Lord Kilcoursie, in the former’s absence, read the following letter from Lord Stanley: “I have for some time past been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion. …I am willing to give a cup which shall be held … by the winning team”. (Ottawa Daily Citizen, March 18, 1892, p 1). Lord Stanley made Ross one of the two trustees of his famous Cup. Lord Stanley knew Ross not only from his involvement with the Ottawa Hockey Club but also from the fact that he played hockey with two of his sons.
In its early years, the Stanley Cup was indeed a challenge Cup, open to all league champions, and it was up to the trustees to ensure that the competition was of a high standard and did not debase the trophy’s value. Ross remained Stanley Cup trustee for 56 years until he died. He was also trustee for lacrosse’s Minto Cup and turned down an invitation to be trustee for football’s Grey Cup. He is a member of he Hockey Hall of Fame.
Skating in the early 20th Century was often done on the Rideau Canal or on Ottawa’s rivers. Ross’s diaries note several outings on the Ottawa River, including one on December 6, 1901, the day that Bessie Blair fell through the ice and Henry Harper, Mackenzie King’s friend, drowned trying to save her. Although it was King who conceived the idea of a monument to commemorate Harper – the statue of Sir Galahad that still stands on Wellington St. in front of the Parliament Buildings – it was Ross who chaired the committee that raised the funds for it.
Ross was also briefly an alderman, ran unsuccessfully for mayor and a seat in the provincial legislature, chaired a Royal Commission, was a co-founder of the Canadian Press and an advocate of public ownership of electricity. He is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.