The Massive Reach of Walter Brown in Hockey and Basketball

To be honored by a professional sports league with an induction to its Hall of Fame must be one of the most rewarding experiences.  But to to be honored by being inducted into two pro sports Halls of Fame borders on sublime.

Welcome back to Peculiar Side of Sports.  Every so often something in sports perplexes me, and I just hate not knowing something.  So, I do what any normal, sane sports fan does – I search ad nausea for the answer by any means necessary.  The good news is that I take all my hard work and relay the results to you.  Some of you might never have heard of Walter Brown, while others might recognize the name yet have no idea how important he was the development of two of North America’s “big four” sports – hockey and basketball.  Either way, I think it’s important to spend time looking at the man’s impact.

Without further ado, I give you today’s Peculiar Side

Walter Brown was born on February 10, 1905, in Massachusetts.  His father, George Brown, was manager of the old Boston Garden, so Walter quite literally grew up with sports, particularly hockey and basketball.  On a sidenote, Boston Garden was originally called “Boston Madison Square Garden”, as the architect (actually, a boxing promoter) was the same who designed the iconic arena in New York.   Eventually, Walter took over his father’s job as manager of the arena.

Brown’s first big impact was in hockey.  His first big claim to fame was in leading Team USA hockey to its first notable gold medal in hockey – the 1933 World Ice Hockey Championships.  Brown founded an amateur hockey club in 1940 that played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League.  The team, called the Boston Olympics (or ‘Pics for short), officially became a farm team of the Boston Bruins only a couple seasons after their founding.  The team made an attempt at playing in the Quebec Senior League, but they had poor results and returned to the EAHL.  The team folded in 1951.

Where one window closes, another opens.  In 1951, after his Olympics folded, he purchased the Boston Bruins team.  Timing couldn’t have been better as the team was not doing well financially.  Walter also had great interest in international hockey, and became the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation for four years beginning in 1954.

Walter was widely known as an active member of the Boston sports scene in general.  From 1941-1946, he was President of the Boston Athletic Association, which is responsible for the Boston Marathon amongst other charitable events.

Brown is also an important part of basketball history.  Realizing that hockey arenas were dormant for much of the year, he had the idea to use them to house professional basketball teams.  In 1946, Brown helped to create a new professional basketball league – The Basketball Association of America.  One of the first orders of business was to include a team he founded the year before – The Boston Celtics.  The league was very successful from its first game in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens between the Toronto Huskies and New York Knickerbockers.

In 1949, Brown recognized the importance of merging the two big basketball leagues into one unified league – he knew the talent would improve.  So the BAA absorbed teams from the National Basketball League and the NBA was born.  So, along with Naismith, you can see how Brown’s vision is the reason basketball is as it is today.

Walter Brown has many tremendous honors, perhaps none more important than having the NBA Championship trophy named after him after his death in 1964 through 1977.  He has been inducted in both the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 1962, the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997, as well as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1965.  The Boston Celtics have recognized his great achievements by raising a #1 in his honor to its rafters.

While teams in the NBA don’t still play for the Walter Brown Trophy any more, the trophy they do play for is as much because of what he added to the game as anything, or anyone, else.

Thanks for reading.  Want to read my other Sports History articles?  Check them out here.  As always,  feel free to leave comments below.  Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter –  @lastwordonsport.

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