Conacher's power, stamina and speed (he ran 100 yards in under 10 seconds) were particularly suited to lacrosse and football. He helped Toronto to win the Ontario Lacrosse Association senior title in 1922. In football he was a ferocious runner and perhaps the best punter in the game. In the 1921 GREY CUP game he led the Toronto Argonauts to a 23-0 victory over Edmonton, scoring 15 points himself. He did not learn to skate until age 16, but his aggressive, determined play made him one of the best defencemen in hockey. He turned professional with Pittsburgh in 1925 and played for the New York Americans, Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Maroons (1930-33 and 1934-37). Rugged and ready to brawl (even with his brother Charlie), he was an NHL first all-star in 1934.
Conacher entered politics in 1937 and was Liberal MPP for Toronto Bracondale. He was Ontario athletic commissioner and worked to provide recreational facilities in city parks. In 1949 he was elected federal MP for Toronto Trinity. He died of a heart attack after hitting a triple in a charity softball game. Deserving of his nickname, "The Big Train," Conacher was the greatest all-round athlete that Canada has produced. It was thought that Conacher had been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame but in fact he had not been. This oversight was corrected in 1994. He is also a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Author JAMES MARSH