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Who was the first hockey player to win the Stanley Cup four years in a row?

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Known as "one of the greatest and finest figures in history of sports in Canada" is Edward George Gerard (22 February 1890 – 7 August 1937). He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and as he was born on George Washington's birthday (22 February), his parents christened him with the middle name of George in honour "of the great United States patriot." Despite all this, he went by the name of "Eddie."

A natural athlete, Gerard excelled in many sports including baseball, cricket, paddling, lacrosse, and football. Although at the age of 15 he helped the Ottawa-New Edinburgh Canoe Club win the junior Dominion paddling championship and played backfield with the Ottawa Rough Riders football club from 1909 to 1913, hockey was his true calling. A printer by trade, Gerard was with the Government Printing Bureau for several years until he worked at the Geodetic Survey of Canada in 1912 and rose to the position of chief engineering clerk at the time of his passing. While he was reluctant to becoming a professional hockey player for fear of losing his day job, the Ottawa Senators assured him he could continue at the Survey while playing hockey. Gerard – who was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 168 pounds – joined his home team in 1913 and played the position of forward and defence for the Ottawa Senators for the next ten seasons. While with the Ottawa Senators he won the Stanley Cup in 1920, 1921 and 1923. He was also invited to play with the Toronto St. Patricks in the spring of 1922 when that team won the Stanley Cup during that year. He had been loaned as an injury replacement player to the St. Patricks and as outlined in the Ottawa Citizen on the day of his death, "his participation in that series made him a member of four consecutive Stanley cup holders, a record possibly never before or since achieved by any N.H.L. player." According to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, "combining strength, puckhandling skill, and gentlemanly conduct, Gerard was an impenetrable defenseman." A non-malignant growth in his throat, resulting from an errant hockey stick blow, forced his retirement after the 1923 Stanley Cup season. Unable to play hockey because of doctor's orders, Gerard turned his talents to coaching, initially with the Montreal Maroons from 1925 until 1929, leading them to their first Stanley Cup in 1926. He then coached the New York Americans from 1930 to 1932 and returned to Montreal in 1933. Gerard finished his career with the St. Louis Eagles in 1934 before illness forced him to retire halfway through the season.

Eddie, his brothers John and Tom and their parents, William and Anne all lived on MacKinnon Road at the village of Rockliffe Park, located on the outskirts of Ottawa at the time. For many decades, all four houses were occupied by the Gerard family and as they have been living on that street since 1903, the Gerards are considered Rockliffe Park's longest resident family. Eddie Gerard died at the age of 47 and his early death was a great shock to many as "he never drank nor smoked and always kept himself in good physical condition." Team members, staff and citizens alike provided ample tributes following his death, include one from Frank "King" Clancy (25 February 1902 – 10 November 1986), former defence player with the Ottawa Senators and at that time with the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team that summarized it best by saying: "In his death Ottawa loses one of her greatest hockey stars. Not only was he a great player but a wonderful inspiration to his team-mates." As shown in the photograph, he was buried at nearby Beechwood Cemetery in the family plot. Eddie Gerard was among the first nine players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945, two years after it was established in Toronto, Ontario. He also became a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.

On this day, 12 February 2019, we commemorate the 129th anniversary of the birth of Edward George "Eddie" Gerard – the first hockey player to win the Stanley Cup four years in a row – and mark 74 years since being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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