Born in Pembroke, Ontario in 1893, Frank Nighbor was a hometown kid. His hockey career began at the fresh young age of 17 when he played 6 games for his hometown team, the Pembroke Debaters. Nighbor showed an aptitude for the game immediately as he scored 6 goals and added 4 assists in those games. Despite this showing, when he first joined a professional team in 1911, he was sparsely used, only being employed in the case of injuries or sicknesses. When Nighbor was finally given an opportunity, he exploded onto the scene, scoring six goals in his first game.
Unsurprisingly, this caught the attention of more prominent professional leagues and he was signed by the NHA (National Hockey Association)’s Toronto Blueshirts. After scoring 25 goals in 19 games there, he left to the PCHA (Pacific Coast Hockey Association)’s Vancouver Millionaires. There he would play a vital role for two years, playing with the legendary Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, especially in 1915, when he helped the Millionaires win the Stanley Cup. In the three games he played with them, he managed an incredible 10 points.
In the 1915-16 season, Nighbor returned to the NHA, where he would play with the Ottawa Senators. In the 1916-17 season, he was especially dominant, scoring 41 goals in 19 games. Nighbor stayed with the Senators as they transferred to the newly minted National Hockey League for the 1917-18 season and made a smooth transition.
After winning consecutive Cups in 1920 and 1921, Nighbor continued to dominate with the Senators, winning the first ever Hart Trophy as the Most Valuable Player to his team in the 1923-24 season. Nighbor followed that by winning the first ever Lady Byng trophy in 1924-25 and winning it again the following year, when he lead the league in assists with 13 in 35 games. In an era where forward passing wasn’t allowed, 13 assists was an impressive total.
Nighbor retired in 1930 after a season in which he was traded to the Toronto St. Patricks. When he retired from the NHL, Nighbor was 1st all-time in assists with 98 and 5th in points with 237 points. Nighbor was admired by his peers for his two-way game and sportsmanlike conduct. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, just the second time the Hall inducted players.