King Clancy was either that player you loved or you hated. Born in 1903, Clancy’s NHL career didn’t start until 1921 when he began playing with the Ottawa Senators, under the mentorship of Georges Boucher. Clancy didn’t play big minutes until Eddie Gerard retired in 1923, at which point Clancy took on a much bigger role with the Senators. In the 1923-24 season, Clancy’s offensive numbers spiked and he hit career highs in every offensive category, managing 16 points in 24 games. In 1924-25, Clancy finished 2nd in goals among defensemen with 14 in 29 games, just one behind his defensive partner, Boucher.
Clancy was known for being aggressive and wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves if necessary, despite his diminutive size at just 5’7″. As a result he not only became a fan-favourite, but he racked up reasonably high PIM numbers as well. Clancy had another strong season in 1926-27, with 19 points, finishing 5th in Hart voting as he began to take over Boucher’s role as the number one defender on the Senators. Clancy won his second Stanley Cup in 1927.
Not only was Clancy a skilled offensive defenseman, but he was known for being tricky in his own zone to make defensive plays. In the 1928-29 season, as the still young age of 25, Clancy was named team captain and fully took over the leadership role in Ottawa, as Boucher was traded to the Maroons. Clancy’s 13 goals led all defensemen in the NHL and he again finished 5th in Hart voting. Clancy also had 89 PIM in all 44 games, the highest single-season total of his career.
Due to rule changes regarding passing in the offensive zone, offense exploded in the 1929-30 season and Clancy noticed a huge uptick in his offense as well, with career highs of 17 goals and 40 points. Assists especially increased. Prior to the 1929-30 season, the single-season record for assists was 18. Clancy’s 23 would have set the record, had not many other players surpassed it as well, including four players with 30+ assists. Despite this, Clancy still had a very strong season in the new offensively-minded NHL and finished 4th in Hart Trophy voting.
Despite his strong play, Clancy was still evidently considered expendable, as he was traded to the Maple Leafs in 1930 for a large sum of money and two other players. At just 27, Clancy still had many good years ahead of him and he performed well in Toronto. He finished on the 1st NHL All-Star Team and was 3rd in Hart voting for the 1930-31 season. Clancy then had a stretch of many consistently strong seasons up until 1934, never falling below 4th in points among defensemen and helping the Leafs win the Cup in 1932 and again making the 1st All-Star Team and 3rd in Hart voting in the 1933-34 season.
Clancy finally began to quiet down once in his 30s as the toll of a long career began to affect him. He retired early into the 1936-37 season at the age of 33 and would coach the Montreal Maroons in the 1937-38 season, their last in the NHL. Clancy would return to the NHL again as a coach in the 50s with the Toronto Maple Leafs, finding some moderate success before leaving the position in 1952.
When Clancy retired in 1937, he was 5th in all-time PIM and 2nd in all-time games only behind Aurel Joliat. Among defensemen, he was first in games, goals, assists, and points. His 136 goals still put him at 48th all-time even today. Clancy’s No. 7 is retired in Toronto. Clancy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. Clancy remained involved in Toronto’s community for years after his career and continued to be a fan favourite due to his charisma. When Clancy suddenly passed away in 1986, the NHL introduced the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in his honour to be awarded to the player who exhibited leadership skills and contributed their community.