Joseph Viateur "Leo" Dandurand contributed extensively to the promotion and development of sports in Montreal and across North America. He always seemed to make the right business decisions or had plenty of help from the wide range of contacts he assembled over the years. Dandurand's first love was sports promotion. His efforts revitalized or began a variety of sporting traditions during his career.
Born in Bourbonnais, Illinois in 1889, he emigrated to Canada with his parents and eight siblings when he was sixteen. Dandurand worked as a referee in the National Hockey Association and assisted with the administration of the Montreal minor hockey system. His reputation grew to the point that he was one of the city's representatives at the meetings which formed the CAHA in 1914.
Dandurand later developed a business partnership with Louis Letourneau and Joseph Cattarinich which led to a number of joint ventures in various sports. The "Three Musketeers" made their greatest contribution to the sporting world when they purchased the Montreal Canadiens on November 3, 1921. They worked hard to promote the team and turned into one of the league's most exciting and successful franchises. The Flying Frenchmen won the Stanley Cup in 1924, 1930 and 1931 with the such stars as Howie, Morenz, Georges Vezina, Aurel Joliat, Joe Malone, and Newsy Lalonde leading the way.
Dandurand demonstrated many qualities of leadership while helping to run the Canadiens. Figuring that the Montreal fans and hockey in general would benefit, he gave his blessing when the Montreal Maroons were asked to pay a modest expansion fee to join the NHL in 1924. He also showed his mettle when he suspended popular Montreal defencemen Sprague Cleghorn and Billy Coutu after they brutally attacked Ottawa's Cy Denneny and Lionel Hitchman in a particularly heated match.
Dandurand was also instrumental in bringing about the deferred penalty rule by which no more than two players could be penalized concurrently. In April 1947 he was invited to replace the deceased J.P. Fitzgerald on the board of Governors of the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
Dandurand and his partners developed one of the top racing empires in North America. They owned as many as 17 tracks at one time including Montreal's Dorval and Blue Bonnet facilities which they saved from bankruptcy. Dandurand and Lew Hayman developed the Alouettes football club while the former was also a director of the Montreal Royals minor pro baseball team. He also promoted boxing and wrestling on a large scale in Montreal. For a period of time, most sporting success in Montreal could be traced directly or indirectly to the efforts of Leo Dandurand.
In addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Dandurand was one of the inaugural inductees in the Nova Scotia Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame in 1963. He was also enshrined at the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston. His community and business involvement included serving as a governor of the Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal, sitting on the Montreal Chamber of Commerce and functioning as the president of the Montclair Richelieu Springwater Company.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.