Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Leader, Al

Leader, Al

The stellar efforts of George Alfred Leader contributed significantly to the growth of hockey western North America. His work benefited both the amateur and professional circles but his chief interest was spreading the popularity of the game at the grass roots level.

Born in Barnsley, Manitoba, Leader later moved to Watson, Saskatchewan where he played junior and amateur hockey. Shortly after getting married in the early 1930's he fled the depths of the Great Depression and moved briefly to South Bend Indiana before settling down for good in Seattle, Washington.

Leader became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1933. That same year he gained his first administrative hockey post with the Seattle City League. Over the next seven years he played, coached, and managed teams in this circuit while working some time as an on-ice official. Above all, he worked vigorously to expand the popularity of the game among the young people of the city.

In 1940, he organized the Defense Hockey League composed of five teams in Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. Each of these outfits was sponsored by a section of the local defense industry. Leader's involvement with this league allowed him to foster relationships with individuals connected to professional hockey. In 1944 his contacts helped gain him election as the secretary-manager of the Pacific Coast League.

Leader was also heavily involved in amateur hockey circles on the West Coast in the 1940s. He served as vice-president of the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States (AHAUS) and sponsored western tours by the Eastern Amateur Hockey League champions.

By 1952, the Pacific Coast League, now called the Western Hockey League (WHL), had turned fully professional and Leader was the elected president. He continued to serve for another twenty-one years before retiring on May 19, 1969. Under Leader's guidance, the WHL experienced periods of great financial and internal strain. Many franchises folded or were relocated and there was the constant issue of competing with other minor pro leagues and the loss potential players when expansion came to the NHL in 1967. He moved to California after retiring and passed away there in Rancho Mirage, California.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

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