Known as a quiet, unselfish but highly efficient businessman, Joseph Cattarinich's greatest legacy was helping to make the Montreal Canadiens one of the world's greatest sports franchises. He earned many admirers because he stressed making important and helpful decisions rather than gaining publicity for them. These decisive moves often based on financial assistance from Cattarinich who was generous, though not careless with his money.
Born in Quebec City, Cattarinich played hockey and lacrosse as a youth. While tending goal for the Montreal Nationals, he was impressed with the individual guarding the Chicoutimi net. He astutely recommended that the player in question, Georges Vezina, be brought in to replace him the following season. This selfless move for the betterment of the team was typical of Cattarinich in sports or business.
On November 3, 1921, Cattarinich and business partners Leo Dandurand and Louis Letourneau purchased the Montreal Canadiens from the widow of former owner George Kennedy for $11,000. Under their management, the Canadiens became the most exciting team in the NHL and were known as the "Flying Frenchmen" while winning three Stanley Cups. Some of the stars of this period included Howie Morenz, Aurel Joliat, Joe Malone, and Newsy Lalonde.
Letourneau retired in 1931 leaving the other two to see the team through the Great Depression. Cattarinich's generosity was not killed off by these difficult times. He loaned Chicago's Major Frederic McLaughlin a vast sum of money to keep the team in business because it was for the good of the league. Finally, in 1935, Cattarinich sold the team for $165,000 for economic reasons.
During and after his hockey management days, Cattarinich was an avid horse breeder. He ran the prestigious Arlington Heights racetrack in Chicago then moved to New Orleans to operate the Jefferson Park facility.
Cattarinich was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.