In addition to an exemplary career as a defenseman, Art Ross contributed to the development of hockey through his off-ice endeavors. Ross recorded 85 goals in 167 regular-season games and provided stability and savvy in the defensive zone. He won the Stanley Cup twice as a player and later added another in his 18 years behind the bench. Ross also improved the construction of goal nets and the design of the puck.
In 1905 Ross made his first appearance for a major hockey organization by scoring 10 goals in eight games for the Westmount franchise in the Canadian Amateur Hockey League. He rapidly earned the distinction of being one of the top rushing defensemen in the game.
The following year he skated for Brandon of the Manitoba Hockey League. Ross's play attracted the attention of the Kenora Thistles, who worked out a loan agreement with Brandon in time for their Stanley Cup challenge against the Montreal Wanderers in January 1907. During the two-game set, he received numerous ovations from the Montreal crowd. Although he didn't score, Ross made a number of quality offensive rushes that contributed to Kenora's Stanley Cup win.
A year later, Ross's services were purchased by the Wanderers in a move that strengthened an already formidable outfit. Ross was a key reason the Red Bands finished at the top of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association standings and then beat back the Stanley Cup challenges from Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton.
Ross next spent a few months with the All-Montreal squad in the short-lived Canadian Hockey Association. By January 1910, the National Hockey Association was the preeminent league in the country and Ross was signed by the Haileybury franchise. After a season in Ontario's mining country, Ross returned to the Wanderers, where he played another four years. During the 1911 players' uprising against the owners, he was a strong and eloquent voice in the quest to attain a fair share of revenues for the athletes. He followed with two years in Ottawa, where he introduced the "kitty bar the door" defensive alignment that baffled teams preferring a freewheeling offensive game. He then returned to Montreal to close out his playing career with the Wanderers.
After retiring as a player, Ross took a turn as an on-ice official before moving into coaching and management. He landed his first coaching position with the Hamilton Tigers' senior club, where he demonstrated that not all of his ability was left behind on the ice. When Charles F. Adams secured an NHL franchise for the Boston area, he jumped at the chance to offer Ross the coach's job.
Between 1924 and 1954, Ross served as either coach or manager of the Boston Bruins. Over this period the club finished at the top of the league standings 10 times and captured the Stanley Cup on three occasions. He was the driving force behind the Bruins' ability to acquire such future stars as Eddie Shore and Milt Schmidt. It was while serving in his administrative capacities that Ross argued successfully for the adoption of synthetic as opposed to natural rubber pucks. He also brought about the replacement of the league's square goal nets with a rounded-back version, complete with superior mesh.
Ross was a multidimensional influence in hockey. As a tribute to him, the NHL introduced the trophy bearing his name in 1947-48 to be awarded annually to the league's top scorer. The B-shaped net he brought into being lasted until the 1980s, while his synthetic bevel-edged puck was still in use in the late 1990s. In 1945 Ross was part of the first group of players elected to the newly founded Hockey Hall of Fame.