One of the most versatile stars of the early days of the game, Graham Drinkwater was a fixture in the Montreal Victorias' lineup. He was a rare breed with an ability to function equally well at the defense and forward positions. Brilliant stickhandling, a natural scoring touch and team-permeating enthusiasm characterized Drinkwater's play. He was an integral component of the Montreal Victorias squad that became hockey's first dynasty with four Stanley Cup triumphs in the 1890s.
The Montreal native grew up playing many sports in his local neighborhood. As a teenager, he became an accomplished hockey and football player. In 1892-93, he starred with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association junior team. This was a prestigious place to learn the ropes, given that the senior outfit won the first Stanley Cup ever presented that same season. Drinkwater also went on to play a prominent role on the McGill University junior and intermediate football teams.
Upon leaving McGill, Drinkwater signed with the Victoria Hockey Club of Montreal, where he figured to gain more playing time than with the MAAA squad. The talented Drinkwater's rookie season in 1895 was filled with achievement. He worked superbly with speedy cover point Mike Grant, Archie Hodgson and AHA leading scorer Haviland Routh. Drinkwater scored nine goals in eight contests to help the Victorias win the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada championship, and the title earned the club the distinction of being holders of the Stanley Cup.
In February 1896 the Winnipeg Victorias mounted a successful challenge, winning the Stanley Cup in Montreal. Later that year Drinkwater scored one of the goals when the Montreal Vics gained revenge against their western namesakes, reclaiming the Cup in a thrilling 6-5 battle. A fine center, he also spent much of this period on defense, where he once again enjoyed an outstanding working relationship with Mike Grant. In addition to their multifaceted talents, the two stars were physically the biggest members of the team.
The Montreal powerhouse continued its domination of the AHAC in 1897 by winning another league crown and maintaining possession of the Stanley Cup. Along the way they humiliated the Central Canada Hockey Association champion Ottawa Capitals by a 14-2 score, leaving no doubt of their supremacy. Drinkwater, Grant, Ernest McLea and Cam Davidson dominated for the victors in one of the most lopsided encounters in Stanley Cup history.
They were even stronger the next season when they won the AHAC title after going undefeated in the regular season. Drinkwater registered 10 goals in eight matches that year on a team that scored an average of nearly seven times per game.
Early in the 1899 season, Winnipeg ventured east to face their arch foes from Montreal. The eastern Vics won both encounters by a single goal. Drinkwater's end-to-end goal-producing rush in the first match proved to be the most memorable point in the epic struggle. Once again he lined up on defense with Mike Grant. The twosome formed an effective and entertaining partnership that served as an integral part of the Vics' Stanley Cup triumph.
The second match was Drinkwater's swan song. It was a contest talked about for years afterwards because of a heated controversy that erupted during the game. A dispute over a penalty call caused referee J.A. Findlay to leave the arena in disgust. When he returned, the Winnipeg players refused to take to the ice. The game was awarded to Montreal, which was leading 3-2 at the point of the dispute, and the Vics retained the Cup.
A month after the battle with Winnipeg, the Shamrock club took possession of the Cup by virtue of being champions of the newly formed Canadian Amateur Hockey League. This signified the end of one of the top dynasties in the history of Stanley Cup competition.
Graham Drinkwater's smooth-skating and well-rounded game made him one of the top stars during hockey's formative period. He was always a key player on the teams for which he played.
Drinkwater took his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950.