Francis King Clancy was a tremendous competitor whose immense contributions on the ice were equalled by his extraordinarily effusive personality off ice during his lifelong association with the game. His consistent effort and rapport with the fans lasted throughout his career as a player, referee, coach, and executive.
The Ottawa native first gained local attention by excelling with St. Joseph's High School and the city's munitions junior squad. In 1918-19 he began his first of three solid years with the senior St. Brigids squad in Ottawa before signing a pro contract with the NHL Ottawa Senators. Clancy became a regular with the club after the retirement of Eddie Gerard, and he quickly established himself as one of the top players in the league.
Between 1921-22 and 1929-30, the affable Irish-Canadian starred on the Sens and was a key component in the club's Stanley Cup triumphs in 1923 and 1927. He hit double figures in goals three times and was known for utilizing every trick in the book while defending his own zone. Although he weighed only 155 pounds, the feisty defender took on all comers and even challenged a few unruly fans along the way, losing most fights but never giving an inch or backing down.
In 1930, Clancy was the centrepiece of what became known as "the best deal in hockey" when he was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Buds' manager Conn Smythe paid the unprecedented sum of $35,000 and two players to acquire the ingredient he felt would put his club over the top as a Stanley Cup contender, a sum he acquired by winning a bet on a racehorse named Rare Jewel. Clancy repaid Smythe's faith in him by constantly bringing the Toronto crowd to its feet with bodychecks, rushes with the puck, and boundless enthusiasm.
The rambunctious defenceman helped the franchise win its first Stanley Cup as the Maple Leafs in 1932 in the team's first year at Maple Leaf Gardens and was voted on to the NHL first and second all-star teams twice each during his career. He also participated in the Ace Bailey benefit game in 1934 and the Howie Morenz memorial match three years later.
Early in the 1936-37 season, Clancy announced his retirement as a player. He coached the Montreal Maroons for the first half of the of the 1937-38 seasons before embarking on an 11-year tenure as an NHL referee. Clancy was every bit as colourful in the white official's sweater as he was as a defenceman. In 1953, he stepped behind the Maple Leafs bench and remained there for three seasons. Toronto was in decline after the 1951 Stanley Cup win and tragic loss of Bill Barilko in a plane crash that summer.
Following a losing season in 1955-56, Clancy moved upstairs to become the Maple Leafs' assistant general manager. In 1958 he received hockey's greatest individual honour when he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Clancy remained in the front office when the team won four Stanley Cups in the 1960's and during the succeeding period when the club eventually declined under Harold Ballard's ownership.
During the difficult 1970s and '80s Clancy was one of the bombastic owner's few friends and even took over as an interim coach in 1971-72 when Johnny MacLellan was hospitalized with ulcers. The previous year Clancy was his old fiery self when he screamed at Madison Square Garden fans to return Bernie Parent's mask after it was flipped into the crowd by New York's Vic Hadfield during a heated playoff game. By the mid-'80s, Clancy was a goodwill ambassador for the club and his death in 1986 saddened millions. The King Clancy trophy is awarded annually to a player for his charitable community work.