One of the top-scoring left wings of his era, Cy Denneny topped the 20-goal mark eight times in his stellar career. Although he wasn't the swiftest skater, Denneny used his shot to deadly effect. Much to the chagrin of opposing netminders, he also became one of the first players to experiment with a curved stick. Denneny was the top goal-getter in the history of the Ottawa Senators franchise, and when he retired, he trailed only Newsy Lalonde and Joe Malone among players of his era.
Denneny was born in Farran's Point, Ontario, a small community near Cornwall which was eventually flooded by the St. Lawrence Seaway. He starred as an amateur in the local county league between 1910 and 1912 before moving out of his home area. After spending the 1912-13 season with the Russell team of the Lower Ottawa Valley league, Denneny moved on to the O'Brien Mine team of the Cobalt Mining League. His play was a big reason the club won the CML championship that year.
In 1914-15, the talented forward stepped into a larger spotlight with the Toronto Shamrocks of the NHA, where he starred, scoring six goals in eight games. That year the Toronto club also received the benefit of his gifted brother Corb. The next year Cy stayed in Toronto with the Blueshirts, where he became a bright star with 24 goals in as many games. The Denneny brothers were centered by Duke Keats on the top-scoring line in the NHA. "The Cornwall Colt" then moved to Ottawa for the prime of his career.
While with the Senators, Denneny saw the franchise become one of the founding members of the NHL in 1917 and win the Stanley Cup four times in the 1920s. He was a productive scorer despite the fact that he was often in charge of protecting his good-natured linemates Jack Darragh and Frank Nighbor. Later he teamed with rugged Punch Broadbent.
Denneny became the all-time leading Ottawa goal scorer, leading the league in 1923-24. On six other occasions he finished as the runner-up in the scoring derby. This included the 1917-18 season, when he finished with a career high of 36 goals in 20 matches but still trailed the Canadiens' 44-goal scorer Joe Malone. On March 7, 1921, Denneny scored five goals in one game against the Hamilton Tigers. In so doing, he became the sixth player in NHL history to accomplish this feat. The fifth had been his brother Corb, who five weeks earlier had potted five of his own against the Tigers.
One of the most dangerous shooters in league history, Denneny actually stood number one as the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer at the end of the 1919-20 season, although he was passed by Joe Malone the following year. In 1922-23, he regained the lead in career goals scored and remained the all-time league leader when he retired. His lofty position lasted until Howie Morenz set a new NHL standard in 1933-34.
Denneny also left the game as the top point scorer in league history with 331 points to his credit. Morenz passed him when he earned his 332nd point in 1931-32. The combined total of 475 regular-season points made Cy and Corb Denneny one of the most famous sibling pairs in the NHL and certainly one of the more productive pre-war brother combinations.
After bringing his rewarding career with the Senators to a close, Denneny joined the Boston Bruins as player, coach and assistant manager in 1928-29. He contributed valuable leadership and savvy while helping the Beantowners win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history by defeating New York Rangers in 1929.
Denneny tried his hand at refereeing from 1929 to 1931. In 1931-32, he spent a busy year in the coaching ranks at various levels in the Ottawa city league as well as both the Upper and Lower Ottawa Valley leagues. This was followed by a year as coach and manager of the financially crippled Ottawa Senators in 1932-33.
Cy Denneny was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959.