"one of the most famous of the Canadian hockey players"
Charlie Liffiton attracted the public's attention in the 1899-1900 season of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL). He was the top scorer for his Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) club and the league's eighth leading scorer with eight goals in eight games.
Down in New York, a newspaperman for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle identified him as "one of the most famous of the Canadian hockey players."
The 1901-1902 season, however, marked the highest point in Charlie Liffiton's hockey career. Still with the MAAA, he helped his club win the league championship. Montreal scored 39 goals against their opponent's 15 with Charlie scoring eight goals in eight games. He was in the top ten league scorers for the third season in a row.
His league winning Montreal club challenged the Winnipeg Victorias for possession of the Stanley Cup. For three days in March of 1902, Winnipeg and Montreal battled for the cup, and Charlie Liffiton played in each game.
Winnipeg won the first match at home by a score of 1-0 in front of 4,000 spectators. The second match played to a larger crowd, and Montreal won 5-0. Charlie Liffiton scored one of the goals.
The Little Men of Iron
In the final contest Montreal scored two goals in the first eleven minutes and then worked hard to hang on to their lead against much larger opponents. A reporter watching the match telegraphed back to the Montreal Sun office that the smaller MAAA players were "little men of iron," as they went on to defeat Winnipeg 2-1.
On the team's return to Montreal, the victors were "drawn in sleighs by man-power from the station to the M.A.A.A. club-house when thousands of admirers refused to all the horses to pull their heroes. They unhitched the horses and the exulting hero-worshipping supporters pulled the sleighs themselves, trudging through the deep snow and slush."
In the photograph of the 1902 MAAA, Charlie Liffiton is the first person on the left in the bottom row. While he is a Stanley Cup champion, his name is not actually on the Cup. 1902 is one of the few years when only the team's name was engraved.
Highest Paid Pro Player of 1904
Charlie Liffiton played only one game of the 1902-03 season for Montreal, as he traveled to Pennsylvania to help the Pittsburgh Bankers win the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (WPHL) championship. Hockey of his era was often played by professionals behind the trappings of amatuerism.
By going to Pittsburgh, however, Charlie Liffiton was overtly joining the professional ranks. He scored three goals in four playoff matches. Charlie's participation in the 1903-04 and 1904-05 seasons is unclear, except that he played for the Bankers and at least one match for the Montreal Wanderers. His skills were so valued by the Wanderers the team chartered a special train for $114 to transport him to a match in Ottawa. Charlie's employer wouldn't let him leave work early to take the regular train with his team.
In 1904, the Portgage Lakes Hockey Club of Hougton, Michigan, hired him away from the Wanderers to play the remainder of the season for the then huge sum of $1350. He was reported to be the highest paid player in the International Hockey League that year. The Portgage Lakes of the previous season had been the first hockey club to go professional, and had won the IHL championship. Even with Charlie Liffiton's help, however, in 1904-05, the Portgage Lakes never caught up to the first place Calumets. Charlie's contribution to the effort was to play fourteen games and score six goals.
Statistics from his hockey career show he was active through the 1906 - 07 professional exhibition season. He played in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), the Sr. Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL), the WPHL, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA), and the International Hockey Association (IHL). When he died in 1941, the Montreal Herald headline pointed out he was one of the "Little Men of Iron."(Revised 6/2/06)