James Patrick McCaffrey
Year Inducted: 1985
With this week’s brief biography of one of Alexandria’s great lacrosse players and a successful builder-manager of championship hockey and football teams in Canada, we add the name of James Patrick McCaffrey, popularly known throughout his life by his legions of friends, amateur and professional sport colleagues as “Jim McCaffrey.”
The Ottawa Citizen records that Jim McCaffrey was born in Alexandria in 1895. By the time Jim was 18 he was mature enough in age and skill to play senior lacrosse. That was 1913. Alexandria was organizing what developed to be one of Glengarry’s all-time great lacrosse teams. Jim McCaffrey, by virtue of his former newsie connections, was able to commute to Alexandria gratis and play goal.
During the summer, Alexandria had defeated Valleyfield, Cornwall and Williamstown. They then challenged the Ottawa Shamrocks to play a home and home total goal series, the winner to enter the Ontario finals. (The brand of lacrosse was a notch below professional level.) Alexandria was defeated in Ottawa 3-2. The following Saturday, September 12, 1913, in Alexandria the largest crowd of the season was on hand. Jim McCaffrey didn’t allow an Ottawa goal. Alexandria scored two and won the series 4-3. (Lack of funds prevented an Ontario final with Brampton.)
Following the First World War, Jim McCaffrey retired as a player in lacrosse, hockey and football. He was well established with the civil service and had plenty of time to be active in a managerial role. Sport was his first love.
In the early 1920s, the Ottawa Rough Riders were in dire straits, financially and in players. The historic Riders were about to fold in 1923. Jim McCaffrey’s Glengarry roots naturally made him interested in Ottawa’s survival. There was, before Jim, the Rider glory days bolstered by the play of “Big Dunc” MacDonald, Joe Corbett and Stuart Rayside. This Glengarry heritage motivated Jim to accept the challenge to save the Riders.
We quote the writing of Bob Hanley in the history of the CFL Hall of Fame. “When Jim McCaffrey of the Ottawa Rough Riders took over the club as manager in 1923, he did three things: he effected an amalgamation with the old St. Brigid’s Club of the City League, of which he had been manager; he took a host of outstanding players to the Riders who were facing disbandment and he started the Ottawa club on the road to success.”
And what a road of success! A road that crested with Grey Cup glory years and through the valleys of rebuilding programs. What other manager in Canada can claim that honored record in 43 years? Jim McCaffrey’s Rough Riders wasted no time in becoming a respected football club. The Riders won the Grey Cup two years later in 1925. They won again in 1926. They were winners in 1940, and ‘60. They lost the finals in 1936, ‘39, ‘41, ‘48 and ‘66.
During the years Jim McCaffrey found time to be president of the Big Four in 1940 and 1956. He was president of the Canadian Rugby Union in 1955, and a member of the now CFL in various executive capacities for 12 years.
After the sale of Ottawa’s NHL franchise, Jim McCaffrey managed the hockey fare in the old auditorium for a number of years with his Shamrock Juniors and Senators of the Quebec Senior Hockey League.
Jim McCaffrey was married to Ella Krock. They had one daughter, Patricia.
On October 29, 1966, Jim McCaffrey was accompanying the Rough Riders by train to Montreal. In the vicinity of Maxville he was stricken with a fatal heart attack. His body was removed from the train in Alexandria. Thus his life ended where it began, in Glengarry.