Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rene Boileau; "Chief Rainy Drinkwater"

Times have changed. That's about all that can be said about this story I stumbled across in the Montreal Gazette archives. It's the story of nondescript NHLer Rene Boileau, AKA Rainy Drinkwater. 
The story goes that the 20-year old Boileau was signed midway through the 1925/26 season, the New York Americans inaugural campaign in the NHL by manager Tommy Gorman. It was either an Americans team publicist or owner Thomas Duggan himself who came up with a fantastic backstory for the young Montrealer. As written in the Gazette fifteen years after the fact, the story fed to the New York media went;
"The Americans have signed Chief Drinkwater, a full-blooded Indian from the Caughnawaga Reserve. From the shores of Lake St. Louis, where his forebearers have resided for centuries, to the mad swirl of New York comes Rainy Drinkwater, to play hockey for the New York Americans. Drinkwater, who's real name was Rain-in-the-Face but was called Rainy for short, had resided in a teepee for the greater part of his life and liked nothing better than to go around Lake St. Louis in a canoe, helping his tribe get enough to eat by fishing and hunting."
This was all surprising to Boileau, who was a simple French-Canadian and had zero Native blood in him. To reinforce the tale, the Americans rented a "fancy open touring car, replete with liveried chauffeur. Rene Boileau was outfitted in colourful Indian regalia, including ornate head-dress. He was paraded up and down Broadway and around Madison Square Garden."
Imagine doing something like that today?
Cartoon from 1941 Montreal Gazette, re-telling the story of Chief Drinkwater
Alas, neither Boileau or his alias Drinkwater proved to be much of an NHL calibre player. After seven pointless games, he was returned to the Montreal Railway-Telephone League. He would continue playing minor-pro or senior hockey until 1934, never scoring more than five goals in a season.
Rene's son, Marc Boileau would star in the Western Hockey League through the 1960's and played a full season in the NHL with Detroit in 61/62 tallying 11 points in 54 games. Marc Boileau would go on to be head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins for parts of three seasons in the 1970's followed by two as head of the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA. He would coach them to the Avco Cup championship in 1977. No mention of whether or not he took the Avco Cup back to his tribal ancestry home of Lake St. Louis.

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