The Life & Times of New York’s King of Hockey, Tex Rickard

While professional hockey would’ve eventually came to New York because of the city’s massive population, it was George Lewis “Tex” Rickard who made it happen. Photo Credit: The Woodlawn Cemetery

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to a special blog here on – the Tex Rickard appreciation edition.

Admittedly, what you’re about to read next is stuff that I’ve previously written – but I wanted to put a special tab on this site covering Mr. Rickard and for several reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

1) Some of these deep dives that I’ve written get lost and readers have to wade into the archives of this site to find them. By putting a tab on the main page of this site, this material, information which I find highly valuable, is just easier to access.

2) One of the many writing projects that I’m currently working on is a book about Rickard – and one that will be a nice challenge – as it’s not really a hockey book. As mentioned several times before in my writings, his life was truly fascinating – and one that deserves the television/movie treatment – a perfect idea whenever the SAG-AFTRA strike ends.

3) As a “Rangers’ Historian” (I know that sounds both elitist and snobbish, but that’s the title that Stan “The Maven” Fischler has bestowed upon yours truly), I think it’s important to push Rickard’s story on fans. As time goes on, and as people pass away, stories are lost. By posting this blog with this headline, and even if only one person randomly finds this column via a Google search, then it’s worth it.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy “The Life & Times of New York’s King of Hockey, Tex Rickard.”

My first book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.”

The following previously appeared in “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden,” which you canbuy directly through me at  or purchase at

— Tex Rickard: (1926-1929)

Similar to Mike Keenan, there are books solely devoted to the life of Tex Rickard, with the three that I’ve read all being very entertaining and informative.

(Of note, I’d suggest “The Magnificent Rube: The Life and Gaudy Times of Tex Rickard,” which was written by Charles Samuels in 1957, to any fan of the Rangers or of history in general. To me, it’s the best book on Rickard of the lot that’s out there.)

George Lewis Rickard, born in Kansas City, Missouri and who would later become known as “Tex,” led a life that’s worthy of a Hollywood movie or a ten-episode miniseries on Netflix.

Rickard led an incredible life in his day, where he chased gold in Alaska; won and lost fortunes while gambling at the drop of a hat; ran casinos, bars, and brothels; had connections and friendships with legendary American figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, W.C. Fields, “Wild Bill” Hickok, Jesse James and Wyatt Earp; and what he’s most known for – he became one of the greatest names in the history of boxing promoters – if not the greatest.

And oh yeah – Rickard founded both Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers!

Rickard, born on January 2nd, 1870 (or 1871, depending on who you believe, with his mother always using the 1/2/1871 date), would garner two nicknames during his life. Aside from “Tex,” Rickard was also known as “Dink” while working for farmers, cattlemen and cowboys during his childhood and teenage years.

Rickard, who saw his father die at an early age, was told by his mother that he would have to become the man of the house while he was a young boy. Rickard took that responsibility very seriously. From that point on, Rickard hustled for the rest of his life, where he employed a strong work ethic, both through failure and in success.

Rickard grew up in Missouri as the next-door neighbor to the mother of one of the most prominent Wild West outlaws of all-time, Jesse James. In an era where Jesse James was at his most notorious, marshals and lawmen were frequently staking out the residence of Ma James. This led to many gunfights – including when Rickard entered this world. These non-stop shoot-outs, of the bullet variety and not the hockey variety, also led to the Rickard family relocating to Texas, which in turn, eventually led Rickard to the nickname of “Tex.”

At only nine-years-old, Rickard sought employment in Texas. With his birth father now deceased, Rickard worked for a farmer/cowboy type. Rickard’s new employer was very generous, where he even gave the recently widowed Mrs. Rickard a $50 bonus to help out the poor and struggling Rickard family. However, Rickard wouldn’t last too long at this job, as his employer was shot and killed in a saloon during a bar fight – a common occurrence during this time of American history. Rickard was also there to see and claim the body – and it wouldn’t be the last time that the young Rickard saw a man draw his last breath.

Rickard worked his way up the “cowboy” ladder in his teenage years, where he took various jobs before officially earning his genuine and true cowboy status. During Rickard’s formative years in this profession, he tried to help an injured man while other people in his crew sought medical help – assistance that was over fifty miles away – and by horse.

Unfortunately, by the time that the help (doctor) got there, this man, a fellow rancher and cowboy, had died beside Rickard. This was the moment where Rickard considered his boyhood over and the day that he became a man.

Following his days as a cowboy, and after a successful stint where Rickard was highly respected as a law marshal, Rickard set off for Alaska – as he had just received notice from a friend about massive gold discoveries in Alaska.

During Rickard’s incredible gold-seeking journey in his quest to become a bonafide gold miner, he endured various trials and tribulations. Along the way, Rickard lost one of his best friends, but not through death, (at least not yet) – simply put, his friend wasn’t tough enough!

Rickard’s friend found the Alaskan trek too harsh to endure due to the freezing temperatures and then quickly hightailed it back home. Of course, in those days, there wasn’t such a thing as a battery-operated heated jacket!

Rickard would never see this man, his good pal, again.

Less than a year later, Rickard’s friend was killed in a bar fight at the American/Mexican border. (It’s amazing how many people were killed in saloon shootouts during this time – and without any consequences from the law.)

While gold mining in Alaska, Rickard found his greatest enjoyment in life through the vice known as gambling. Faro was Rickard’s game, a very in-demand card game during his time, and a game which was as popular as Texas Hold’Em Poker is today.

During Rickard’s stay in Alaska, Rickard became both a successful and a degenerate gambler. Rickard soon gave up his gold mining dreams during this time, as Rickard ran his lucrative gambling halls for all of the miners in the area instead. However, Rickard also quickly amassed and went through fortunes, even losing several of his casinos through gambling. It was also during this time, and due to his thick Texan accent, that Rickard had earned his “Tex” nickname.

While Rickard is considered to be the godfather of boxing promoters and, gambling-wise, was always known to be 100% straight and on the up-and-up (he even served various Alaskan cities as their unofficial banker – that’s how trusted he was); Rickard was also very gullible, hence his reputation as “the magnificent rube.”

After leaving Alaska, Rickard was told by a prisoner in Walla Walla, Washington about a vast diamond mine in South Africa. Despite being a former lawman, Rickard believed this convict and then set sail to South Africa with the convict as his traveling partner. Eventually, and once arriving to their destination, the convict admitted that the diamond mine was all a ruse.

Once finding out that there were no fortunes to be had, and despite the major inconvenience in time, money, traveling and wasted effort – Rickard took the trip in good spirit, where he even forged a friendship with W.C. Fields, and his brother Walter, who were both in Africa at the same time while on vacation. These friendships with the Fields’ brothers would remain for the rest of Rickard’s life.

Upon returning to America, Rickard wound up in Nevada, where he was brought back to his first love – gambling.

From there, Rickard became the first person to promote boxing in order to draw tourism to his casino. While boxing is still an incredibly seedy business today, it was even seedier in Rickard’s time, as boxing promoters had no issues with their boxers throwing fights. In fact, and like pro wrestling – it was encouraged.

In a world where every big boxing match had major stories leading up to the fight, such as mob involvement, fighters accepting bribes and insane wagering; Rickard, and just like his reputation earned in Alaska, was the lone title fight promoter to stay on the even keel.

While Rickard was often ridiculed for being naive and for always being honest, it was his straight-as-an-arrow reputation that gained the trust of everyone, including paying fans. Yes, other boxing fights, if not the majority of them, were “fixed” – Rickard’s promotions, nor he himself, ever were challenged by customers and critics.

In an example of Rickard always being considered trustworthy, even in both the dark worlds of gambling and boxing, Rickard, and as he had done in Alaska, also spent time as a banker in Nevada. Due to his reputation of being clean and pure as the driven snow, many people of Rickard’s time entrusted him with their life savings.

Due to his pristine ways, Rickard first became a successful boxing promoter during his time in Nevada. After promoting one of the most successful boxing fights of all-time, Jeffries vs. Johnson; Rickard, who only promoted the fight to drive money to his casino, decided that he wanted to return to his life as a cowboy. From there, he traveled to South America, where Rickard would meet and strike up a friendship with another T.R., Teddy Roosevelt. As you can see, Rickard led somewhat a “Forrest Gump” life, as he routinely crossed paths with the most famous names of his era.

After his trip to South America, Rickard soon left Paraguay and returned to the United States, where he spent time in different cities. At this point in his life, and after changing professions again – Rickard gave up the cowboy lifestyle and then spent the rest of his life as a boxing promoter and champion of all sporting events.

After successfully promoting the biggest boxing fights ever and drawing the first-ever million-dollar gate by promoting Jack Dempsey (a feat that he repeated multiple times over), Rickard soon called New York City his home – and that’s where he remained for the rest of his life.

(Rickard, due to his new-found fortune, a rare fortune that he didn’t gamble away, also had property in other parts of the country, including Miami, Florida. However, New York City would remain as Rickard’s primary residence.)

Rickard, now known as both a successful businessman and a person who made money everywhere that he went (even if he lost a ton of fortunes along the way too), became a prominent figure of the New York City celebrity scene. However, because of his elite status, he also became a target for lawsuit-seeking individuals.

Unfortunately, Rickard soon found himself accused of pedophilia, as he was later indicted on these charges on February 22nd, 1922. However, Rickard was eventually cleared of all allegations and charges after someone publicly tried to extort Rickard for $50,000 in an attempt to make everything go away.

When the perpetrator of this plot against him told Rickard to pay $50,000 or wind up in jail, the promoter blew off this particular loser, where Rickard said that he was innocent and would have his day in court.

And that’s what wound up happening for Rickard, who was completely exonerated of every charge against him no less than five-weeks later on March 29th, 1922.

As in any era in the history of humanity, pedophilia is the worst crime that anyone can commit. When Rickard was first accused of these crimes (as compared to the media-hysteria of the TMZ-world that we live in today, where even if you’re innocent, both your name and whatever crime you’re accused of pops up in a Google search) – no one believed that the charges levied against Rickard had any merit.

People from all over the world came to a New York City courtroom in order to defend Rickard’s good name. Rickard also had solid alibis and witnesses who saw Rickard at a football game when one of the alleged child rapes occurred. Rickard’s name and good reputation were eventually restored, but as you’d imagine – this was one of the toughest ordeals for both Rickard and his family had to endure.

After hosting several boxing fights at Madison Square Garden, which at the time, was then known as MSG II, Rickard then obtained the lease and the rights to Madison Square Garden. Rickard bought and received ownership of Madison Square Garden from The New York Life Insurance Company. In turn, New York Life would tear down MSG II in order to build a new office building. At the same time, Rickard built MSG III at 49th Street & 8th Ave.

Rickard opened the new MSG (MSG III) in November of 1925. The main draws to the venue were boxing, pro wrestling, bike races and the circus. Hockey wasn’t even a thought in his mind.

During the autumn of 1925, Rickard was offered a chance to purchase an NHL team for the New York City market. Rickard was quoted as saying something akin to, “I don’t see anyone interested in it, and I don’t see how it can make any money.” However, Rickard did install copper pipes into his new venue, which helped with the freezing of a potential ice surface.

Following Rickard’s refusal to bring the NHL into NYC, Big Bill Dwyer, a famous New York City bootlegger in the days of American Prohibition, wound up purchasing the Hamilton Tigers out of Ontario, Canada. Rickard was the one who had pushed Dwyer into the sale and for two reasons.

The first reason was that Rickard didn’t see any profits in professional hockey, but Rickard did have an arena where he could profit from someone renting his arena to promote hockey games. The second reason was that Dwyer, known as a criminal bootlegger, wanted a legit business, not only to help his reputation, but where Dwyer could also launder money, if necessary. As I said at the top of this, I told you a film or television series on Rickard’s life would be interesting!

On December 15th, 1925, the New York Americans (or the Amerks, as they were also known as at the time) played the first-ever NHL game in NYC at MSG. As part of Dwyer’s rental agreement with Rickard, Rickard would rent out MSG to Dwyer, and in return, Rickard would not form his own team, nor rent out MSG to a competing NHL club.

Despite his reputation as an honest man, Rickard would soon put dollar signs above his word, as he then went back on that promise in just five months time. This was totally out of character for Rickard, especially when one looks at how honest Rickard was during his days as a boxing promoter, banker and gambling hall operator.

Of course, this is where it gets really interesting, especially for hockey fans.

As noted, Rickard had a pristine reputation throughout his life and was always known for being honest, too honest, if you will.

Rickard, throughout his entire tenure as a boxing promoter, and as a cost of doing business, also made payoffs to mob figures, police officials and politicians to ensure that his big boxing matches went off without a hitch – and without a personal financial gain, aside from whatever the fights drew at the gate. That is why it was so out of Rickard’s character here to not only double-cross Bill Dwyer, but to stab a well-renowned criminal and bootlegger in the back – and without fear of any repercussions. Honestly, it’s mind-boggling that Rickard didn’t lose his life over this double-crossing – as previous foes of Dwyer had met that fatal fate.

Seeing both the success and the well-attended houses for Dwyer’s Amerks, Rickard quickly reached out to the NHL and bought an expansion franchise. Due to his “Tex” nickname, the team was unofficially known as Tex’s Rangers, but officially, this new franchise was known as the New York Rangers. Obviously, and once hearing the news, Dwyer was livid and felt betrayed, but as time went on – Dwyer would have bigger problems in life than ice hockey – the law.

According to all accounts, while Rickard was proud of his hockey team, it was never the focus of his life. With a new young wife and child in tow (Rickard’s third wife, as his two previous wives and children had passed away), and with his duties in running both the MSG corporation and boxing – Rickard’s hockey team was the equivalent of an impulse toy purchase.

Originally hiring Conn Smythe to run the team, Rickard and his staff at that time soon pivoted to Lester Patrick to oversee the club. While it was Smythe who had assembled the original Rangers – it was Patrick who made history with them.

While Dwyer and Rickard were never hockey men by trade, it not only burnt Dwyer that Rickard and MSG were profiting from Amerk games, but how the Amerk franchise was also a struggling one. After all, Dwyer was paying Rickard to rent MSG while Rickard had the better team on ice. Riling up Dwyer even more was the fact that “Tex’s Rangers” played at MSG for free.

In fact, during the entire existence of the New York/Brooklyn Americans (with the franchise folding during World War II, which in turn, ushered in the Original Six Era), the Amerks would never win the Stanley Cup.

Making matters worse for Dwyer and even better for Rickard, was that in the second New York Rangers season, the 1927-28 campaign, the Rangers won the 1928 Stanley Cup. One could also argue here that Rickard hired better hockey men than Dwyer ever did, with Conn Smythe assembling the team and Lester Patrick then taking the franchise over from Smythe.

Hockey-wise, Rickard went out a winner, as he passed away on January 6th, 1929, due to complications from appendicitis at the young age of 59-years-old. Rickard’s funeral became a sight to be marveled, as the funeral drew people from all over North America due to the way that he had connected with people in every city that he worked in. It’s been reported that over 30,000 people paid their respects to the founder of the Blueshirts.

Granted, Rickard did not care about hockey, but due to his success in boxing and his ownership of Madison Square Garden, Rickard founded the New York Rangers. Without Rickard, who was beloved by everyone (with the exception of Bill Dwyer!), there wouldn’t be a New York Rangers franchise today.

While an NHL team in New York City would have always been a possibility (and maybe the Amerks would’ve survived the World War II era too); due to Tex Rickard, the team became the “Rangers” – a name that this franchise wouldn’t have had, had he not existed.

For Ranger fans, Rickard’s legacy will always be as the founder of the New York Rangers. However, Rickard founded the Rangers in the final two-and-a-half-years of his life. Rickard admittedly also did not found the team for the love of the game, as other hockey owners of his time did. Instead, Rickard founded the Rangers for the pure profit of it all. That doesn’t make Rickard a bad guy or anything like that, but romanticizing Rickard’s legacy or impact with the Rangers would be a pure exaggeration.

That said, and without Rickard – the Rangers and Madison Square Garden wouldn’t exist today.

In the present day, I feel that many Ranger fans don’t know how their favorite team was founded, nor know how Rickard was the driving force behind it. While Rickard’s ultimate legacy is in boxing; Rickard’s legacy lives with every game that the Rangers play.

In October of 2015, New York Rangers alumni, Adam Graves, Rod Gilbert and Ron Duguay, all joined the grandson of Tex Rickard and the Fordham Prep Hockey team at Tex Rickard’s gravesite in Woodlawn, NY. In a special ceremony, 86 years after Rickard’s passing, everyone paid tribute to the founding father of the New York Rangers.

Like others featured in this book, I would argue that Rickard deserves his own banner in the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

After all, without Rickard, there would be no Rangers or Madison Square Garden today.

This past May 15th marked the 97th anniversary of the inception of the New York Rangers. Photo Credit: NYR

The following is my book review of “The Magnificent Rube – Life & Gaudy Times of Tex Rickard.”

Of note: This is the edited version, as I had previously written this review before writing my book, and in the effort of not being redundant, I took out parts which were repeated.

For regular readers of this website, you already know about my affinity and interest in history, whether it be American or NY Rangers related. A while back, I read “The Magnificent Rube – Life & Gaudy Times of Tex Rickard” by Charles Samuels, a book which was published way back in January of 1957. I mention the publication date, because Tex Rickard passed away in 1929, meaning that this book was written 28 years after his death.

When it comes to books about Tex Rickard, his third wife, Maxine, wrote a book on her life with Tex, which was published in 1937. That book was called “Everything Happened to Him – The Story of Tex Rickard.”

The title page from Maxine Rickard’s book. Photo Credit: Maxine Rickard / Frederick A. Stokes

In Maxine Rickard’s “Everything Happened to Him – The Story of Tex Rickard” book, there are many first-hand stories told and all from her perspective. Here’s one of them:

Photo Credit: Maxine Rickard / Frederick A. Stokes

This 1937 book is hard to find. In fact, as I write these words to you, I have only seen one copy floating around on Amazon, for $100. Her tale is mostly her sharing stories about her personal life with Tex and what Tex told her, with assistance from her co-author, Arch Oboler.

Fast-forwarding all the way to 2012; Colleen Aycock released a book on Tex Rickard, entitled, “Tex Rickard: Boxing’s Greatest Promoter.” Here’s a cover of this book, which is much cheaper and easier to find than Maxine Rickard’s memoirs:

Photo Credit: McFarland

In Aycock’s book, which I have read, all of her history on Rickard’s life, which she doesn’t cover as in-depth as in “The Magnificent Rube,” the book that I’m reviewing right now, comes from “The Magnificent Rube” – as Samuels’ book is the best source material on the subject.

In Aycock’s book on Tex Rickard, she primarily focuses on Rickard’s career as a boxing promoter. Aycock’s forte is in boxing history, as she has also written a book on boxer Joe Gans, a man who Rickard made famous.

Furthermore, Aycock’s father was a boxer during the Great Depression, so when it comes to her book on Rickard, she is really only honing in on the boxing side of things.

As a hockey fan, historian or even someone looking for both an interesting and a fascinating tale; for your money and for your time, “The Magnificent Rube” by Charles Samuels is the best book on Rickard – or at least in my opinion.

In Samuels’ book, he extensively researched the entire life of Rickard. In addition, Samuels was also able to talk to people first-hand, people who all knew Rickard personally, such as world champion boxer, Jack Dempsey. In Aycock’s case, everyone and anyone that ever knew Rickard was deceased at the time of her book’s release.

As we move forward, don’t take this as me knocking Aycock’s book. It’s just that her book mainly covers Rickard’s boxing exploits.

In Samuels’ book, he just gives you the bigger picture and has first-hand stories. And just like anything else, when it comes to history, and as time goes on, sometimes stories get warped.

Since Samuels’ book came out first, and that he was able to talk to people from Rickard’s time, he was just closer to the scene than Aycock could ever be.

Of the current NY Rangers alumni, there is no one more interested in Tex Rickard than Ron Duguay himself. Photo Credit: @RonDuguay10

As mentioned, the date of May 15th marks the anniversary of the NHL granting Tex Rickard the NY Rangers franchise, as an expansion team. After reading the @NYRAlumni tweet pictured above, I saw Ron Duguay talking about Rickard again. Here’s a brief exchange we had on Twitter:

The reason I include this tweet is because Duguay is 10000000% correct here.

If anything, I hope this blog inspires you to do research on Rickard or read “Magnificent Rube” yourself. If you do either of those two things, then you will realize that if done right, and in this era where people across the globe are engrossed in documentaries; a movie or mini-series on Rickard would be money & would win a ton of awards.

It’s my plan to write it one day too!

During his life, appearance wise, Rickard was always known to be dressed well, having a cigar in one hand and having his gold plated cane in the other hand. Aside from a court appearance, Rickard was also known for always wearing a hat, no matter the occasion. Photo Credit: Public Domain

Obviously, my interest in Tex Rickard is rooted in the fact that he was the original owner of the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden and as the founder of the New York Rangers. However, in these biographies about Tex Rickard, you only get a sentence in passing about Rickard’s involvement in ice hockey. In fact, in “The Magnificent Rube,” the New York Rangers aren’t even mentioned at all.

For historians, Rickard will never be known for his contributions to ice hockey. The fact of the matter is that Tex Rickard didn’t care about hockey at all, and really, in his time, you couldn’t really expect a man with Texan roots to give two craps about hockey during the early 1900’s. Again, none of Rickard’s involvement in hockey is mentioned in any of these books, which shows you how little hockey meant in the grand scheme of things in Rickard’s life. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll fill in the blanks for you here.

While hockey is barely mentioned in “The Magnificent Rube,” this wound up being one of the better biographies I’ve ever read. Going into the book, I knew that Rickard had a fascinating life, a life that as Ron Duguay said, would be perfect for Netflix.

On an aside, and something that truly amazes me, is that whenever I look back at all of these biographies that I’ve read on historical figures, whether it be a President like John Adams, a Founding Father like Benjamin Franklin or even here, with Tex Rickard – is how well traveled these guys were – especially during times where traveling was brutal, exhausting, time-consuming, expensive and in some cases, led to sickness and death.

In Rickard’s case, he spent significant time in not just NYC, Texas, Nevada, and California – he also spent large chunks of his life in South America, Alaska and Africa.

Tex Rickard was known for many things. He was perhaps most famously known for being the promoter of world champion boxer Jack Dempsey. Photo Credit: Alamy

Going into these biographies, and in this case “The Magnificent Rube,” I was hoping to read stories about Rickard’s thoughts and times with the New York Rangers. While I knew that boxing would be a prominent topic in the book, I didn’t know there wouldn’t be any hockey talk at all. However, even without any puck talk, this book was absolutely amazing, as it recounted, and in-detail, one of the most extraordinary lives that you’ll ever read about.

Some of the stories in Rickard’s life felt like an episode of “Deadwood!” Photo Credit: “Deadwood”

“The Northern” was a name Rickard used for several of his casinos. He used the name first in Alaska, and later on in Nevada. Photo Credit: Unknown

At this time, I would like to share with you some of the pages from “The Magnificent Rube.” Obviously, I didn’t get authorized written consent to share these pictures, but I doubt anyone is going to come after me for sharing pictures from a 63-year-old book and one that’s now public domain anyway!

Here you go:

The House that Rickard built – Madison Square Garden III. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Bill Dwyer, original owner of the NY Americans. Photo Credit: SCABard

Shocker, another cheap plug! You can find a book review on Lester Patrick by clicking the book reviews tab of this site too! Photo Credit: HHOF

One of these days, I have to go to Woodlawn and pay my respects to Mr. Rickard, as Gilbert, Duguay and Graves once did. Photo Credit: NYR

A bit cleaned up here, but this was the original Rangers logo from Rickard’s time. Photo Credit: NYR

In an update,”The Magnificent Rube” is now available for free on the internet. You can find the book by clicking this link:

I highly recommend that you check it out.

Thank you Tex!


Sean McCaffrey

@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine