George Hay didn't join the NHL until 1926, but his Hall of Fame hockey career goes well back before then.
Born in Listowel, Ontario on January 10, 1898, Hay was playing senior hockey with the Winnipeg Monarchs as early as 1914. Playing left wing on a line that featured a youthful Dick Irvin as well, Hay played 3 seasons for the Monarchs before serving in World War 1.
Hay, an exceptional stickhandler, and Irvin teamed up again in 1919, this time in Regina. They played two years of Senior hockey before turning pro with the Regina Caps of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1921. Hay and Irvin led Regina to the inaugural WCHL title.
The Regina team soon ran into financial difficulty and relocated to Portland, but the whole league was on its last breath. By the 1926 many WCHLers, including Hay, joined the NHL. Hay and Irvin followed other Portland players to Chicago where they tried out during the 1926 training camp.
Hay made the team but a severe shoulder injury hampered his productivity all season long. He scored just 22 points and the Blackhawks moved the crafty left winger to Detroit in 1927.
At the time Detroit was known as the Cougars, a name Hay obviously liked. For the three seasons that Detroit used that name Hay was a spectacular performer, scoring 22 goals in an All Star year in 1927-28, and later scoring 18 goals in 1929-30. However the next year Detroit changed their name to the Falcons and two years later to the Red Wings. An aging Hay's production slipped to the point where he spent as much time in the minors as he did in the NHL
When he retired from hockey in 1933, sports writer Sam Green wrote: "He ranked with the great forwards of the game, combining speed and poise, aggressiveness and finesse, with unsurpassed mechanical ability."
Jack Adams said there was never a better left winger than Hay at his best.
"I've seen a lot of good ones, but none who had more stuff than George. He was in a class with Aurial Joliat, Jack Walker, Bun Cook or Harvey Jackson. He could do everything, that fellow. Besides, he was one of the easiest players to handle I ever had -- always in condition, always on the job, always willing to play any position. He never got into any trouble on the ice and was rarely sent to the penalty box. We've often said in the dressing room that when Hay kicks against a decision, the referee should be run out of the league."
The cool headed Hay left the Red Wings for good in 1934, heading to London, Ontario to coach a Wings farm team. Soon after Hay left hockey altogether, moving to Stratford, Ontario and getting into the insurance business until 1965. During World War II Hay served a flight lieutenant and instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force.