William Vincent Dwyer (1883-1946), known as "Big Bill" Dwyer, was an early Prohibition gangster and bootlegger in New York during the 1920s. He used his profits to purchase sports properties, including the New York Americans of the National Hockey League(NHL). He eventually was brought down by the U.S. government through legal actions, leaving Dwyer penniless at the end of his life in 1946.
Entry into professional sportsEdit
In 1925, Tex Rickard convinced Dwyer to purchase the Hamilton Tigers of the National Hockey League and he renamed them the New York Americans. Dwyer paid $75,000 to turn the Tigers into the New York Americans. With a fortune made in Prohibition bootlegging, Dwyer handed out lucrative contracts, including a three-year deal to Billy Burch rumoured to be worth $25,000. Shorty Green also received a huge raise, his salary going from $3,000 to $5,000. This was a time when most NHL players were said to make about $1,500 or $2,000. He took an active role in owning the team, often trying to rig NHL games. For example, he put a goal judge in that would call a goal against an opponent merely if the puck touched the goal line. It happened one night in 1927-28 when Ottawa was at Madison Square Garden. However, the goal judge seemed more interested in taunting Ottawa goalkeeper Alex Connell. Connell finally butt-ended the goal judge in the nose, which caused Dwyer's buddies to seek Connell's death that night. It took a police detail to get Connell out of the Gardens that night and at the train station, someone inquired if a gentleman was Alex Connell. Connell lied and said he was not, knowing he was in danger.
The Americans flourished, and Dwyer secretly purchased the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NHL, using ex-boxer Benny Leonard as the front man who appeared to be the team's owner. The team went belly-up and died in Philadelphia. In 1935-36, the United States government won a big lawsuit against Dwyer, leaving him virtually penniless except for his ownership of the Americans, and he was losing money here, also. Just before the 1936-37 season, the NHL took control of the Americans, claiming that the financial status of the team was critical. Dwyer filed a lawsuit against the NHL for this, but the NHL settled by letting him own the Americans in 1936-37 to give him time to pay his debts. Red Dutton, who was manager and coach of the team, lent Bill $20,000 for the team and Dwyer promptly lost it all in a crap game. When, at the end of the season, he could not pay the debts he owed, the NHL ordered the team under its control.