One of the founding fathers of the American Hockey League, Maurice Podoloff was known as a pioneer whose vision and dedication helped build the foundation for a league that continues to thrive 75 years later.
Born in the town of Elizabethgrad, Ukraine, in 1890, Podoloff moved to the United States at the age of six and settled with his family in New Haven, Conn., where he later graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School.
Together with his father Abraham and his brothers Nathan and Jacob, Podoloff built the New Haven Arena in 1926 and created the New Haven Eagles hockey team as a charter member of the Canadian-American Hockey League. Maurice served on the league’s board of governors, and later became secretary-treasurer of the league in 1935.
The Can-Am League and the International Hockey League joined forces in 1936 to create what was known as the International-American Hockey League; Podoloff continued to oversee the Can-Am teams that made up the combined league’s Eastern Division. In 1938, the consolidation between the CAHL and the IHL became official and Podoloff was formally elected the IAHL’s first president. The “International” was dropped from the league’s name in 1940, becoming the American Hockey League as it remains to this day.
Podoloff brought stability to the AHL during the difficult war years and oversaw the addition of teams in future major-league cities like Washington, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. He also had a hand in modernizing the league through rules modifications and innovations, and organized the first AHL all-star game in 1942 as a fundraiser for American and Canadian Red Cross efforts during World War II.
Podoloff served as president of the AHL until 1952, including several years in which he concurrently ran the National Basketball Association as its first president beginning in 1946. He was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974, and the Maurice Podoloff Trophy is awarded each year to the NBA’s most valuable player.
Podoloff passed away in 1985 at the age of 95.