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The Rothschilds’ story

Sudbury Living Magazine June 1, 2011 Sudbury's Stories No Comments

The first LCBO in Sudbury after Prohibition was located in the Rothschild’s building.

(2012) Cuetoimages

Sam Rothschild was the first Jewish player in the NHL. His family were pioneer merchants in Sudbury. The family built an impressive building on Elgin St. at Cedar St.Summer 2011Samuel Rothschild, the first Jewish player in the NHL, was born in Sudbury in 1899. He lived a long and prosperous life. Before he died at the age of 88 in 1987, he shared his story about the city’s rough and ready days with Mary Stefura for Spring/Summer 1983 edition of Polyphony, Sudbury’s People, published by the Multicultural History Society of Ontario.

The Rothschild family were some of the early merchants in Northern Ontario. Samuel’s father, Daniel, was born in Russia and left his homeland when he was 16. He and his three older brothers immigrated to the United States and then came to Montreal, before moving to Northern Ontario and following the railroad as it carved its way west.
According to Samuel, his father and uncle Max arrived in Sudbury in 1883. Daniel sold merchandize from a pack-sack to rail workers.
Max ran a butcher shop at the corner of Elgin and Cedar, across from the present-day farmers’ market, and where the CPR station was located at the time. Daniel opened a general store and later a liquor store next door. The Rothschild Block is still standing and for many years housed the LCBO.
In 1888, Daniel went to New York City to find a wife. Samuel remembers his mother, Annie, telling him his father told her Sudbury was just an hour or two from Montreal. She soon learned it was a world away from the life she knew in New York City. The couple had six children. Samuel was born in 1899.
The family lived for a time on Elm St. Before moving to a home at Pine and Dufferin. In 1905, Daniel donated land on Pine St. For the city’s first synagogue.
The Rothschilds’ liquor store was close in 1915. From 1916 to 1927, the sale of wine and liquor, but not the manufacturing of it, was prohibited in Ontario.
For a time, the family moved to Montreal. Samuel attended McGill University, and by 1924 was playing hockey with the Montreal Maroons. He played three seasons with the Maroons, winning a Stanley Cup in 1926.

Samuel played 91 regular season/playoff games with Montreal before signing as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the beginning of the 1927-28 season. After only 12 games with Pittsburgh, the team suspended him for breaking training rules. He was released before signing with the New York Americans.
A knee injury ended his hockey career in 1928. Samuel and his brother Joe got a job with a family friend, Sam Bronfman. They were both Seagram representatives in Northern Ontario. Samuel worked for Seagram for 40 years.
Daniel and Annie also moved back to Sudbury to be closer to family. As well, Samuel’s mother was diabetic and she was one of Dr. Charles Best’s first patients in Toronto.
Samuel was the coach of the 1932 Sudbury Cub Wolves when they won the Memorial Cup. A year later, he married Eva Yackman, a teacher.
He encouraged Seagram to sponsor sporting events. In 1953, he was instrumental in bringing the Brier Championship to Sudbury, and in 1958, he was elected president of the Dominion Curling Association.
During this time, he worked to secure Northern Ontario’s “special status” in the Brier when other provinces wanted the region stripped of its status.
Samuel was actively involved in community life. He served as the president of the Northern Ontario Curling Association, as president of the chamber of commerce, and as a community councillor for two years. He was also active in the Lions Club.

In 1973, Samuel Rothschild was nominated to the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, making him the first and only Sudburian to receive this honour.

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