The national sport of Canadians has grown from humble beginnings 100 years ago

Photo: public Domain
The team of the Montreal Canadiens in 1924 after winning the Stanley Cup

The five men, who met, on November 26, 1917, formed the national hockey League would not have been able to imagine the company formed 31 teams and generating revenues of several billion dollars that it became a century later.


On this day, the owners of the Montreal canadiens, the Wanderers of Montreal, the Ottawa Senators and Bulldogs of Quebec, as well as the future president of the league, Frank Calder, have written a paper to the Windsor Hotel in Montreal to create the NHL in the wake of the suspension of the activities of the National Hockey Association (NHA), founded in 1909.


The First world War was raging and most of the best young players were on the front lines in Europe. Professional hockey had not yet eclipsed the amateur sport in popularity. The top players earned about $ 900 per season.


The owners had met twice earlier in the month and had announced that they were suspending activities because of the shortage of high-level players, even if the real reason was to form a new league without the presence of Eddie Livingstone, the quarrelsome owner of the Blueshirts, Toronto. The club toronto has found on several occasions at the heart of conflicts, even of trial, with other clubs on the rights of the players or of the leases of an amphitheater.


Elmer Ferguson, sports editor at the now defunct Montreal Herald, was the only journalist present that day. When the meeting ended, he asked Calder what had happened and he answered ” not much “.


But the owner of the Canadian, George Kennedy, explained to Ferguson that the new league was ” like our old league, except that we haven’t invited Eddie Livingstone to be part of it “.


Livingstone has asked for an injunction, and has tried without success to launch another league, but that did not work smoothly for the NHL in its infancy.


Humble beginnings


Before the start of the first season, the team of Quebec announces that it does not have the means to begin to play before the next season, so his players are divided between the other clubs. Toronto takes the place of the Bulldogs with an owner more co-operative, Charles Querrie.


During the inaugural evening of the new league, December 19, 1917, only 700 supporters are present when the Wanderers have Toronto 10-9.


It is the only victory for the team founded in 1903 on the foundations of clubs dating back to 1884. After only four games, the arena in Westmount who welcome the Wanderers and the Canadian is destroyed by fire.


The Canadian manages to replace the equipment lost, and moved to the skating Rink Jubilee in the east of Montreal, facility of 3200 seats. But the Wanderers cease their activities, leaving only three teams.


The Canadian has won his opening match, officially the first of the NHL because he had started 15 minutes earlier, thanks to five goals from Joe Malone, a player chose the Bulldogs.


It took less than a month to attend the first rule change : the permission granted to the guards dropping to the ice to make stops when they had to remain standing. The new regulation is inspired by Clint Benedict of Ottawa, a master in the art of losing “accidentally” walk away when the shots were directed towards him.


The game was different in more ways than one this season. There was not pass before or of lines on the rink. Minor penalties lasted three minutes instead of two. The guards were serving their own penalties, leaving the other players to protect the net.


And the Stanley cup was not the property of the NHL. Toronto has won the cup O’brien to remove the first league championship, and then won a series of five matches against the champions of the rival league of the Pacific, the Millionaires of Vancouver, to earn the Stanley cup. The trophy has become the exclusivity of the NHL in 1926-27.


From there, a rapid growth of the NHL has reduced the role of the leagues of the coast of the Pacific and the West. While Quebec city makes a return in the league, moved to Hamilton, and then ceases its activities, the NHL is thriving in the United States.


Boston joined the circuit in 1924, the same year in which the Forum is built to accommodate the Canadian and the new Montreal Maroons. The New York Americans are being added in 1925-26 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Teams in Chicago and Detroit quickly follow. In Toronto, Conn Smythe buys a team called the St. Pats and renamed the Maple Leafs.


In New York, the promoter Tex Rickard is looking for a concession, and it is thus that we witness the arrival of the New York Rangers. His coach and general manager Lester Patrick attracts the stars of Bill and Bun Cook of the league of the Pacific coast.


Other amphitheatres iconic see the light of day. The Olympia in Detroit in 1927, the Garden in Boston in 1928, the Chicago Stadium in 1929 and the Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.




But the Great Depression due to the loss of some clubs, and after the season 1941-42, following the disappearance of the Americans, the league is reduced to what is now called ” the six teams of the original “. The 1930s brought major changes to the regulations to speed up the game and generate more offensive — including the forward pass beyond the lines, clearance, penalty shots, and the resurfacing of the rink between periods.


There is then a long period of stability marked by the arrival of the dynasties in Detroit, Montreal, Toronto and even Montreal. Of the major stars emerging at that time, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Jean Béliveau and Gordie Howe.


A year after the debut of Bobby Orr with the Bruins in 1966-1967, the league is ultimately to an expansion of six teams — Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas), St. Louis, Los Angeles and Oakland. Then it was the turn of Buffalo and Vancouver in 1970 ; the New York Islanders and Atlanta (now Calgary) in 1972 ; Washington and Kansas City (now New Jersey) in 1974 ; and the four clubs from the defunct world hockey Association — Edmonton, Quebec (now Colorado), Winnipeg (now Arizona) and Hartford (now Carolina) in 1979.


San Jose is attached to the circuit in 1991, Ottawa and Tampa Bay in 1992 ; the Florida and Anaheim in 1993, Nashville in 1998, Atlanta (now Winnipeg) in 1999 and Columbus and Minnesota in 2000 ; and Las Vegas by 2017.


Since 1917, when the value of the teams ranged in the five figures, the NHL has become a company with revenues estimated at $ 4.5 billion US in 2016-2017, and three teams — the Rangers, the Leafs and the Canadians — are worth over a billion.


In a sport where the players were once almost exclusively Canadians, there are now almost as many Americans and many others from Europe.


And you will probably be entitled to at least one other team in a near future.


As has been said by the boss of Ottawa, Tommy Gorman, this day in 1917: “Now, we can work towards earn money. “

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