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First Pro Game in Toronto

The roots of professional hockey in Toronto can be traced back to 1908 when the Toronto "Professionals" took to the ice in the Ontario Professional Hockey League. The league also included teams from the Ontario towns of Guelph, Brantford and Berlin (Kitchener), and was nicknamed the "Trolley League" because the towns could all be reached by the electric railway lines of the day.

The first professional hockey game in Toronto was played on January 4, 1908, against the visitors from Berlin. Toronto lost the game by a score of 3-0 but would go on to lose only two more games that year. Their 10-2 record in the regular season won them not only the OPHL championship, but the right to challange for the Stanley Cup. Toronto travelled to Montreal to challange the Montreal Wanderers in a one-game showdown for the Cup played on March 14, 1908. The Wanderers defended the Cup by a score of 6-4 and the Toronto team returned home empty-handed.

The "Professionals" could manage only five victories the following season and then disbanded. The OPHL continued operations until 1911 before closing shop. The city of Toronto had its first taste of the professional game and it would not be long before they would have two new pro teams to cheer for.

 

Enter the N.H.A.

The Toronto Tecumsehs and the Toronto Blueshirts joined the National Hockey Association and began play in the 1912-13 season. They were to begin play a year earlier but delays in the construction of the Arena Gardens, the first artificial ice surface in eastern Canada, delayed the process by a year. The NHA had been formed in 1910 and by 1912 its member clubs included the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Quebec Bulldogs.

The Blueshirts finished the 1912-13 NHA season in a three-way tie for third place with the Senators and Canadiens. The Tecumsehs struggled to a last-place finish, changed their name to the Ontarios in 1913, and then to the Shamrocks mid-way through the following season, before being folded after the 1914-15 season.

 

The First Stanley Cup

In 1913-14 the Blueshirts finished tied atop the NHA standings with the Montreal Canadiens, both clubs posting 13-7 records. It was the first appearance for both teams in a Stanley Cup series and the winner was to be determined by a two-game, total-goals, home-and-home series. The Canadiens won the first game on March 7, 1914, with a 2-0 home ice victory. The teams travelled to Toronto for the second game to be played on March 11, 1914. It was the first Stanley Cup game played on artifical ice. Toronto won the game by a score of 6-0 and with it, the NHA and Stanley Cup championship.

You may note some hockey books indicate that a Stanley Cup series was played between Toronto and the Victoria Aristocrats in March of 1914. Up to a point, this is indeed true.

Here is a quote from Total Stanley Cup, edited by Dan Diamond, to explain:

Three days after the conclusion of the series between the Blueshirts and the Canadiens, Victoria of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association came east to play in Toronto. In the first of what would prove to be 13 consecutive east-west confronations for the Stanley Cup, Victoria overlooked the formality of submitting a challange, and thus the trustees did not regard the series as legitimate which might have led to quite a dispute if the Aristocrats had won. As it was though, Toronto swept the first best-of-five series in Stanley Cup history.

 

Eddie Livingstone

A history of pre-NHL professional hockey in Toronto would be incomplete without acknowledgement of Eddie Livingstone, the owner of the Blueshirts. Some hockey historians have gone so far as to refer to Livingstone as the George Steinbrenner of his day but such a comparison does not paint the man known as "Livvy" in the proper light.

By the start of the 1914-15 season Livingstone owned both the Toronto Shamrocks and the Blueshirts of the NHA. His fellow NHA owners did not approve of this arrangement and ordered him to sell one of the teams. Instead of doing as they ordered, Livingstone simply folded the Shamrocks and retained the services of their better players for the Blueshirts.

The NHA ranks swelled to six teams in total when they welcomed a second Toronto team to begin the 1916-17 season. The Toronto 228th Battalion were made up of military men serving in the First World War. They managed to play in 12 NHA games before they had to drop from the league after receiving their orders to go overseas. There was now only one NHA team based in Toronto and an unbalanced schedule of games to deal with. The NHA owners felt that it did not make economic sense to travel all the way to Toronto just to play the Blueshirts, and besides, an uneven number of teams made scheduling the games problematic. (Although the same owners had no trouble with a similar set of circumstances the following year when the NHL operated as a three-team league for much of the season, with only one of the three franchises based in "far away" Toronto.)

When the Toronto Blueshirts were abruptly dropped from the schedule and their players re-distributed to other teams February 11, 1917, the NHA, at least in name, was living on borrowed time.

 

Hello NHL

Essentially the National Hockey League was formed on November 26, 1917, in order to exclude Eddie Livingstone. He had commenced litigation against the NHA and its member teams because of the treatment he received in the previous season. The easiest way around the problems associated with Livingstone and his lawsuit, it would seem, would be to create a whole new league.

Four teams from the old NHA, the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers and the Quebec Bulldogs, were granted franchises in the new National Hockey League. The Quebec entry decided against icing a team due to financial problems and so, in order to make up a compliment of four teams for the new league, a franchise was awarded to Toronto. There was one condition however - Eddie Livingstone was to have no association with the new Toronto outfit.

Controlling interest in the Toronto franchise was held by a group based in Montreal, Quebec, formally known as The Arenas Gardens of Toronto Limited. They owned the only artifical ice rink in Toronto, the Arena Gardens, and therefore controlled who could rent and use their rink. They had no plans to rent the ice to Livingstone in any way, shape, or form. By November 1917, Eddie Livingstone found himself with nowhere to play and no league to play in.

Contrary to modern-day revisions noting the team as the "Toronto Arenas", the team did not have an offical nickname in 1917. They were simply referred to as the "Torontos" or "Blueshirts" in the newspapers of the day.

Those who wish a more in depth study regarding the formation of the National Hockey League would do well to pick up a copy of Deceptions and Doublecross - How the NHL Conquered Hockey by Morey Holzman and Joseph Nieforth. (2002 Dundurn Press - ISBN 1-55002-413-2)

Toronto Franchise NHA Stats

1912-13 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS

PLAYER         GP   G   A  PTS  PIM
Frank Nighbor  19  25   0   25    9
Alan Davidson  20  19   0   19   69
Cully Wilson   19  12   0   12   45
Harry Cameron  20   9   0    9   20
Frank Foyston  16   8   0    8    8
Roy McGiffen   15   7   0    7   83
Jack Marshall  13   3   0    3    8
Archie McLean   9   2   0    2    4
? Gunn          3   1   0    1    0
Jack Walker     1   0   0    0    0
Fred Doherty    1   0   0    0    0
Mike O’Leary    1   0   0    0    0
Victor Jopp     2   0   0    0    0
Ken Randall     2   0   0    0    0
Ray Marchand    8   0   0    0    0
Harry Holmes   15   0   0    0    0

GOALTENDERS   GP  W  L  T  MINS  GA   GAA  SO
Harry Holmes  15  6  7  0   779  58  4.47   1
Ray Marchand   8  3  4  0   421  37  5.27   0
TOTALS        20  9 11  0  1200  95  4.75   1


1912-13 TORONTO TECUMSEHS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Harry Smith 15 14 0 14 40 Steve Vair 17 12 0 12 35 Howard McNamara 20 12 0 12 62 Art Throop 20 11 0 11 48 George McNamara 20 4 0 4 23 Horace Gaul 17 3 0 3 43 Connie Corbeau 17 2 0 2 38 Fred Strike 6 1 0 1 0 Ezra Dumart 1 0 0 0 0 Bert Hunt 3 0 0 0 0 Ted Oke 5 0 0 0 7 Ed Longfellow 7 0 0 0 5 Ernie Liffiton 8 0 0 0 2 Billy Nicholson 20 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDER GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Billy Nicholson 20 7 13 0 1238 98 4.75 0
1913-14 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Alan Davidson 20 23 13 36 64 Jack Walker 20 20 16 36 17 Harry Cameron 19 14 5 19 22 Frank Foyston 19 16 2 18 8 Cully Wilson 20 9 4 13 33 Roy McGiffen 18 6 5 11 86 Jack Marshall 20 3 3 6 16 Con Corbeau 11 2 2 4 7 George McNamara 9 0 1 1 2 ? Harriston 1 0 0 0 0 Claude Wilson 2 0 0 0 0 Harry Holmes 20 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDERS GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Claude Wilson 2 0 0 0 16 0 0.00 0 Harry Holmes 20 13 7 0 1204 65 3.24 1 TOTAL 20 13 7 0 1220 65 3.20 1
1913-14 TORONTO ONTARIOS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Jack McDonald 20 27 8 35 12 Fred Doherty 19 9 5 14 20 Steve Vair 9 7 6 13 4 Howard McNamara 20 7 6 13 36 Fred Lake 20 4 4 8 23 Harry Scott 7 4 1 5 2 Ed Lowrey 16 1 3 4 13 Bert Hunt 11 1 1 2 4 Bill Creighton 9 1 0 1 0 George McNamara 9 0 1 1 0 Jack Cross 1 0 0 0 0 Reg Rankin 1 0 0 0 0 Emile Marchildon 3 0 0 0 0 Guy Smith 3 0 0 0 2 Sammy Hebert 19 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDERS GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Sammy Hebert 19 4 15 0 1160 108 5.59 0 Jack Cross 1 0 1 0 40 6 9.00 0 Reg Rankin 1 0 0 0 20 4 12.00 0 TOTAL 20 4 16 0 1220 118 5.80 0
1914-15 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Cully Wilson 20 22 5 27 138 Frank Foyston 20 13 9 22 11 Harry Cameron 17 12 8 20 43 Jack Walker 19 12 7 19 11 Roy McGiffen 18 4 0 4 131 Foster Malone 7 1 1 2 0 Ted Oke 7 1 0 1 0 Ed Carpenter 19 1 0 1 63 Jack Marshall 4 0 1 1 8 Les Lowtner 14 0 1 1 6 Frank Baker 4 0 0 0 0 Harry Holmes 20 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDER GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Harry Holmes 20 8 12 0 1218 84 4.14 0
1914-15 TORONTO ONTARIOS/SHAMROCKS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Skene Ronan 18 21 4 25 55 Tommy Smith 10 17 2 19 14 Corbett Denneny 19 13 3 16 18 George McNamara 18 4 8 12 67 Alf Skinner 16 5 2 7 68 Cy Denneny 8 6 0 6 43 Howard McNamara 18 4 1 5 67 Hal McNamara 17 3 2 5 26 Nick Bawlf 7 2 0 2 8 Jack Brown 13 1 0 1 0 Andy Kyle 1 0 0 0 0 Joe Tetreault 2 0 0 0 0 Tom Molyneux 2 0 0 0 0 Nick Trenouth 4 0 0 0 0 Bert Hunt 7 0 0 0 3 Percy Lesueur 20 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDER GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Percy Lesueur 20 7 13 0 1205 96 4.78 0
1915-16 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Duke Keats 24 22 7 29 112 Cy Denneny 24 24 4 28 57 Corbett Denenny 22 20 3 23 75 Ken Randall 24 7 5 12 111 Harry Cameron 24 8 3 11 70 Alf Skinner 23 7 4 11 66 George McNamara 23 5 2 7 74 Harry Meeking 14 3 1 4 8 Skene Ronan 9 0 3 3 8 Jack Ulrich 3 1 1 2 9 Jack Brown 2 0 1 1 2 Frank Foyston 1 0 0 0 0 Nick Trenouth 1 0 0 0 0 Harry Holmes 1 0 0 0 0 Ed Lowrey 2 0 0 0 0 Cully Wilson 3 0 0 0 0 Percy Lesueur 23 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDERS GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Percy Lesueur 23 9 13 1 1416 92 3.90 1 Harry Holmes 1 0 1 0 60 6 6.00 0 TOTAL 24 9 14 1 1476 98 3.98 1
1916-17 TORONTO 228TH BATTALION PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Eddie Oatman 12 17 5 22 20 Goldie Prodgers 12 16 2 18 24 Amos Arbour 10 13 2 15 6 Howard McNamara 12 11 3 14 36 R. Reynolds 5 6 0 6 0 Art Duncan 8 4 1 5 12 Gord Meeking 11 4 0 4 0 George McNamara 9 2 0 2 0 Bill Speck 1 0 0 0 0 Jack Brown 2 0 0 0 0 Roxy Beaudro 8 0 0 0 0 Howard Lockhart 12 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDER GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Howard Lockhart 12 6 6 0 720 69 5.75 1
1916-17 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS PLAYER GP G A PTS PIM Duke Keats 13 16 2 18 65 Corbett Denneny 8 14 1 15 35 Reg Noble 14 9 3 12 51 Harry Cameron 14 8 4 12 32 Ken Randall 13 8 0 8 42 Alf Skinner 14 5 2 7 49 Archie Briden 13 2 2 4 27 Jack Coughlin 8 2 0 2 3 Bill Creighton 1 0 0 0 0 Bill Speck 2 0 0 0 0 ? Brock 4 0 0 0 0 Andy Kyle 10 0 0 0 0 Billy Nicholson 10 0 0 0 0 GOALTENDERS GP W L T MINS GA GAA SO Billy Nicholson 10 5 5 0 598 40 4.01 0 ? Brock 4 2 2 0 230 16 4.17 0 Duke Keats 2 0 0 0 10 5 30.00 0 TOTAL 14 7 7 0 838 61 4.37 0

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