"History is written by the victors." - Winston Churchill
(Not everything I write will come from Holzman and Nieforth's Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey - actually, quite a bit doesn't - but it's a good bet that this book will have influenced it. Seriously - go get a copy and read it. It's good. Wikipedia is also your friend.)
Ladies and gentlemen - yooooooooooouuuuuur Toronto Blue(shirts)!!!
Well, that didn't take very long, now, did it? Eight posts to get to where I thought I'd be in three.
Over the next few posts, I want to look at each of the Toronto NHA teams up to the time when they were bought by Jim Ballsi..., erm, Eddie Livingstone.
The two new entries for 1912-13 were the Toronto Tecumsehs and what would probably best be called Toronto HC, dubbed the Blueshirts because of their bright green uniforms (just seeing if anyone was paying attention). (Note - the Toronto Professionals, who look remarkably Blueshirt-like in black-and-white, were actually PURPLE and white, sort of proto-Raptor. The 'T' was purple.)
(The Toronto Professionals - 1906-1909 - via media.thestar.topscms.com)
The Blueshirts and Tecumsehs had once been among the four franchises backed by Ambrose O'Brien. Because three of them ceased operations more or less simultaneously and were sold without player rights to their new owners (one of whom was the Habs' George Kennedy), it's never been fully clear just which team went where. The controversy is between Haileybury and Les Canadiens. One became the Toronto Tecumsehs, and the other became today's Canadiens. While it doesn't really matter at this point, there is some amusement value in the notion, at least partly supportable, the the original "Les Canadiens" franchise went to a team that is an ancestor of today's Leafs. Cobalt, apparently, became the Blueshirts.
Completion of the Arena Gardens
The teams sat out 1911-12 while they waited for the completion of the new Arena Gardens, known to us today as the Mutual Street Arena. Owned by Montreal interests (this later becomes somewhat important), this was the first facility in Toronto with artificial ice. It was an 8000-seat arena with a rather large ice surface at 230x95 feet. Both the Blueshirts and Tecumsehs (and the 223rd Battalion in 1916-17) would call it home. It was Toronto's prime hockey palace until the construction of MLG in 1931. It survived as a secondary facility until it was torn down in 1990.
(The Arena Gardens - on Mutual St. between Dundas and Shuter - via hockey.ballparks.com)
(The Arena Gardens interior - no idea when this was taken - via upload.wikimedia.org)
Play begins - 1912-13
From the beginning, the Blueshirts were the better-run organization. They had better players, a better record, won the first Stanley Cup in Toronto history and were generally more stable. They made more money, or at least lost less.
Percy Quinn was the original owner. He'd managed the Toronto Professionals for their brief existence, headed the Dominion Lacrosse Association and had been a player for the world-champion (Canadian, really) Montreal Shamrocks lacrosse team in 1896.
He put together a team of juniors and westerners that was suprisingly competitive, finishing third with a 9-11 record in 1912-13. The team was managed by Bruce Ridpath, a player from the old Professionals that had been starring for Ottawa until his career ended when he was hit by a car on Yonge St. (The benefit game for Ridpath was one of the fighting points between Ottawa and the Wanderers because Cyclone Taylor wanted to play in it.)
This was their lineup (from LeafStats):
1912-13 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS (note: no assists calculated in 1912-13)
|Frank Nighbor||19||25||0||25||9||Harry Holmes||15||6||7||0||779||58||4.47||1|
|Alan Davidson||20||19||0||19||69||Ray Marchand||8||3||4||0||421||37||5.27||0|
Quinn sold the team to Frank Robinson before the start of the next season. The team would lose Ridpath and Nighbour, but Scotty Davidson would step up and become the team's best scorer, Jack Walker would emerge as a top player and Cameron and Foyston would both have excellent years. Add in some top goaltending from Hap Holmes (after whom the AHL goaltending award is named) and you have the makings of a champion, which indeed they were.
(The 1913-14 Stanley Cup champs. We've seen this pic before, and we'll see it again. It's the only one I can find. - via upload.wikimedia.org)
1913-14 TORONTO BLUESHIRTS
|Alan Davidson||20||23||13||36||64||Claude Wilson||2||0||0||0||16||0||0.00||0|
|Jack Walker||20||20||16||36||17||Harry Holmes||20||13||7||0||1204||65||3.24||1|
The Blueshirts 1914 Stanley Cup victory was the first for Toronto and the last of the old challenge format. After beating the Canadiens in a two-game total goals series (2-0 loss on the road and a 6-2 win at home), they swept the first-ever best-of-five Stanley Cup Final from the PCHA's Victoria Aristocrats (later the Cougars, who won a Cup in 1925 and would be bought and turned into the Detroit Cougars - later named the Detroit Red Wings - nothing like beating a long-time rival). There was a bit of hitch in that the actual challenge itself seems not to have been filed. Either way, after this series it was deemed that the Stanley Cup championship would be held between the leaders of the NHA and PCHA and open challenges would no longer happen.
The Blueshirts slumped badly in their third season, finishing in fourth place. While today we'd look at this and call it a Stanley Cup hangover, it looks to me like the Blueshirts badly missed and couldn't replace their captain, Scotty Davidson. Scotty had gone to war and was sadly never to return.
The Blueshirts attempted to promote from within. Cully Wilson led the team in scoring, but Walker fell off dramatically and the club gave up almost a goal per game more than a season before. The reserve players contributed almost nothing.
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
(Note: not sure why, but adding these stats as a third chart blows the page all to bits.)
After 1914-15, there were a series of shocks to the Blueshirt faithful. Frank Robinson joined the army and wanted to sell. A raid (of sorts - more later) took the entire roster (less Roy mcGiffen) and shipped it to Seattle, where it would form the core of the 1917 Cup-winning Seattle Metropolitans. Then, top top it all off, the Blueshirts were sold to the owner of the other Toronto club, the Tecumseh's Eddie Livingstone. We'll end this here....
Next - Wilson? Foyston? Cameron? Who WERE these guys?