Editor's Note: History isn't just written by the victors. It's also written by 1967ers. After a year and about 200 fanposts we've asked him and he has graciously accepted our offer to join the ranks of contributing bloggers. Not much will change except that all of his pieces will be featured on the front page rather than just most of them.
"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.)
Feb 3, 1915 - when a loss is not just a loss
(Note - this is just a precis of a much more interesting and generally fun story. Go read H&N for the full text of it. The letters and telegrams back and forth offer enough entertainment that they're worth the purchase price of the book.)
One of the striking things about the 1914-15 Toronto Ontarios/Shamrocks is that when one looks at the roster, there are three McNamaras on it. George and Howard were the starting defensemen and Hal saw spot duty as a forward. Brother acts aren't all that unusual in hockey, but when a team only has seven regular skaters and three are siblings, that's unusual. When a family emergency hits, that's a serious problem for all involved.
The McNamaras were big boys, the lot of them. Hal was the little one and he was better than six feet and 190 pounds. George and Howard were in the 6'3" range and weighed in between 225 and 240. They were known as "the Dynamite Twins" and yes, they were truculent. Not dirty, but truculent. They liked to hit.
When Eddie Livingstone was looking to test the mettle of young Cy Denneny to determine whether he could stand up to the rigors of NHA play, he sent the 145-pound Denneny out to face the McNamaras in a scrimmage. After beating the tar (legally, of course) out of Denneny for a while, they reported to Livingstone that yes, he had what it would take.
(Truculence - George McNamara as a Tecumseh - via www.legendsofhockey.net )
Truculence aside, the McNamaras were no slugs as players. George is in the Hall of Fame and was part of the 1914 Cup-winning Blueshirt team. Howard would captain the Habs to their first Cup title in 1916. Hal played on a number of pro teams including the 1909 Toronto Professionals. He was also brought in as one of the ringers for a 1908 Edmonton Cup challenge against the Wanderers.
The problem facing the McNamaras in the winter of 1914-15 had to do with the health of their father. He was ailing back in the Soo and the boys travelled back and forth to visit him as the season progressed. There was concern at one point that their need to be home would cause them to miss a game, leaving their team shorthanded and unable to play. Arrangements were made to reschedule in this event. As it turned out, they were back in time and the game went on as planned.
As a Feb 3, 1915 home game against the Wanderers approached, their father took a turn for the worse and the McNamaras again had to head north. This time, they would indeed be absent for the game and Livingstone could not field a complete roster. He notified the league that they would be unable to play and told the Wanderers to stay home so as not to incur any unnecessary expenses.
The Wanderers, though, had other ideas. For the first time since owner Sam Lichtenhein had taken over the team in 1910, they were in the thick of the race. Heading into the games of Feb 3, they were just a single win behind the Senators (who were 8-3 to Montreal's 7-4). A game against a shorthanded opponent was an easy win. A defaulted game was even easier. Either way, there were two quick points to be had and Lichtenhein wanted them. He refused to postpone. Livingstone would have to ice a team, any team, or forfeit. (A forfeit also carried a cash penalty against the club - just to ensure this sort of thing didn't happen all the time.)
Lacking his regular players as well as enough time to find replacements, the game never happened. Livvy told the Wanderers to stay home. The game went into the books as defaulted by the Shamrocks.
Overall, Livingstone was more than a little unhappy about how this played out. He felt his team had been penalized for things beyond its control, and this was particularly unfair after it had already been decided that a game could be postponed under these circumstances. When NHA head Emmett Quinn sided with Lichtenhein and upheld the forfeit, Livvy really had a gripe. He threatened to forfeit the rest of the season unless things were reversed.
In a meeting with Quinn and Lichtenhein, a plan was hatched. The forfeit would stand, but the two teams would play a make-up game in March. This way, Livingstone wouldn't lose the gate. The only unanswered question was whether this make-up game would actually count in the standings. Quinn and Lichtenhein were somewhat evasive on this count. They did, however, tell Livingstone that he could let the press in on the makeup game, just that Lichtenhein wanted to do so first and get a little good PR in.
When a little time passed and Lichtenhein seemed to be telling absolutely nobody about the deal that had been reached, Livvy took matters into his own hands. He announced to the Toronto papers that he'd met with Quinn and Lichtenhein and, by, golly, they were just a swell couple of chaps. They'd agreed to a new game, and it would count in the standings and everything. See, folks? Told you we wouldn't get hosed.
Quinn and particularly Lichtenhein were fit to be tied. The carefully-crafted weasel room they'd left themselves (on the matter of the game being "real") had just evaporated. Lichtenhein went to the Montreal press and ripped Eddie a new orefice, deciding that maybe, just maybe they wouldn't play that game after all and how date Livingstone speak out of turn like that? This guy needed to be drummed out of hockey, that's what. As said earlier, he'd just gotten two free points in a tight race and wasn't about to give them up without a fight.
Further, as the season was winding down, the Wanderers and Senators were in a dead heat. This meant that there would have to be a playoff game, the full proceeds of which would go into league coffers. A potential spare game against Toronto could upset this.
At the end of the day, the make-up game didn't happen. There was the much-desired playoff game against Ottawa (the Wanderers lost - karma is what it is) and Lichtenhein became further convinced that Eddie Livingstone was a very, very bad man.
Next - Eddie's team.