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The centennials we're still not celebrating

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100 years ago, the Toronto Blueshirts played their first season. Like most new teams, it involved a fair amount of losing, though not as much as the Tecumsehs, their roomates in the new Arena Gardens. The Blueshirts would go on to become extremely important, not just as the 1914 Cup winners, but because an entire league was founded just to get away from them. We never talk about this.

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Originally published in 2013, this introduction to a series of posts about the history of hockey in Toronto was republished in May, 2020 as part of our look back at our work over the years. This series is a wonderful example of blogging at its best.

I think for the most part people are aware that the NHL is heading into a centennial year in 2017 (let's not play the semantic game of 100 seasons vs 99 seasons vs 100 elapsed years - it was fun in 2009 but ultimately a waste of time). Most people would also be aware that it will also be considered 100 years of Leafs hockey (once we add in the 10 they spent as the no-names, the Arenas and the St. Pats).

What keeps being forgotten (or at least left out of the discussion) is the fact that pro hockey in this city predates the NHL by about a dozen years. The team that existed here before 1917-18 is the very reason for the existence of the NHL and there were others before that. There were players who contributed great moments to this city that are never talked about, a championship most have never heard of and an owner so hated that the entire NHA packed up and left rather than deal with him (rather unfairly, in my opinion).

What's also irksome about the entire thing is that the story is actually really interesting - pro hockey was a total free-for-all and the history is rampant with liars and cheats and infighting and inter-league raids, player strikes and salary caps, lawsuits and swindles and all sorts of other goodies that we don't get to see these days (not in the same manner, anyway).

A while back, when PPP (the blog, not the person) was a lot smaller and I needed something to talk about in the summer, I wrote a series about this period. I had been reading a book called Deceptions and Doublecross - How the NHL Conquered Hockey and I used this as a starting point talk about the early years of Toronto hockey. I figured I'd be done in seven or eight posts. Twenty-two entries later, it was done. I still need to do the next series on the St. Pats. I hope it will be shorter.

I have to admit that it seems to me to be quite the shark jump to put up a link to posts from four years ago, but it beats rewriting them. :)

Besides, I think these are still things worth talking about and a story that still deserves telling. One hundred years ago - the 1912-13 season - we had the inaugural season of Toronto HC, better known as the Blueshirts. This forgotten team is arguably the most important in all of hockey as there would be no NHL without it. (There - that should draw out the haters. :) )

The history series:

History #1 - Revisionist History


History #2 - The Lay of the Land - Hockey before the NHA.


History #3 - The Way we Played - Hockey with Seven Players per Side


History #4 - Giving the Devils Their Due - the Sens and Wanderers


History #5 - Goodbye and Good Riddance - the Birth of the NHA


History #6 - Lest We Forget


History #7 - Snits and Giggles


History #8 - Ladies and Gentlemen - Yoooouuuuuurrrr Toronto Blueshirts!


History #9 - The Blueshirts - So Who WERE These Guys?


History #9a - The Blueshirts - So Who WERE These Guys? (Part II)


History #10 - the Tecumsehs (the not-Blueshirts)


History #10b - Things Fall Apart


History #11 - The Arrival of Eddie Livingstone


History #12 - Livvy buys a team - and a problem


History #13 - Feb 3, 1915 - when a loss is not just a loss


History #14 - Another name you should know - Corb Denneny


History #15 - 1914-15 - The rest of the season that was.


History #16 - Eddie buys a(nother) team


History #17 - Curiouser and curiouser


History #18 - 1916-17 - Where it really hits the fan


History #19 - Goodbye and (not particularly) good luck, Mr. Livingstone


History #20 - A "Temporary" New League is Born


History #21 - Endgame


History #22 - Some last thoughts on karma and other random things

One of the cool features of this was that the authors of Deceptions and Doublecross periodically wandered by to add their thoughts to what we were talking about. I say it a million times in the pieces, but go give this a read. It's worth the effort.