Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hamilton Tigers--A Brief History

Fall 1920—Quebec Bulldogs sold to Hamilton Business
NHL’s Quebec Bulldogs, a team established in 1888, was sold to Hamilton’s Abso-Pure Ice Company. In their final game as the Bulldogs, Joe Malone scored seven goals against the Toronto Arenas. This scoring record remains today.

December 22, 1920—Hamilton Tigers first NHL Game

In ‘The Arena’—Hamilton’s rink located on Barton Street between Sanford and Wentworth—the Hamilton Tigers defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-0.

1920-1921 Season

Despite their good start, the Hamilton Tigers finished last, behind the Toronto St. Patricks, Ottawa Senators, and the Montreal Canadiens.

1921-1922 Season

Tigers switch their uniform from vertical to horizontal stripes, and the logo from the growling tiger head to a prowling tiger. Despite some changes to the lineup, the team had another dismal season, finishing last.

1922-1923 Season

The Hamilton Tigers acquired Art Ross as head coach. Not only would Art Ross would later be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the NHL trophy for the highest scorer bears his name. Unfortunately, this new and tough head coach could not improve Hamilton’s standings. They again finished in last place.

1923-1924 Season
This season began with a third and final change to their jersey—horizontal lines remained on the sleeves, and the logo switched to a capital H with ‘TIGERS’ printed across the H’s horizontal bar. Also in this season, the arrival of brothers Red and Shorty Green kickstarted the Tigers’ turnaround. Though the Tigers ended up last in the standings, this year they were only 2 points behind the Toronto St. Patricks.

1924-1925 Season—It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

This season saw the NHL expand for the first time. This expansion was doubly significant because it was the first time an American city was given an NHL team. This team was the Boston Bruins.

Top of the League
More importantly for the Tigers, their first successful season ended with their winning the league. They edged the Toronto St. Patricks by 1 point for first place in the NHL. Celebrations, however, would end there.

The ‘Trainwreck’
On a train trip from Montreal back to Hamilton after their last game of the season, Tiger players led by Shorty Green confronted owner Percy Thompson about being compensated for the extended season. The players demanded $200 each, but Thompson refused. A strike resulted, keeping the team out of the playoffs. Hamilton was supposed to play the Canadiens for the NHL championship and the winner of that match would go on to play the champion of the Western Canadian Hockey for the Stanley Cup.

March 16, 1925
First rumour that the Tigers would be sold to a business from New York City. Tigers ownership denied this claim.

March 17, 1925
Tigers players were still willing to go to court, so the owners gave up and paid the players. Unbelievable.

April 13, 1925
News sources in Hamilton first reported that New York City was officially given an NHL franchise.

September, 1925—Tigers’ Exit from Hamilton
Secret negotiations between New York franchise manager Tommy Gorman and Tigers owner Percy Thompson took place. The two reached a deal that included sending the Tigers players to New York. This team was called the New York Americans (who were going to be called the New York Hamilton Tigers). This event marked the end of the Hamilton Tigers hockey club.

I will conclude this section with two enduring quotes from the Hamilton Herald, as quoted in Wesley and Wesley (2005, pp. 82 & 85).

“Whether the players of the Hamilton NHL club are at fault or the management, the fact remains that Hamilton’s thousands of loyal hockey fans have been denied the chance to see the most important game of the NHL season—the [championship game] …. It’s the fans who make hockey possible, still they are not taken into consideration in time of trouble” (Hamilton Herald, March 14, 1925).

“The hockey season of 1924-1925 in Canada ends under a cloud of commercialism….The unfortunate incident serves to reveal one of the weaknesses of professional sport. Professionalism tends to develop the commercial spirit. The game is played not for its own sake, but for money; and when games are played mainly for money, trickery and crookedness are very apt to creep in and become matters of course” (Hamilton Herald, date unknown).

To learn more about the Hamilton Tigers and their brief yet rich history, I highly recommend Sam and David Wesley’s Hamilton’s Hockey Tigers (2005). This exceptional book will take you back to life in the 1920s and will leave you wondering how Hamilton could let this gem of a team slip through its fingers. It was by far my favorite Christmas gift last year!
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Coming up… a timeline of attempts to bring the NHL back to Hamilton.

1 comment:

Satire and Theology said...

I support the idea of this site, although I think Hamilton will face
an uphill battle in getting a NHL franchise due to the attitudes of most of the people that run the League.

An article I wrote a few months ago: