Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hamilton Tigers Logos

Growling Tiger Logo (1920-1921): Topographic Map or Realistic Tiger?
When I started searching the internet for information about the Hamilton Tigers, the first thing that struck me as particularly odd was the mangled looking tiger face for a logo (Figure 1). If you run a images search, you will notice that this logo is all over the internet—even used this image as the official logo of the Hamilton Tigers (it has been changed recently). Could this one-eyed Willy really be Hamilton’s NHL logo, or did someone mistake a topographical map for a tiger’s face? Much to my relief, Wesley and Wesley’s Hamilton’s Hockey Tigers provided images of the actual jersey with the original logo (Figure 2). As you can see, the original is a rather detailed, well-drawn face with, yes, two eyes. Whoever redrew the original into a sloppy cartoon gets an F-minus and two thumbs down. We should be circulating and using the actual logo and not a 5-year old child's rendition of it. So if you see any fakes out there, please direct them to this article.

If someone has a better image of the original logo, could you please pass it my way. The one I have posted is a picture of a picture in a book, and so the quality is not spectacular.

Prowling Tiger Logo (1921-1923): Animal Cracker or Regal Tiger?

In Season 2, the Hamilton Tigers switched their logo from a growling tiger to a prowling one. Once again, it looks like someone commissioned a kindergarten class to provide a rendition of the original. The image circulating on the internet looks like an orange animal cracker with some black lines drawn on it (Figure 3). Thank goodness for Hamilton’s Hockey Tigers who provided us with pictures of the original (Figure 4). Unfortunately the contrast in these images is not very good, so the fine details are not obvious—but at the very least, we can confirm that the original is a tiger prowling with stealth, not a cartoon ready to pounce on Winnie-the-Pooh.

H Logo (1923-1925)

The H logo is my favorite not just because of its simplicity, but because its ability to be replicated is a sign of resiliency. It was also the logo worn when the Green brothers arrived (star players Shorty Green and Red Green), and when the Tigers came first in the league. The only modification of this logo from one year to the next was going from completely vertical lines at the end of the horizontal bar to angled ones (Figure 5).

Official Team Colours: Yellow or Orange?

There appears to be a discrepancy between the official colours mentioned in cyberspace and the ones used in Wesley and Wesley’s book. The former believes the colours are black and orange, whereas the latter says the colours are black and yellow. I have no way to confirm this, and even after doing some digging I could not get access to articles from the 1920s that might have mentioned what the true colours are. If anyone has more information on this topic, please write a comment or send it my way.

Ideal Jersey
If the Hamilton Tigers were to make a comeback, I would love to see the H logo as the primary logo, with the leaping tiger on the shoulders. Perhaps my next article will elaborate on this idea. Stay tuned!

*Internet images from
*Original images from Hamilton's Hockey Tigers

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bringing the NHL Back to Hamilton: A Synopsis of Events

This section is a working timeline of attempts to bring the NHL back to Hamilton. I will keep adding to this list as events occur. Please let me know if I have missed or misrepresented anything, I would appreciate any feedback. The goal of this section is provide readers with a factual running record of important and interesting events.


1986—Doomed from the start?
The earliest reports I could find of a possible NHL expansion team going to Hamilton comes from the mid 1980’s. There was a discussion between NHL president John Ziegler and Copps Coliseum boss Brian Conacher. In their conversation, Conacher suggested that the NHL create an all-Canadian division. Unexpectedly, Ziegler was “offended and disturbed” with such a comment, and would therefore oppose any Hamilton attempt for an NHL franchise. Was Hamilton’s bid doomed from start?

October 27, 1989
H. Knox III, President of the Sabres said “if Hamilton is a market, it has to deal with Toronto and Buffalo. Everything is in place on that and one or the other [Buffalo or Toronto] will block it. I can’t say how it would affect Toronto, but, absolutely, [a Hamilton NHL team] would hurt us”.

When people from Hamilton began to question the implications of this statement, not only were they expected to just to suck it up, they were also told not to yap about it. Robert Swados, VP Operations for Buffalo said “if Hamilton wants to get into the NHL, it’s certainly not in its interest to perpetuate this kind of discussion”. So let me get this straight, if Hamiltonians sat back and did nothing to address the possible veto from Buffalo, Hamilton’s chances of getting an expansion team would be slim, and, if Hamiltonians decided to engage in such a discourse, the good people from the Sabres organization would not look favourably on our bid. Wow, thanks for instigating a lose-lose situation.

August 15, 1990—The Race Begins
’s first big attempt at getting a team occurred when the NHL wanted to award 2 new expansion teams. The following cities met the application deadline of Aug 15, 1990 at midnight.

San Diego
Tampa Bay
St. Petersburg

*dropped out before formal bid presentation

August-December 1990: Preparing Bids
Individuals involved with Hamilton’s bid took this opportunity quite seriously. The group hired Gerry Patterson, a Toronto consultant, with a $750,000 finders fee (if Patterson gets Hamilton a team, he also gets three quarters of a million dollars—not a bad incentive). Just weeks before their bid presentation, the Hamilton bid became the only group to meet all the necessary criteria established by the NHL. Here is a list of what the NHL wanted and what Hamilton’s bid had.

1. A building (Copps Coliseum, check)
2. 20 year lease in place (check)
3. Local owner (Ron Joyce, check)
4. Owner with deep pockets (Owner of Tim Hortons, check)
5. Minimum of 10,000 season tickets sold (14,000 sold in 24 hours, check)
6. Market that would support hockey team (50 mile radius, 5 million people, check)
7. Corporate support (70 corporate companies committed to purchasing 70 corporate boxes for a minimum of 5 years, check)

Neither Ottawa nor Tampa Bay had a building, local owner, or a market comparable to Hamilton’s. At the time, no other bid came close to Hamilton’s—the media began talking about Hamilton as being the favourite.

December 5, 1990—Bid Presentations
’s group descended on the Palm Beach Breakers Hotel to make their bid presentation. During this presentation, when asked about paying the $50 million expansion fee, Ron Joyce explained how Hamilton’s situation was unique because they were the only team required to pay indemnification fees. The exact amount of these fees were not disclosed at any time in this process. In fact, the NHL banned any discussion between Hamilton, Toronto, and Buffalo on settling indemnification payments. Because of these unknown additional payments, Joyce could not guarantee the $50 million up front. Instead he offered a compromise—he slapped down $5 million that day, guaranteed $25 million the next year, then $25 million over the next seven. Gerry Patterson was very optimistic about their presentation and was convinced Hamilton would be awarded a team. It was assumed the following day would be used to iron out some of these details.

That night, at a party hosted by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, four NHL governors began a movement to focus on bids that did not deviate from the financial plan. The only two teams who guaranteed $50 million up front were Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

December 6, 1990—Black Thursday
The NHL announced that the winning bids came from Ottawa and Tampa Bay--the only two bids to guarantee the $50 million up front despite not having met the NHL’s supposedly necessary criteria.

The announcement sparked outrage in Hamilton. I can still remember seeing the Hamilton Spectator the following day, and being completely paralyzed with disbelief. I had bought a copy of the Spec to remember Black Thursday. Just thinking about that day still evokes feelings of nausea.

Speculation on the causes of this result began to hit the presses. Reports coming from Hamilton focused on certain comments made prior to the bid presentations, particularly the Knox quote mentioned earlier. Another example came from Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz who said “a third team in that area might damage Toronto and Buffalo, and that’s a major consideration”. Also, Hamilton alderman John Gallagher said that in a teleconference with a Sabres employee, he was told Buffalo would never allow Hamilton to get a franchise. These claims were serious because if NHL owners and governors had already made up their mind on Hamilton before reviewing the bids, then the whole bid process was an exercise in futility and a waste of Hamilton taxpayer’s money.

December 12, 1990
The Buffalo Sabres organization placed a half page advertisement in the Hamilton Spectator that read: “The Buffalo Sabres wish to assure the hockey fans of the City of Hamilton that neither the Sabres nor the Toronto Maple Leafs in any way ‘blocked’ or ‘vetoed’ the granting of a franchise to Hamilton”. The Sabres declined to make any further comments on the topic. It sounded more like damage control, especially considering about 15% of Buffalo’s season ticket holders were from Hamilton at that time.


April 28, 1993
The owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Pocklington, gave the City of Edmonton an ultimatum: improve the lease conditions for Northlands Coliseum and other concessions, or the Oilers will be moved to Hamilton. Some changes Pocklington had in mind included taking a piece of the parking and advertising revenue, and to exclude a commitment to keeping the team in Edmonton for 20 years.

Even at this time, Hamiltonians were weary of being used as a bargaining chip. The prescient Dominic Agostino (Hamilton Alderman) said “all [Pocklington] is doing is raising people's hopes and expectations and trying to exploit Hamilton and our citizens for his own purposes" (Toronto Star, Apr 28, 1993). Memories of Black Thursday must have still been lingering in the back of Dominic’s mind.

June, 1993
Pocklington visited Hamilton to tour Copps Coliseum.

July 5, 1993
Pocklington decided to keep the team in Edmonton and apologized to hockey fans in Hamilton. People are so nice to us.


May 6, 1996
Mayor Bob Morrow requested cash from the Federal Minister of Finance Paul Martin and Ontario Premiere Bob Rae to help lure the troubled Winnipeg Jets to Hamilton, to no avail.

May 13, 1996
This week, a group of Hamiltonians, including Bob Morrow, Gabe Macaluso, and a group of American invenstors, traveled to Winnipeg to present their bid for the team. Not long after, the Winnipeg franchise decided to stay put, at least for the time being.


The second expansion bid was not as eventful as the first. This time around the Hamilton Spectator gave the city the $100,000 expansion application fee. Mayor Bob Morrow and his team of city councilors traveled to New York City to make a second bid for an expansion team. The strategy this time was ‘give us a team, and we will find an owner’. Not surprisingly, Hamilton was overlooked once again, this time under the leadership of commissioner Gary Bettman, whose love of Hamilton is in the sadistic sense. Someone must have started to feel at least a little bad for Hamilton because they decided to return the $100,000 application fee. Who knew the NHL could be so nice.


January 25, 2003
Richard Rodier (works for law firm in Toronto), representing HHC Acquisition Corp. (Hamilton groups interested bringing an NHL franchise to Hamilton) submitted an application to purchase the Ottawa Senators. At this time there were other discussions on relocating the Buffalo Sabres to Hamilton.


An article in the Star Ledger (Oct 8, 2006) stated that at one point, New Jersey Devils owner John McMullen threatened to move the team to Hamilton, until he got a better lease from the Meadowlands of course. I could not find a date for this though. Now that I look back at this exercise, I could have saved myself some time by outlining teams who did not threaten a Hamilton relocation.


Spring 2004
In an interview with the Hamilton Mountain News, Hamilton Councilor Terry Whitehead mentioned that HHC Acquisition Corp. were in talks with owners of the St. Louis Blues. No other developments have been reported on this lead.


The Pittsburgh Penguins are the latest player in the ‘move the team to Hamilton or maybe not’ game. Fasten your seatbelts, the next few events will once again take you on a bit of a ride.

April, 2004
Richard Rodier once again emerged on behalf of HHC Acquisition Corp. and paid Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. $250,000 for exclusive rights to bring an NHL franchise to Copps Coliseum.

June, 2006
Deadline for HHC Acquisition Corp.’s rights to Copps Coliseum was June 30th, 2006, so they paid an additional $50,000 to extend their rights for another year.

July 11, 2006
Reports out of Pittsburgh identified groups from Hamilton, Houston, Kansas City, and Las Vegas as having interested in the Penguins. HHC Acquisition Corp. emerged as the suitors from Hamilton. Though the identity of people involved with HHC remained anonymous, Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion (i.e. makers of the BlackBerry), was rumoured to be one of those persons.

Other interested groups included: (1) Andy Murstein (presidenet of Medallian Corp.) and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban (who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks); (2) Sam Fingold (owner of Kenyon Investments) who has ties with Kansas City; (3) Jim Renacci (Ohio businessman and owner of Columbus Destroyers); and (4) Lawrence Gottesdiender (CEO Northland Investment Corp.) who was interested in bringing a team back to Hartford.

July 21, 2006
Not even ten days after a Hamilton group emerged as a possible buyer of the Penguins, reports out of Pittsburgh suggested this group withdrew their bid because of the difficulties in taking the Penguins out of Pittsburgh. One difficulty was the agreement between current Penguins owners and the Isle of Capri, who promised to build an arena in Pittsburgh if they were granted a casino license. Another difficulty came from the NHL, who stressed that the team must remain in Pittsburgh if it can be viable there.

September 16, 2006
When contacted by the Kitchener Record to comment on rumours surrounding his involvement, Jim Balsillie replied “I do not comment on speculation”.

September 18, 2006
once again became a blip on the NHL radar when the Canadian linked to HHC re-emerged as the front runner to purchasing the Penguins. The identity of this person, however, remained anonymous.

September 19, 2006
Hamilton Spectator headline read “RIM’S Balsillie graduates to ‘no comment’ on NHL talk” (Milton).

October 6, 2006
Jim Balsillie purchases the Pittsburgh Penguins for $175 million. This event sparked many news articles and comments on sports forums debating the merits and possibility of moving a team to Hamilton. What irked me during this period were the unfounded comments on Hamilton’s people, economy, and general viability in supporting a team, especially because many of these comments came from fellow Canadians. Expect a few rebuttals to these comments on this blog.

Going back to Balsillie, at no time did he nor anyone else provide confirming evidence that he was linked to HHC.

October 13, 2006
HHC withdrew their rights to Copps Coliseum. Journalists discussed two possible explanations for this move. The first hypothesis is that Balsillie is still playing a game because his purchase still requires the NHL’s rubber stamp. By withdrawing their rights to Copps, Balsillie could alleviate any worries the NHL board of governors might have about his intent to move the team. Once they NHL approves the purchase, and the Isle of Capri deal falls through, Balsillie will make his move to Hamilton. The second hypothesis is that Balsillie is no longer interested in moving the team to Hamilton and decided to drop his ties to Copps. In this case, his intentions may be to keep the team in Pittsburgh or move the team a city other than Hamilton.

October 15, 2006
Balsillie answered questions for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette about possible places to relocate the Penguins. Here is what he said:

"Hamilton? Yeah, the [Toronto Maple] Leafs will be really supportive of that," he said. "Kansas City? I mean, come on. Now I've taken a 40-minute flight [to Pittsburgh] and made it two hours, and to an unproven market.

"They talk about Oklahoma [City]. It's like, puh-lease. And Portland? Puh-lease. Now I'm going from the frying pan into a big fire."


The saga continues with the Nashville Predators and now the Phoenix Coyotes. Too much going on--will update this section once we know the outcome of the bankruptcy auction. Good luck Balsillie and Hamilton!

Star (Dec 6, 1990).
Star (Dec 7, 1990) NHL Rejection a bitter pill for Hamilton. Damien Cox, B1
Toronto Star (Feb 16, 1991) Hamilton bid was doomed from outset, Peter Edwards and Damien Cox, B1.
Kitchener-Waterloo Record (Dec 13, 1990), Sabres purchase newspaper ad to deny they vetoed Hamilton bid, D1
Hamilton Spectator (Jan 25, 2003) Sens longshot for Hamilton, Ken Peters, E. 01
Star Ledger (Oct 8, 2006). A black cloud for Pens’ fans, Rich Chere.
News (July 7, 2006). NHL team seekers ‘credible, successful people’ to be taken seriously, HECFI boss says.
Spectator (Sep 19, 2006). RIM’S Balsillie graduates to ‘no comment’ on NHL talk, Steve Milton.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Audio Clips: CBC interviews Gabe Macaluso & Terry Whitehead

1. The first clip comes from CBC's The Current, hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti. In this episode, she discusses with Gabe Macaluso Hamilton's failed NHL bid in the early 90's.

2. The second, more recent clip, comes from CBC's Ontario Today, hosted by Rita Celli. Here she chats with Hamilton City Councillor Terry Whitehead about the latest developments (it was taped just before Jim Balsillie bought the Pittsburgh Penguins). You'll need realplayer to hear this file.

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!
| | Chapters-Indigo

Coming up… a timeline of attempts to bring the NHL back to Hamilton.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Welcome to the Hamilton Tigers (c. 1920; 20??) blog. My interest in seeing Hamilton get a National Hockey League team began when the NHL was set to expand in the early 1990s. From my posts, I hope that many of you will empathize with the deep-seated frustration I have felt from the many failed attempts and teases of bringing a team to the Steel City. As many of you probably know, Hamilton is once again in the NHL picture with the recent purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins by BlackBerry owner Jim Balsillie, a billionaire with roots in Southern Ontario (purchase still requires approval from the NHL). It was not just this development, but the reaction of Hamiltonians and Canadians to this development that has inspired me to start this online journal.

Historically, Hamilton was labeled the ‘ambitious city’—it was this ambition that motivated many Hamiltonians to support our bid for a NHL franchise in the early 1990s. Not only did the bid have corporate (i.e. Ron Joyce—Tim Hortons) and government support, fans of a nonexistent team turned out in droves to purchase 14,000 season tickets in 24 hours. Since that failed bid, it appeared as though other owners used the ‘I may move the team to Hamilton’ story to either sell more season tickets or to get their city council to dance on command. I believe Hamilton is still ambitious, but also not stupid. With these failed attempts still in our working memory, there is a good reason for Hamiltonians to be skeptical. My biggest worry, however, is that this skepticism will be interpreted as disinterest.

So, I want this blog to signal that interest still exists, but that we will no longer be complacent with unfair decisions or negative perceptions about giving Hamiltonians what they deserve.

In order to build this interest, I will use this blog to: (a) keep a running record of the latest news and gossip; (b) address any misperceptions about the City of Hamilton, its inhabitants, and the viability of a professional hockey time in Hamilton; (c) brainstorm some ideas of how a hockey team in Hamilton would look like; and (d) investigate the true motivations behind decisions related to keeping a team out of Hamilton. I would love to hear from you, and if you’re interested in posting your own thoughts, I am more than happy to consider them.

To all the pessimists who think I’m not being realistic, well, you may be right. Time will only tell. In the meantime, I plan on having fun with the idea. Besides, supporting a club is all about satisfying our need for sports entertainment, right? Mine just happens to be a club that doesn’t exist… yet.