Remembering the Toronto Arena Hockey Club: December 19: Snapshots in History

December 19, 2017 | John P.

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Team photograph of the Toronto Arena Hockey, 1917-1918 Stanley Cup Champions (Rights: Public Domain; Source: Angus Carroll's Blog and Wikimedia Commons)


Hockey fans in Toronto were treated to a centenary game commemorating 100 years of the National Hockey League (NHL) in Toronto on December 19, 2017 as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated convincingly the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of eight goals to one. So this begs the question: What happened on December 19, 1917 during the National Hockey League’s inaugural season on its first day of competition? I will get to the answer in a moment but first, let us digest a little bit of background hockey history.

The NHL rose like a phoenix from the resurrected ashes of the suspended National Hockey Association (NHA). A dispute had arisen in the NHA between the owner of the Toronto Blueshirts, Eddie Livingstone, and executives of the other three hockey clubs: the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators. In the new NHL, the two Montreal teams and the Ottawa team were joined by the Toronto Arena Hockey Club,  also known as the Toronto Arenas or the Torontos. The intention was that the Torontos would be a temporary team in the NHL until the dispute was resolved with the Toronto Blueshirts – which never happened. For the 1917-1918 season, the team operated without a formal nickname separate from the Arena Company. The Toronto Arenas lasted only two seasons in the NHL despite winning the Stanley Cup, on account of bankruptcy. Investors connected with the amateur Toronto St. Patricks’ club purchased the rights to the NHL franchise and the NHL team became known as the Toronto St. Patricks from 1919-1927, winning the Stanley Cup in 1922. However, by 1927, this club was in trouble both competitively and legally. Consequently, an ownership group spearheaded by Conn Smythe, the coach of the Toronto Varsity Graduates, purchased the team for $160,000 to keep it in Toronto as a symbol of civic pride – renamed as the Toronto Maple Leafs – in spite of a competing bid for $200,000 to move the team to Philadelphia.

Now, let us go back to December 19, 1917. Page 24 of the December 20, 1917 issue of the Toronto Daily Star newspaper contained several articles related to NHL hockey action from the day before. At the top of the page, readers noticed a large banner headline which read as follows: “MONTREAL TEAMS WIN OPENING N.H.L. GAMES – TORONTO’S SHOW WEAKNESS IN GOAL”. Underneath the banner headline, one found two articles related to the Toronto Arenas-Montreal Wanderers game, entitled as follows:

“CAMERON THE STAR OF MONTREAL GAME: Toronto Fans Say that the Veteran Used Rare Judgment…” Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Toronto fans who saw Toronto beaten 10-9 by Wanderers last night at Montreal say that the whole trouble was bad goal-keeping…'Sammy Hebert couldn’t stop a flock of balloons,' said one traveler, 'and Brookes wasn’t any better…Cameron was the best man on the ice. I never saw him use better judgment. Randall was good too. Reg. Noble was easily the best of the forwards…'…”

“TORONTOS WEAK IN THE NETS, WANDERERS WON BY 10 TO 9: Blue Shirts Were All Over Red Bands on End, But Could Not Tie Up or Win Out the Contest”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“…Wanderers beat the Toronto Blue Shirts 10 to 9 in the opening game of the National Hockey League series last night, but if there had been a few more minutes to go, the result might easily have read the other way about, for Wanderers were fading toward the end, while Blue Shirts, with youth in their favor, were smashing through the defences in a last effort to snatch victory out of defeat…”

Not forgetting hockey fans of the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, page 24 also contained an article with the following title: “CHAMPION CANADIENS WON GAME AT OTTAWA…”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“…Canadiens opened the hockey season at the Arena last night by defeating Ottawa by a score of 7 to 4. Between five and six thousand people turned out to attend the local game, and though the ice was sticky, preventing the Ottawas from showing their usual speed and helping the heavier Canadiens, the hockey dished up was, under the circumstances, surprisingly good…”

To view the articles in full, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

The December 20, 1917 issue of the Globe newspaper on page 10 also carried an article about the Toronto-Montreal game from the day before, entitled as follows: “BLUESHIRTS LOSE FIRST: Small Crowd, About 700, See Wanderers Beat Torontos by 7 to 4 [sic – should read 10 to 9]”. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Montreal, Dec. 19. About seven hundred people witnessed the initial professional hockey game of the season at the Arena in this city to-night, when the Wanderers won from the Torontos by a score of 10 to 9. The play was somewhat ragged at times, and the visiting team was weak in its goalkeepers…”

To view this article in full, please access the Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.   

Please consider the following items for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club official centennial publication  1917-2017

Book, 2017


100 years in blue and white a century of hockey in Toronto.

Book, 2016 - Also available in eBook format.


Hockey a people's history

Book, 2006 - This book was published to accompany the CBC TV Series "Hockey: a People’s History". Click here to access DVD holdings from the TV series.

See also:

Remembering the Toronto Professional Hockey Club: December 28: Snapshots in History