seattle’s first pick (1915 edition)

First To The Stripes: Seattle’s original Met, Bobby Rowe. ((David Eskenazi Collection)

“We wanted players with character,” Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis told the TV audience. “We certainly wanted players that compete hard.” It was just past 5 p.m. in the west-coast afternoon yesterday as Francis prepared to disclose the (already leaked) rosterful of players with which the NHL’s newest team makes its way toward a fall debut as the league’s 32nd team. The first name to be announced in this latest NHL Expansion Draft was that of Jeremy Lauzon, the 24-year-old defenceman from Val-d’Or, Quebec, who was last seen plying pucks and d-zone coverage for the Boston Bruins. 

It’s been a two-and-a-half-year road that Seattle’s new team has followed to this point: since, that is, the NHL granted the city its franchise in December of 2018. It’s not Seattle’s first foray into big-league hockey, of course: the Metropolitans were a thriving concern in the pre-NHL years of the old Pacific Coast Hockey Association during and beyond the tumultuous years of the First World War. They even contrived to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, just two years after they’d launched, becoming the first U.S. team to claim hockey’s most coveted trophy.

The panjandrums behind the PCHA were the industrious Patrick brothers, Lester and Frank, and they were thinking of a Seattle team right from the start. The hitch, in 1912: Seattle didn’t yet have a rink to skate in. It was 1915 before that was rectified, and that March, Frank Patrick, the PCHA president, announced that the city would be joining Vancouver (Millionaires), Victoria (Aristocrats), and Portland, Oregon, (Rosebuds) in hosting teams for the upcoming season. 

That was scheduled to start in early December. By November, the new team, which was owned by the Patricks, had a coach in Pete Muldoon; a name, Metropolitans, borrowed from the company that built the Seattle Ice Arena; and uniforms. “If he has nothing else,” the Victoria Daily Times reported, quoting Muldoon, “he has the loudest uniforms in the circuit. They are light green, crimson, and white, with sox to match. It is a striped affair.”

The first player to sign on? Therein lies a tale we might tell here. 1915 was the year that competition between the PCHA and the eastern NHA burst into all-out chequebook war. As Craig Bowlsby smartly details in his definitive history Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the PCHA, 1911-26 (2012), the hostilities would end up defining the identity and fortunes of Seattle’s team on its road to the Stanley Cup championship of 1917. In 1915, it translated into the Mets raiding the roster of the 1914 Cup champions, Toronto’s NHA Blueshirts, to poach the talented likes of Frank Foyston and Jack Walker along with goaltender Hap Holmes and the ruthless defenceman Cully Wilson.

But before any of them inked a Seattle contract, Frank Patrick did some wheeling and dealing with … himself. Just 29, he was still playing in 1914-15, working the defence for another team he owned, the Vancouver Millionaires, and helping them claim the 1915 Stanley Cup. To help Seattle find its feet, he decided to cede Vancouver’s rookie sensation to the expansion team, right winger Barney Stanley. Just 22, Stanley, a son of Paisley, in Ontario’s southwestern Bruce County, had made a distinct impression in Vancouver’s championship run, scoring six goals in the team’s three-game sweep of the NHA Ottawa Senators, including four in the deciding game. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963, he would subsequently star with the WCHL’s Calgary Tigers and Edmonton Eskimos. He played a single game in the NHL, for the Chicago Black Hawks, a team he also coached, briefly and unsuccessfully, in 1927-28.  

So Barney Stanley was the first Seattle Met. Except that, well, he never played a game for the team. Back in the Pacific-coast pre-season of 1915, the war of the contracts saw Frank Patrick’s Millionaires lose one of their biggest stars, centreman Frank Nighbor, whom the Ottawa Senators were able to lure back east. When that happened, Patrick revoked his generosity and cancelled the Stanley-to-Seattle deal, clawing him back for service in Vancouver. 

Next up, for Seattle, was another right winger, Bobby Rowe. A son of the hamlet of Heathcote, Ontario, south of Collingwood, he was 30 in 1915, a veteran (former teammate) of the Patrick brothers on the NHA’s Renfrew Creamery Kings. He was described in his day as “exceedingly fast” (1911) and a “wonderful hockeyist” who practiced “a clever, hard-working game at all times” (also ’13). Rowe had skated in four seasons, subsequently, for Lester Patrick’s PCHA team in Victoria, the Aristocrats, when the Patricks decided that he’d best be bound for Seattle.

Rowe spent the summer of 1915 working on a Prairie farm, arriving in Victoria ready to skate at the start of November. “Rowe had a good year harvesting,” the local Daily Times duly reported, “working 50 odd days, and could have stayed until close to Christmas had he cared to. Upon his arrival … he was informed of his transfer to the Seattle Ice Hockey team, and immediately signed a contract.”

Muldoon added Foyston, Walker, Wilson and Holmes later that same week, along defencemen Roy Rickey and Eddie Carpenter; later in the month, he’d snag another Victoria Aristocrat, scoring sensation, Bernie Morris. As mentioned, all of these players (and Muldoon, too) would figure in Seattle’s 1917 historic Stanley Cup championship.

Though maybe let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, in the past. 

Before all that, on the Tuesday night of December 7, 1915, Seattle played its very first major-league, beating the Victoria Aristocrats at the Seattle Ice Arena by a score of 3-2. That old rink is no more, but it was situated near the present-day Seattle Public Library, about 2.4 kilometres southeast of the Climate Pledge Arena where the Kraken will be playing their games. 

“A strenuous game throughout,” is what the correspondent from Victoria’s Daily Times saw that night in 1915. “It was the introduction of the premier Canadian winter sport to the Seattle public, and it took well. Some 2,500 persons were seated in the new structure, and nine-tenth [sic] of this number had never seen the game before. But the game had only been in progress a few minutes when they were up in their seats yelling advice to the home players.”

Bernie Morris scored the deciding goal for Seattle in the third; Victoria’s Albert Kerr and Seattle’s Cully Wilson were ejected from the game by referee Mickey Ion that same frame for what the Times classified as “rough work.” 

That leaves just one more detail from night to be added. In the interest of restoring a lost fragment of hockey history to the game’s annals (a specialty of the house, here, along with all manner of icy obscurities), could we note the presence on the ice of a player who seems to have been all but effaced from the records, threadbare as they may be when it comes to the PCHA? 

I’m thinking here of Leo Haas, a centreman, who was 24 in 1915. He was from Houghton, Michigan, which is where he learned his hockey, playing for his high-school team and, later, turning heads for the Portage Lake team that won a state championship. “He can handle the stick with the best men yet seen here,” the Calumet News reported in 1913, “while his skating and combination play are excellent.”

It’s not clear how Pete Muldoon got wind of him, but early that November in 1915 west-coast newspapers were reporting that Haas had been summoned for service with the fledgling Mets. With no pro experience, he seems to have been on trial, which apparently didn’t work out so well: by mid-December, Muldoon had released him. Beyond that, the trail of his hockey career goes cold.

Still, Haas’ short stay with Seattle isn’t without distinction. He did play in that inaugural Seattle game on December 7, 1915, taking the ice as the Mets’ lone substitute in the second period after Jack Walker hurt his ankle while scoring Seattle’s second goal. And he was back in the line-up for Seattle’s next game, too, in Victoria, on December 10.

That would make Haas the very first American born and trained player in Seattle’s major-league hockey history. His Mets teammate Ed Carpenter, it’s true, was another Michigander, from Hartford, but his family had moved to Lachute when he was just young, so he learned his hockey in Quebec. 

Not Quite A Met: Barney Stanley in Vancouver Millionaires garb, in a print from c. 1919 doctored by an editor for newspaper publication. (Image: Stuart Thomson, Vancouver Public Library)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.