Canadiens owner and coach George Kennedy was (and I quote) tickled as a schoolboy. That’s what the Montreal Gazette reported after an epic Stanley Cup finals win for his team on a Saturday of this same date 103 years ago. “I always claimed I had a game team,” Kennedy effused in the aftermath, “and the boys certainly proved it last night. I expect them to win the championship now.”
This was the fifth game of the infamous 1919 championship series, in which the NHL Canadiens were in Seattle to take on the PCHA’s powerhouse Metropolitans. Going into the game on March 29, Seattle was up two games to one, with the teams having tied (and set aside) another game.
After falling behind by three goals, Montreal had bustled back to score four in a row in the third period, setting up an overtime that veteran Canadiens winger Jack McDonald settled by scoring Montreal’s winning goal.
For all of George Kennedy’s optimism, the local Mets were generally thought to have the upper hand going into the deciding game, which was scheduled for Tuesday, April 1, given that it would be played under west-coast rules.
It wasn’t to be, of course. With players and officials from both teams suffering from symptoms of Spanish flu, the deciding game was abandoned. Kennedy actually declared that Montreal was forfeiting the game, which would have meant a Seattle win, but Mets coach Pete Muldoon refused to accept it. Kennedy’s suggestion that Montreal borrow players from the PCHA’s Victoria team went nowhere. For the first time since the Stanley Cup’s inception in 1893, no winner was declared.
On Saturday, April 5, a week after the teams had skated in that last game, 37-year-old Montreal defenceman Joe Hall died of the pneumonia he’d developed after contracting the flu. He was buried three days later in Vancouver.
Jack McDonald, who was 32 in 1919, had been a teammate of Hall’s with the Stanley-Cup-winning 1912 Quebec Hockey Club. McDonald was ill that spring in Seattle, too, though he and the rest of the hockey players survived. He would have known how fortunate he was: in early March of 1919, he’d earned that flu had killed a brother of his, Emmett, in Siberia, where he’d been serving as a bombardier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.