Saddened to hear of Tony Esposito’s death today at the age of 78; the Chicago Blackhawks announced the news, here, this afternoon.
“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.
Hall-of-Fame defenceman Herb Gardiner arrived in the NHL as a 35-year-old in 1926, joining the Montreal Canadiens after a sterling run with the Calgary Tigers of the old WCHL/WHL. Born in Winnipeg on a Tuesday of this date in 1891, Gardiner made an immediate impact, winning the Hart Trophy that year as the NHL’s MVP. That puts him in august company: he and Wayne Gretzky are the only players in NHL history to secure the Hart in their first year in the league. Gardiner played parts of three seasons with Montreal, and had a short (if not too successful) stint as the playing-coach of the Chicago Black Hawks.
Sad to see the news this morning that Bob Nevin has died at the age of 82. Born in 1938 in South Porcupine, Ontario, Nevin made his NHL debut in 1960 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A right winger, he finished second in voting for the league’s top rookie, trailing teammate Dave Keon when the ballots for the Calder Trophy were tallied. Nevin won a pair of Stanley Cups with Toronto, in 1962 and ’63. In early 1964, a trade took him to New York when the Leafs swapped him (along with Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown, Dick Duff, and Bill Collins) for Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney. He succeeded Camille Henry as captain of the Rangers in 1965, serving six years in the role before another trade sent him to the Minnesota North Stars. Nevin went on to skate for the Los Angeles Kings and spent a final year, 1976-77, with the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers.
How to solve a problem like the Ottawa Senators? A hundred years ago, as the NHL headed into its third season, a helpful fan of the city’s original Sens thought he’d share his blueprint by way of his local newspaper. The he is a guess, based on this is 1919 we’re talking about and, also, because men.
Some notes for the margins: the league was a four-team affair that year, with a 24-game schedule that faced-off late in December. Pete Green was Ottawa’s new coach for 1919-20, insofar as this was his first season steering in the team in the young league: in the team’s pre-NHL days, he’d been involved with seven Stanley Cup-winning teams as trainer and coach going back to 1903.
Jack Darragh, a winger who’d end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, had been playing for Ottawa since 1910, but now, at 29, he was negotiating a new contract by talking about retiring. He signed just before the season got underway. Darragh, who played all but one game that season, at home and away, finished fifth in NHL scoring.
The Senators were in the market for another defenceman: by mid-December, Coach Green was looking to add a man on the line to aid captain Eddie Gerard and Sprague Cleghorn. He didn’t, in the end, electing to move a forward back to help out, Georges Boucher.
I can’t speak to the state of the roof at Dey’s Arena, which stood on what is today Laurier Avenue on the site of Confederation Park. I can report that in April of 1920, the Senators did win their first NHL Stanley Cup beneath it, defeating the PCHL’s Seattle Metropolitans in five games. Jack Darragh decided it in the last of those: his game-winning goal was one of three he scored in a 6-1 Senators’ romp. I don’t have good information on whether or not his pants had been recently laundered.
The fundraising effort to support the victims and families of those involved in Friday’s crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan continues. You can find it, and donate, here:
A vigil is planned for tonight at Humboldt’s Elgar Petersen Arena. Fourteen people were injured in the accident. Players and coaches; a broadcaster; a busdriver; a statistician, the 15 who died are:
This week in 1967, Toronto’s aged Leafs beat the Chicago Black Hawks to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for a showdown with the Montreal Canadiens. Chicago coach Billy Reay wasn’t happy in defeat, but he summoned up some grudging grace. “I’m a little one-sided,” he said, “so I think the best team lost. But Sawchuk stoned us and they outplayed us up the centre. I thought Davey Keon played terrific — on his regular shifts, killing penalties, and on the power play.”
Terry Sawchuk, pictured here in January of that last Leafly championship year, was 37. “He was,” the estimable Trent Frayne would recall, “the most acrobatic goaltender of his time. He didn’t move so much as he exploded into a desperate release of energy — down the glove, up the arm, over the stick, up the leg pad. He sometimes seemed a human pinwheel. He played the whole game in pent-up tension, shouting at his teammates, crouching, straightening, diving, scrambling, his pale face drawn and tense.”
(Image: Frank Prazak, Library and Archives Canada)
Don Cherry tweeted an emergency public health warning one afternoon from flu-ridden Toronto: “If symptoms present themselves, do others a favour, stay home and avoid spreading the bug.”
In an e-mail to Adrian Dater of The Denver Post, Ryan O’Reilly’s dad said, “Ryan is not a superstar based on skill but character. I know this for a fact the player he was yesterday will not be the player he was tomorrow he will continue to grow learn and thrive. The world values it less and less, yet everyone is looking for those players that eat sleep and drink the game and are unselfish plus compete because they are intrinsically motivated for excellence. This is another trait humankind is slowly losing!”
Something else he said, Brian O’Reilly, a life coach, was this: “Character, compete level, dedication, the love of the game, is what are the building blocks for dynasties. That is a long-term picture but it has to be always the short-term value. Character has to win out over skill that is why it takes a lot of skilled players a lot of losses to understand the character element of the game.”
Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson talked about Matt Cooke from Pittsburgh, the guy who cut his Achilles tendon with an ill-placed skate: “I received a text, didn’t think too much of it. Didn’t reply. Don’t think that we have anything to say to each other.”
Sorry: Mr. O’Reilly wasn’t quite finished. “Quality of character is really hard to describe but you recognize it instantly in someone’s behavior,” he said. “Each one of us has to decide the value of their own character and the character of others by how they treat you.
“It’s as simple as that! The Colorado Avalanche I believe have treated Ryan fairly. He had three wonderful years with them. Where we go from here will be a matter of character.”
Is it possible to mutter on Twitter? @Ryan_OReilly90 definitely seemed to be muttering when he found out what his dad had done, tweeting: “I had no idea of my dads letter to the Denver post. It’s tough situation I apologize to anyone bothered by this. Hopefully its over soon.”
On Sunday, like everybody else, hockey watched the Oscars.
“Daniel Day Lewis just killing this acceptance speech,” Edmonton’s Sam Gagner tweeted.
Montreal winger Brandon Prust: “Quentin Tarantino is a beauty lol”
“Argo cleaning up,” Gagner updated. “Very well deserved. Great flick.” Continue reading
“Toronto’s MVP is Lupul: Most Valuable Palindrome.”
∂ James Duthie, TSN, October 20, 2011