Saturday, November 26, 2011
In 1925, the NHL Board of Governors announced a salary cap of $35,000 per team for the upcoming season, with the exception of the two new expansion clubs, the New York Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were allowed to spend $45,000 for their first two seasons.
In 1925, with noted NHL adversary Eddie Livingstone attempting to form a rival league and looking to put a franchise in Pittsburgh, Frank Calder moved to put an NHL club in the Steel City to thwart Livingstone's plan. The new franchise was named the Pirates, taking their name directly from the city's major league baseball club.
The nucleus of the Pirates came from the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, the previous team in Pittsburgh which had just folded due to financial difficulties as well as the collapse of it's amateur league. Joining the Pirates from the Yellow Jackets would be future Hockey Hall of Famers Lionel Conacher and goaltender Roy Worters, who was noteworthy for standing but 5' 3".
The 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates with the easy to spot Roy Worters
The Pirates played their first game on this date in 1925 on Thanksgiving night when they defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 in Boston. With defenseman and team captain Conacher scoring the first Pirates goal. Winger Harold Darragh added the game winning goal with Worters getting the win in goal.
Their first home game came on December 2nd in front of 8,200 fans in their sold out arena, the aging Duquesne Gardens. The Pirates would play a 36 game schedule and finish with a 19-16-1 record, which was surprisingly good for the first year club and placed them third out of the seven teams. The Pirates qualified for the playoffs and were defeated by the Montreal Maroons in a two-game, total-goals series 6-4. Hib Milks, a former Yellow Jacket, led the club in scoring with 14 goals and 5 assists for 19 points.
The 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates
For the 1926-27 season, the NHL expanded to ten clubs and the Pirates were placed in the American Division and embarked on a now 44 game schedule. They did not fare as well this time, missing out on the playoffs after finishing with a 15-26-3 record. Milks again led the club in points with 22 coming from 16 goals and 6 assists.
The team qualified for the postseason in 1927-28 after going 19-17-8 but were eliminated in the first round by the New York Rangers 6 goals to 4. Milks again took home the scoring honors with 18 goals and 3 assists for 21 points. This was to be Worters final season with the Pirates, having played in 123 of the Pirates 124 games to date.
The club's original owner James F. Callahan was forced to sell the club due to financial problema and the other noteworthy change for Pittsburgh was after three seasons in the same sweaters, the Pirates debuted a new multi-striped style for 1928-29, but suffered a poor season on the ice, finishing with just 9 wins to go with 27 losses and 8 ties to miss out on the playoffs. Darragh and Milks tied for the team scoring lead, but with only 12 points apiece, both scoring 9 times with 3 assists.
The 1928-29 Pittsburgh Pirates
Player coach Odie Cleghorn left the team after the previous season and their sweaters underwent a radical change for 1929-30, changing from gold and black to orange and black in an unconventional diagonally divided design.
The new Pirates sweaters for 1929-30
The stock market crash and Great Depression put the new owners in financial difficulties, which forced them to sell off their best players to try to make ends meet, which had the expected results on the ice for an already poor team. Darragh led the team in scoring that season with 32 points from 15 goals and 17 assists, with the rise in scoring coming from a new rule change which allowed forward passing in the offensive zone for the first time. The Pirates struggled through the season with a dismal 5 wins, 36 losses and 3 ties t finish a distant last in the league, $400,000 in debt and playing in a too small and too old arena.
The 1929-30 Pittsburgh Pirates
The plan for 1930-31 was to relocate the team across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia while a replacement arena was constructed in Pittsburgh and move the team back when it was completed. That plan never came to fruition, and after a dismal season in Philadelphia as the Quakers, (an even worse 4-36-4 record) the team ceased operations while it sought a solution to it's arena issues. When no new arena was made to happen, the Pittsburgh franchise was surrendered in 1936, formally bringing to an end the the club which had not seen the ice in five years.
Today's featured jersey is a 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates Lionel Conacher jersey. The Pirates chose black and gold based on the colors of the City of Pittsburgh flag, and were the first team from the city to adopt those colors, as the Pirates baseball club was still wearing red, white and blue and would not change to black and gold until 1948 and the Pittsburgh entry of the National Football League would not arrive on the scene until 1933.
Conacher was an incredible multi-sport athlete who not only competed, but won championships in football, baseball, wrestling, boxing and lacrosse as well as hockey, where he won both the Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup. He retired from sport in 1937 to enter the world of politics and was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame!
He played for and captained the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets following his time in Canadian senior hockey where he won back to back USAHA championships. He turned professional with the arrival of the Pirates and their entry into the NHL. He was later traded to the New York Americans. He then moved to the Montreal Maroons and later the Chicago Black Hawks, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1934 before rejoining the Maroons and winning a second cup in 1935 before his retirement in 1937.
Today's video selection is a look at early hockey history in Pittsburgh, which includes the transformation of the Yellow Jackets into the Pirates of the NHL.