Naturally, one of the features of the Canadiens history website we refer to from time to time is the "Jerseys and Logos" section, which begins back in 1909 with the birth of the franchise, and not just the start of the National Hockey League, which did not arrive until 1917, by which time the Canadiens had supposedly worn eight different sweaters.
One point to clarify before continuing, there were so few teams in the early days of hockey that teams did not wear separate home and road sweaters, as each club had but a single sweater style different enough from the other clubs and they wore them for all games, both home and road. From 1917-18 to 1926-27, each NHL club had a single style for all games and it wasn't until the league expanded from it's original four franchises to ten that teams doubled up on colors that the Toronto Maple Leafs began to wear a plain white sweater with their blue maple leaf logo in games against the upstart New York Rangers in 1927-28 who also now were wearing blue.
For the 1911-12 season in question, the NHA was comprised of four member clubs, the Quebec Bulldogs (white jerseys with blue bands), Ottawa and their barberpoles, the Montreal Wanderers (white jerseys with a red band) and the Canadiens also with their barberpoles. Research shows Montreal meeting Ottawa for the first time on January 4, 1913 (a 7-3 Ottawa win) and again on January 18th, a 6-0 win for Montreal, which would have likely been the game to generate complaints of confusion by the Senators, looking for an explanation for their lopsided loss.
If our assumption is true, this would have necessitated the Canadiens wearing their new change jerseys, the Canadiens first ever with a blue band across a red sweater, on February 1st, a 2-1 win for Ottawa. The clubs would meet again on February 15th for the final time that season, making the alternate sweater having been worn perhaps just twice, no more than three times had Ottawa complained following their original meeting back in early January when the Senators dominated.
Still, we have managed to find photographic evidence of the Canadiens alternate 1912-13 sweater, a studio portrait of Alphonse Jettè, a defenseman for Montreal from 1911 to 1915. While there are not many photos of Jettè online, there is a large one which clearly shows the red change sweater worn during clashes with the Senators with a single color, rounded "C" logo on the front.
Additionally, we have found a photo online of an original Montreal Canadiens 1912-13 alternate worn by Hyacinthe Guévermont on display at the Canadiens own Hall of Fame at the Bell Centre in the "Century of Greatness" exhibit.
With evidence of the exceedingly rare 1912-13 sweater confirmed, this now brings us to our point of contention - the Montreal Canadiens white 1911-12 sweater.
As shown above, the white sweater is depicted with blue and red stripes around the cuffs and waist, but also with a bold diagonal sash of the blue and red stripes from the upper right shoulder sweeping down to the lower left waist, topped off with an old English "C" logo on the upper left chest, for which we can find no evidence of. There appears to have been no team photos, nor any apparent action shots of The Habs from the 1911-12 National Hockey Association season, which technically did not begin until January 3, 1912.
The Canadiens played in 18 games that campaign, but we had yet to find any evidence of a white jersey with a diagonal sash of any kind, the only suggestion of it being the illustration on the Canadiens web site. The Canadiens jersey history poster shown below indicates the barberpole sweater immediately followed the red 1910-11 sweater for the 1911-12 season, with no time for the white sash sweater to appear in between as the primary sweater for a full season. The defunct HockeySweaterMuseum.com website also has no documentation of a white sweater between the two well known styles. There are no team composites of portraits, which were popular in the day, no hockey cards we know of which picture the Canadiens from the 1911-12 season - nothing to confirm exactly what the Canadiens wore that season that we can find.
The C56 (1910-11) hockey cards show the original Canadiens blue sweaters, which pre-date the 1911-12 season, and the 1910-11 Sweet Caporal postcards and both the C55 (1911) and C57 (1912-13) hockey cards all depict the green maple leaf Canadiens sweaters of 1910-11, even though one would expect the 1912-13 cards to show the previous 1911-12 season in question.
A Google image search of the entire 1911-12 roster, one player at a time, reveals not one image of any player, particularly star players Jack Laviolette, Didier Pitre or Georges Vezina in a white Canadiens sweater with a diagonal sash despite numerous photos of their inaugural 1909-10 "C", 1910-11 "maple leaf" and 1912-13 "barberpole" jerseys available online.
A Google image search of the illustration from the Canadiens website of the 1911-12 sash jersey, using both the url method and uploading the image method, returns nothing more than copies of the exact same illustration. Not one other variation of the illustration, or especially any photographic confirmation, of the sash jersey was found.
A single photo of a lone player, Hector Dallaire, again appears on the Canadiens own history site.
But there is clearly no sash evident in this photo!
So we must question the illustration of the sash jersey on two fronts.
First, if the photo of Dallaire is the one and only photo of the 1911-12 Montreal Canadiens sweater, there is clearly no sash as part of the design and the Canadiens illustration is incorrect. This photo plainly documents that there is only the striping on the neck, which is not indicated in the illustration, and the waist. The stripes on the cuffs of the sleeves cannot be confirmed due to Dallaire's gloves covering his wrists for this portrait.
Second, is this in fact, a Montreal Canadiens sweater at all?
While the old English "C" matches precisely that worn in the center of the leaf from the season before, the apparent #7 on the sleeve causes confusion, since the Canadiens history site lists Dallaire as having worn both #8 and #9 during his four seasons with the club, but not #7. Was perhaps this from Dallaire playing for a different team?
If it truly is a 1911-12 Canadiens sweater, why isn't there a single photo of a single one of Dallaire's teammates, especially star players such as Laviolette, Pitre or Vezina, whose popularity would have dictated at least one of the three being photographed at least once over the course of an entire 18 game season in some manner, be it in the studio for a portrait such as the one above, a team photo or even in action? Where are the rest of the shots from the photo session when Dallaire's picture was taken? It just doesn't add up.
Dallaire has been described as "a part time player", having played 13 games out of 16 games in 1910-11, 12 games out of 18 in the 1911-12 season in question and but a single game in 1912-13 and 5 final ones in 1913-14, just 31 in all, so perhaps this is a sweater given to the players to wear, but not for use as a game uniform, such as these Renfew Creamery Kings sweaters, admittedly of a heavier weight and with buttons.
Perhaps Dallaire's sweater is even from a team in the Montreal City Hockey League during the same time period he could have skated for while not with the Canadiens as a full time player, either the Montreal Astor-Canadians or the Montreal Champetre, and attributed as a Canadiens sweater.
Another pair of suggestions: Perhaps the Canadiens wore their 1910-11 red sweaters with the green maple leaf and this jersey, with it's matching old english "C", was used as an alternate during either 1910-11 against the red clad Creamery Kings, also known as the "Millionaires".
Or, the barberpoles actually debuted for the 1911-12 season as several have listed, and not 1912-13, and this white sweater was worn against Ottawa once before the red alternate sweater with the blue band debuted at a later game. As Charles L. Coleman has it on page 813 of "Trail of the Stanley Cup" Vol. 1, the red maple leaf sweater was worn in 1910-11 immediately followed by the barberpole sweaters in 1911-12 with no additional style worn in between the two. Similar to the Hockey Sweater Museum, Coleman does not show the white style having existed in between the red maple leaf and barberpole sweaters, making the white sweater perhaps a scarcely documented alternate or not even a Canadiens game sweater at all, as we theorized.
Regardless, if this white sweater with the "C" crest was worn by the Canadiens for all or part of the 1911-12 season, we feel certain that the illustration found online incorrectly depicts it as having a diagonal sash as indicated on the Canadiens history site, which was likely a modern interpretation of this newspaper cartoon of the team published back in 1912.
We suggest, based on the lack of any photographic proof to date, and the photo of Dallaire's white sweater without any sash, that the illustrator took creative liberties when making this drawing, either due to a faulty memory of the actual sweater or just simply wanting to make his illustration more visually interesting regardless of the actual design of any sweaters worn by the Canadiens.
If any historians, savvy internet searchers or owners of any hockey history books which may have some vintage photos which are not accessible online can shed any light on the sweaters worn by the Canadiens during the 1911-12 season, we'd sure like to have our theories proved or disproved in an effort to set the record straight.