Sunday, January 1, 2017

The 2017 NHL Centennial Classic - 1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes Jersey

The NHL Centennial Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings will be held outdoors today at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, the first NHL outdoor game ever held in Toronto.

Centennial Classic logo

The game will serve as a celebration of the centennial season of the Maple Leafs and the beginning of the NHL's centennial year.

NHL 100

This will be the second of four outdoor NHL games this season, with the Heritage Classic having been played back in October between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, the Winter Classic following tomorrow when the St. Louis Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks and a Stadium Series game in late February when the Philadelphia Flyers meet the Pittsburgh Penguins.


This will be the second time the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings have met outdoors, having previously met in the 2014 Winter Classic in Michigan, which was won by the Maple Leafs in a shootout 3-2 in front of an NHL record 105,491 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Detroit and Toronto met outdoors during the 2014 NHL Winter Classic

The Maple Leafs franchise originated in 1917 when the members of the National Hockey Association disbanded their league and reformed a week later as the National Hockey League in order to rid themselves of contentious fellow owner Eddie Livingstone.

Eddie Livingstone photo Eddie Livingstone.jpg
The controversial Eddie Livingstone

Prior to the 1915-16 season, Livingstone, who already owned the Toronto Shamrocks club, purchased the Toronto Blueshirts, giving him both Toronto NHA franchises - and an unwelcome two votes in league matters. When Frank Patrick and Lester Patrick, owners of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA) Seattle Metropolitans raided the Blueshirts roster, Livingstone transferred the Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts.

The league demanded that Livingstone sell the Shamrocks, not wanting one owner having two votes on league matters. Due to the small size of the NHA, this gave Livingstone a substantial amount of power with 33% of the votes, a situation made worse by his poor relationships with his fellow owners, primarily Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers, with whom he often butted heads with. At one point, Lichtenhein even offered Livingstone $3,000 to abandon his team and walk away, but the cheeky Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer for Lichtenhein to do the same!

When there was nothing left of the Shamrocks for Livingstone to sell, since the club no longer had any players, the league seized the Shamrocks franchise from Livingstone a week later. It also angered the other owners that they were now a five team league, forcing one club to be idle each week and meaning road trips to Toronto would now be for just one game against the Blueshirts instead of the more economical two games versus both the Blueshirts and the Shamrocks, as in the past.

In 1916-17, the 228th Battalion of the Canadian Army formed a team, taking the place of the Shamrocks, making the NHA a six team league once again. Unfortunately, the 228th received their orders to head overseas to join the fighting in World War I and had to withdraw from the league during the season. This gave the other four owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators the opening they needed. A meeting was held without Livingstone and they voted to suspend his remaining Blueshirts franchise with the excuse of wanting to keep the league with an even number of teams.

 photo 1917-18 228th Battalion Team.jpg
A rare shot of the 228th Battalion Hockey Team

Livingstone field suit against the league as a result. The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens, were then given three weeks to separate itself from Livingstone by the NHA or the other owners would operate without a club in Toronto and thus the arena would lose its tenant. The feisty Livingstone, of course, refused to sell his club, and therefore, at their annual meeting in November, the NHA announced it was suspending league operations due to the difficulty of running a five team league and also blaming player shortages due to World War I.

 photo Mutual_Street_Arena_interior.jpg
The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens

A week later, all of the owners, minus Livingstone, announced they had formed a brand new league, the National Hockey League (NHL). The "new" league consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. The new league also claimed to have retained the contracts of the suspended Toronto Blueshirts players!

With the Quebec Bulldogs suspending operations due to financial difficulties before the new NHL could even begin the 1917-18 season, the Arena Gardens were awarded a temporary NHL franchise, managed by Charlie Querrie, making the fledgling NHL a four team league once again. The league also assigned the Blueshirts players on a lease basis to the temporary Toronto franchise. To further complicate matters, many of the players had signed contracts with both Livingstone and the Arena.

The Canadiens would win the first half of the inaugural 1917-18 NHL season to earn a spot in the postseason championship playoff, while the Wanderers would cease operations following the fire that burned down their home, the Montreal Arena.

Montreal Arena fire, Montreal Arena fire
The Montreal Arena Fire aftermath

The Toronto club had no official nickname, but the "Blueshirts" were successful on the ice, winning the second half of the season schedule, earning the right to play the Canadiens for the championship. Toronto was led by Reg Noble, who scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 20 games for 40 points, third overall in the league behind the prolific Joe Malone of the Canadiens who scored a spectacular 44 goals in just 20 games as part of his league leading point total. Corbett Denneny and Harry Cameron also were standouts for Toronto, with 29 and 27 points respectively, for fifth and sixth in league scoring. Toronto's Harry "Hap" Holmes came in second to Georges Vezina of Montreal in the goaltending department with a goals against average of 4.80 in 16 games.

Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship in a two game, total goals series 10-7, capturing the O'Brien Cup. Toronto then faced off against the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA and won the Stanley Cup by 3 games to 2, causing Livingstone to again head to court to file suit for the revenue earned by "his" championship squad of players.

The 1917-18 Stanley Cup champion Toronto "Blueshirts"

As a result of this lawsuit, the Arena Gardens formed a new company, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company, to own and run a hockey team separate from the Arena Gardens business in order to protect the Arena business from Livingstone's lawsuits.

The NHL then awarded a "new" franchise to the Hockey Club Company. This club was officially named the Toronto Arenas and, not surprisingly, was stocked with the same players from the 1918 championship team. When his players were again not returned to him for the 1918-19 season, Livingstone sued the Arena Gardens.

Once more, the players were uncertain who would prevail in the courts and covered their bases by signing contracts with both the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company and Livingstone.

Livingstone did prevail in the courts sometimes, but not always. Two rulings in his favor of $20,000 and later $100,000 sent the Arena Gardens into bankruptcy. Despite the company's legal wranglings at the time, the arena would continue to operate for 77 years until closing in 1989.

When the Toronto Arenas did take to the ice in the 1918-19 season as Stanley Cup Champions, they did not play like it. Forced to sell most of their star players due to mounting legal bills, the Arenas record for the season was 5 wins and 13 losses, attendance was low and several players left the team. Finally, the team wrote to the league requesting that the season be ended when each of the three clubs had reached 18 games played and then officially withdrew from the league.

Meanwhile, Livingstone was busy was attempting to overthrow the NHA management. He purchased the dormant Quebec Bulldogs franchise and began an unsuccessful attempt to start a rival league, the Canadian Hockey Association, and threatened to file an injunction to stop the NHL from operating. He also made unsuccessful attempts to start new leagues in 1920, 1924 and 1926, none of which ever played a single game.

Finally, in December of 1919, the Toronto Arenas franchise was sold to the St. Patricks Hockey Club of Toronto, who ran the successful senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey League. Conveniently, the St. Patricks four-man ownership group included Arenas team manager Querrie.

The new owners renamed the club the Toronto St. Patricks and changed the team's color from blue to green. The $5,000 sale price that was supposed to go to Livingstone to settle the purchase of his NHA club, for which he had once demanded $20,000 after they won the 1918 Stanley Cup. However, Livingstone never received the money, which many believe was kept by NHL president Frank Calder.

Toronto St Pats 1921-22
1921-22 Stanley Cup champion Toronto St. Pats

The Toronto St. Patricks won the Stanley Cup once in 1922 and were members of the NHL through the 1926-27 season, when Querrie, having been sued by none other than his old nemisis Livingstone, was forced to sell the St. Patricks. He reached an agreement in 1927 to sell the club to Conn Smythe, who renamed the club the Toronto Maple Leafs and constructed Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931. The club immediately won the Stanley Cup at the end of their very first season in their new home, defeating the New York Rangers in three straight.

1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs
The 1932 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs would win five NHL titles in the 1940s, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949. After winning again in 1951, they would have to wait a decade before reeling off three in a row in 1962, 1963 and 1964, with their 13th and most recent coming in 1967.

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes jersey as worn during the inaugural season of the Toronto franchise of the NHL. Their jerseys would change for the second season with the addition of white stripes around the arms and the word "Arenas" across the front, bisected by the large T crest from the previous season.

Holmes would win the Stanley Cup four different times, and with four different teams. He first joined Livingstone's Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA in 1912, winning the cup with them in 1914. He joined the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA in 1915 and won a second cup with Seattle in 1917.

In his only season with the Toronto Blueshirts, he would win his third Stanley Cup before returning to Seattle the following season. After the Metropolitans folded four seasons later, Holmes would join the WCHL's Victoria Cougars in 1924 and go on to win his fourth Stanley Cup, the last cup won by a non-NHL team.

After one more season in Victoria, the entire WCHL folded and the Victoria Cougars players were sold to the new Detroit NHL franchise, which took the name the Cougars as a tribute to the Victoria club before eventually becoming the Red Wings. Holmes would play his final two seasons in Detroit and conclude his career with 408 games played, 198 wins, 40 of which were shutouts, 192 losses and 14 ties.

Holmes was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and the American Hockey League award for the top goaltender each season is named the Hap Holmes Memorial Award.

Bonus jerseys: Today's first bonus jersey is a Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 Centennial Classic Auston Matthews jersey. This jersey features the new Maple Leafs logo, which is a modern update of their logo used from 1938 until 1967.

The use of silver trim on the jersey is in recognition of both the team and the NHL's Centennial season, while the white band around the jersey was inspired by jerseys worn by the St. Patricks during the 1926-27 season. 

 Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 Centennial Classic jersey

Today's second bonus jersey is a Detroit Red Wings 2017 Centennial Classic Henrik Zetterberg jersey. Like Toronto, the Red Wings jerseys also use silver to commemorate the league's 100th Anniversary. The normally white areas of the winged wheel crest, the trim around the numbers and the top stripe of the sleeves, which contains the 11 years that Detroit has won the Stanley Cup.

The use of four sleeve stripes is in recognition of the original Detroit Cougars, which used striped sleeves during the 1928-29 season before the club changed their name to the Detroit Falcons in 1930 before becoming the Red Wings in 1932.

 Detroit Red Wings 2017 Centennial Classic jersey

Today's video is about the 1932 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs, the first team to win the Stanely Cup after the franchise adopted the Maple Leafs name.

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