1917–18 NHL season

The 1917–18 NHL season was the first season of the National Hockey League (NHL). The league was formed after the suspension of the National Hockey Association (NHA). Play was held in two halves, December 19 to February 4, and February 6 to March 6. The Canadiens won the first half, and Toronto the second half. The Montreal Wanderers withdrew early in January 1918 after their rink, the Westmount Arena, burned down. Toronto won the NHL playoff and then won the Stanley Cup by defeating the PCHA's Vancouver Millionaires three games to two in a best-of-five series.

1917–18 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationDecember 19, 1917 – March 6, 1918
Number of games22
Number of teams4 (3)
Regular season
Season championsMontreal Canadiens
Top scorerJoe Malone (Canadiens)
  Runners-upMontreal Canadiens
NHL seasons

League businessEdit

In November 1917, the owners of the NHA, apparently unwilling to continue the league with Toronto NHA owner Eddie Livingstone, decided to suspend the NHA and form a new league, the NHL, without Livingstone.

On October 19, a meeting of the NHA board of directors was held. Livingstone did not attend, sending lawyer Eddie Barclay. Barclay was informed by the directors that Toronto would not play in the 1917–18 season due to the difficulty of operating a five-team league, both in scheduling and availability of players during wartime. Livingstone then publicly announced that he would set up an international circuit and raid the NHA players.[1]

On November 9, 1917, it was reported that the Toronto NHA franchise was sold to Charles Querrie of the Toronto Arena corporation. At this point, NHA president Robertson and secretary Frank Calder denied that the NHA would change, dissolve or adopt other subterfuge.[2] This sale never completed.

The November 10, 1917, annual meeting of the NHA was presided over by Calder, and attended by Martin Rosenthal and E.P Dey for Ottawa; Sam Lichtenheim for the Wanderers; George Kennedy for the Canadiens and M. J. Quinn and Charles Fremont for Quebec. At the meeting, Livingstone was represented by J. F. Boland, who stated that if the league operates that the Toronto franchise intended to be a full member. The NHA voted to suspend operations but not wind up the organization and meet in one year's time. According to the Globe, there was a movement to form a new four-team league of Toronto, Ottawa and the two Montreal teams.[3] The Toronto representative offered to allow the Arena Gardens to manage the Torontos and lease the players.[4]

There then followed a period of speculation in the newspapers as to whether Quebec would play in the new season and what would be the league organization. One name for the new league was speculated: the "National Professional Hockey League". If Quebec could play then the Toronto players would be dispersed; if Quebec could not play then the Toronto players would be loaned to a temporary Toronto franchise. Representatives of Ottawa, Quebec, and the Montreal teams met on November 22, 1917, but adjourned without a decision.[5]

On November 26, 1917, representatives of the Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal NHA clubs met at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. The decision to start a new league was finalized and announced. The decision was made to start a new league, the National Hockey League, with the following provisions:

  • Constitution and rules the same as the NHA
  • Frank Calder elected president and secretary
  • M. J. Quinn of Quebec was named honorary president
  • Franchises were granted to Ottawa, Canadiens, Wanderers,
  • Quebec players to be dispersed among the other teams

A Toronto franchise was to be operated 'temporarily' by the Arena Gardens while the Toronto ownership situation was resolved. The franchise used the players of the Blueshirts, including those who had been transferred to other NHA teams for the second half of the 1916–17 NHA season. While Livingstone agreed to a lease of the team, the NHL owners did not intend to share any revenues from the players. Livingstone would sue for the team's revenues in 1918. George Kennedy, owner of the Canadiens, would later say:

"The Toronto players belong as a body to the National Hockey League, for they were only loaned to the Toronto Arena Company, though Livingstone tried to make the Arena Company believe that he controlled those players"[6]

The team played without a nickname for the season.

According to Holzman,[7] the NHL itself was intended to operate temporarily until the Toronto NHA franchise was resolved. The NHA had a pending lawsuit against the 228th Battalion, and could or would not fold until after that was heard.

Quebec dispersal draftEdit

According to McFarlane, the owners of the Quebec franchise asked $200 per man selected; but the amount received by the franchise is not recorded. The Wanderers took four players, but overlooked great Joe Malone, who was picked up by the Canadiens, who also took Joe Hall. Odie Cleghorn and Sprague Cleghorn joined the Wanderers, but Sprague broke a leg and was sidelined.[8]

Rule changesEdit

On January 9, 1918, the league decided to allow goaltenders to drop to the ice surface in order to make saves. This was the first implemented and amended rule change in the National Hockey League. It was done in response to Ottawa's Clint Benedict constantly falling to make saves.[9] According to NHL president Frank Calder, "As far as I am concerned they can stand on their head(s)."[10]

Regular seasonEdit

The new league faced stiff competition for players from a number of other leagues including the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Also, filling rosters was a challenge because the talent pool was decimated by World War I.

The Wanderers were in trouble from the start of the season. They won their home opener but drew only 700 fans. The Wanderers then lost the next three games and owner Lichtenhein threatened to withdraw from the league unless he could get some players. Although they could have acquired Joe Malone in the draft, they turned to the PCHA and signed goaltender Hap Holmes. They also obtained permission to sign such players as Frank Foyston, Jack Walker and others if they could do so. The Wanderers loaned Holmes to the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA, but he eventually found his way back to the NHL when Seattle loaned him to Toronto.

Ruins of Montreal Arena

A league meeting was planned to deal with the situation, but on January 2, 1918, the matter was resolved when the Montreal Arena burned down, leaving the Canadiens and Wanderers homeless. The Canadiens moved into the 3,250 seat Jubilee Rink.[11] The Hamilton arena offered to provide a home for the Wanderers, but Lichtenhein disbanded the team on January 4, after the other clubs refused to give him any players. The remaining three teams would complete the season.

The last active player from the inaugural season was Reg Noble, who retired following the 1933 Stanley Cup playoffs.


The first game of the season, and in league history, featured the visiting Montreal Canadiens defeat the Ottawa Senators 7–4, with Joe Malone scoring five of Montreal's seven goals.[12] On the same night a game featured the unnamed Toronto team versus the Montreal Wanderers. Montreal's Dave Ritchie scored the first goal in NHL history and Harry Hyland had five goals (the league's first hat trick) in the Wanderers' 10–9 victory, which would be their only one in the NHL; Player-coach Art Ross earned the league's first penalty.[13] The game in Montreal was played in front of only 700 fans.[14]

On January 28, when the Canadiens visited Toronto, players Alf Skinner and Joe Hall got into a stick-swinging duel. Both players received match penalties, $15 fines and were arrested by the Toronto Police for disorderly conduct, for which they received suspended sentences.

In February, Ken Randall of Toronto was suspended pending payment of $35 in fines to the league. He brought $32 in paper money and 300 pennies. The pennies were refused. He tossed his bag of pennies onto the ice prior to the game against Ottawa, and one of the Ottawa players banged it with his stick, scattering the pennies around the ice. The game was delayed while the pennies were picked up.[14]

Final standingsEdit

First Half
GP W L T Pts Pts% GF GA
Montreal Canadiens 14 10 4 0 20 .714 81 47
Toronto Hockey Club 14 8 6 0 16 .571 71 75
Ottawa Senators 14 5 9 0 10 .357 67 79
Montreal Wanderers 6 1 5 0 2 .167 17 35
Second Half
GP W L T Pts Pts% GF GA
Toronto Hockey Club 8 5 3 0 10 .625 37 34
Ottawa Senators 8 4 4 0 8 .500 35 35
Montreal Canadiens 8 3 5 0 6 .375 34 37

Note: GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Allowed

Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold

The Wanderers defaulted scheduled games against the Canadiens (Jan. 2, 1918) and Toronto (Jan. 5, 1918), while their arena burned down, these appear as losses in the standings, but the games were not played

"The league did not accept the Wanderers' resignation immediately, electing to wait and see whether the team showed up for its scheduled match in Toronto on Saturday January 5. ... The deadline did expire, and the once-powerful team that had been known as the Little Men of Iron was thrown onto the scrap heap of hockey history. The Wanderers' scheduled games of January 2 and 5 were officially recorded in the standings as victories for their respective opponents, the Canadiens and Torontos." — Holzman.[15]


NHL ChampionshipEdit

Montreal had won the first half of the NHL split season with 20 points and Toronto had won the second half with 10. The two teams then played a two-game total goals series for the NHL championship. This was Toronto's first playoff series. These two teams split their ten-game regular season series.

The series saw much fighting involving Bert Corbeau and Newsy Lalonde.[14] Toronto won the series and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto ArenasEdit

March 11 Montreal Canadiens 3–7 Toronto Arenas Arena Gardens Recap
Georges Vezina Goalie stats Hap Holmes
March 13 Toronto Arenas 3–4 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Arena Recap
Georges Vezina Goalie stats Hap Holmes
Toronto won series on total goals 10–7

Stanley Cup FinalsEdit

1917–18 season Toronto Arenas. Top row, from left: Rusty Crawford, Harry Meeking, Ken Randall, Corbett Denneny, Harry Cameron. Middle row, from left: Dick Carroll, Jack Adams, Charles Querrie, Alf Skinner, Frank Carroll. Bottom row, from left: O'Brien Cup, Harry Mummery, Harry "Hap" Homes, Reg Noble, Stanley Cup.

The championship series was played at Arena Gardens in Toronto. The games alternated between seven-man PCHA rules and NHL six-man rules. This was the first playoff meeting between these two teams. Toronto won all three games played under NHL rules, and Vancouver won the two games played under PCHA rules. Although Vancouver's Mickey MacKay was described as sensational in the fifth and deciding game, it was Corbett Denneny of Toronto who scored the winning goal and Toronto won the Stanley Cup.[16]

March 20 Vancouver Millionaires 3–5 Toronto Arenas Arena Gardens Recap
Hugh Lehman Goalie stats Hap Holmes
March 23 Toronto Arenas 4–6 Vancouver Millionaires Arena Gardens Recap
Hap Holmes Goalie stats Hugh Lehman
March 26 Vancouver Millionaires 3–6 Toronto Arenas Arena Gardens Recap
Hugh Lehman Goalie stats Hap Holmes
March 28 Toronto Arenas 1–8 Vancouver Millionaires Arena Gardens Recap
Hap Holmes Goalie stats Hugh Lehman
March 30 Vancouver Millionaires 1–2 Toronto Arenas Arena Gardens Recap
Hugh Lehman Goalie stats Hap Holmes
Toronto won series 3–2

Schedule and resultsEdit


First half
Month Day Visitor Score Home Score
Dec. 19 Canadiens 7 Ottawa 4
19 Toronto 9 Wanderers 10
21 Ottawa 4 Toronto 11
21 Canadiens 11 Wanderers 2
26 Ottawa 6 Wanderers 3
26 Canadiens 5 Toronto 7
29 Wanderers 2 Ottawa 9
29 Toronto 2 Canadiens 9
Jan. 2 Toronto 6 Ottawa 5
2† Wanderers Canadiens
5 Ottawa 5 Canadiens 6 (27' OT)
5† Wanderers Toronto
9 Canadiens 4 Toronto 6
12 Ottawa 4 Canadiens 9
14 Toronto 6 Ottawa 9
16 Ottawa 4 Toronto 5
19 Toronto 1 Canadiens 5
21 Canadiens 5 Ottawa 3
23 Ottawa 4 Canadiens 3
26 Toronto 3 Ottawa 6
28 Canadiens 1 Toronto 5
30 Canadiens 5 Ottawa 2
Feb. 2 Toronto 2 Canadiens 11
4 Ottawa 2 Toronto 8

† Montreal Arena burned down and Wanderers withdraw. Two Wanderers games count as wins for Canadiens and Toronto.

Second half
Month Day Visitor Score Home Score
Feb. 6 Canadiens 3 Ottawa 6
9 Toronto 7 Canadiens 3
11 Ottawa 1 Toronto 3
13 Toronto 6 Ottawa 1
16 Ottawa 4 Canadiens 10
18 Canadiens 9 Toronto 0
20 Toronto 4 Canadiens 5
23 Ottawa 3 Toronto 9
25 Canadiens 0 Ottawa 8
27 Ottawa 3 Canadiens 1 (at Quebec)
Mar. 2 Canadiens 3 Toronto 5
6 Toronto 3 Ottawa 9



The O'Brien Cup, still considered the championship of the NHA, was not actually awarded to Toronto in 1918. It remained under the care of the Canadiens who had won it in 1917, until the death of their owner, George Kennedy, in 1921, when the NHL made arrangements to re-use the trophy.[17] The Hockey Hall of Fame lists Toronto as the winner for 1917–18.

Player statisticsEdit

Scoring leadersEdit

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties In Minutes

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Joe Malone Montreal Canadiens 20 44 4 48 30
Cy Denneny Ottawa Senators 20 36 10 46 80
Reg Noble Toronto 20 30 10 40 35
Newsy Lalonde Montreal Canadiens 14 23 7 30 51
Corbett Denneny Toronto 21 20 9 29 14
Harry Cameron Toronto 21 17 10 27 28
Didier Pitre Montreal Canadiens 20 17 6 23 29
Eddie Gerard Ottawa Senators 20 13 7 20 26
Jack Darragh Ottawa Senators 18 14 5 19 26
Frank Nighbor Ottawa Senators 10 11 8 19 6

Source: NHL[18]

Leading goaltendersEdit

Name Team GP Mins W L T GA SO GAA
Georges Vezina Canadiens 21 1282 12 9 0 84 1 3.93
Harry Holmes Toronto 16 965 9 7 0 76 0 4.73
Clint Benedict Ottawa 22 1337 9 13 0 114 1 5.12
Art Brooks Toronto 4 220 2 2 0 23 0 6.27
Sammy Hebert Toronto 2 80 1 0 0 10 0 7.50

Source: NHL[19]

NHL playoff scoring leadersEdit

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

Player Team GP G A Pts
Alf Skinner Toronto 7 8 3 11
Newsy Lalonde Canadiens 2 4 2 6[20]
Harry Cameron Toronto 7 4 0 4
Harry Meeking Toronto 7 4 0 4
Reg Noble Toronto 7 3 0 3



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1917–18 (listed with their first team, not including players who previously played in the NHA):

Last gamesEdit

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1917–18 (listed with their last team):

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ed Livingstone Now Threatens To Break Up Pro Hockey Assn If Toronto is Forced Out". Ottawa Citizen. October 21, 1917. p. 8.
  2. ^ Coleman 1966, p. 328.
  3. ^ "N.H.A. Decides To Remain Idle". The Globe. November 12, 1917. p. 14.
  4. ^ Holzman 2002, p. 151.
  5. ^ "Same Old Story: N.H.A. Uncertain". The Globe. November 23, 1917.
  6. ^ from "Trying Hard to Wreck Pro Hockey". Montreal Star. October 1, 1918. p. 6. as quoted in Holzman2002, page 371.
  7. ^ Holzman 2002, p. 193.
  8. ^ McFarlane 1973, p. 26.
  9. ^ Coleman 1966, p. 333.
  10. ^ Dryden 2000, p. 20.
  11. ^ Fischler 2003, p. 31.
  12. ^ Kreiser, John (December 20, 2017). "First games in NHL history occurred 99 years ago". NHL. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  13. ^ Boswell, Randy (April 16, 2017). "Solving the mystery of the NHL's 1st game". CBC News. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c McFarlane 1973, p. 27.
  15. ^ Holzman 2002, pp. 169–70.
  16. ^ McFarlane 1973, pp. 27–28.
  17. ^ "O'Brien Trophy To Be Given To Ottawa". The Morning Leader. Regina, Saskatchewan. November 17, 1921. p. 14. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  18. ^ Dinger 2011, p. 145.
  19. ^ "1917–18 Regular Season – Goalie Season Stats Leaders". NHL. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  20. ^ "Newsy Lalonde Stats and News".


External linksEdit

Preceded by
First NHL season
Succeeded by