Was the National Hockey League Formed Just to Get Rid of One Owner?
HOCKEY LEGEND: The National Hockey League (NHL) formed just so that the owners could rid themselves of one team owner, Eddie Livingstone.
An important thing to remember about almost every area of professional sports is that in the early days of any professional sport, there wasn’t a case where everybody just said, “Oh, okay, this is THE professional league.” Instead, there were always multiple rival organizations and over time, one league would eventually win out, and on the rare occasions where two leagues were viable, they would often just merge with each other.
Therefore, to understand the origins of the NHL, you have to get that what became the NHL came from ONE professional hockey league, but not necessarily THE professional hockey league. Organized professional hockey had been around since 1904, and there were multiple leagues before the formation of the NHL’s direct ancestor. One of those leagues was the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association, formed in 1905, which became the Eastern Canada Hockey Association (ECHA) in 1908, when the teams all went professional. A problem arose, however, in 1909, when PJ Doran bough the Montreal Wanderers of the ECHA. Doran owned his own arena, so he naturally started having Wanderers games played there. The problem was that his arena was much smaller than the Wanderers’ previous arena, and thus the gate for the games were inherently going to be smaller, and that angered the other leagues. So the ECHA then disbanded and re-reformed as the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), sans Doran’s Wanderers (this is pretty much exactly what Doran would do less than a decade later).
Meanwhile, Ambrose O’Brien had a team, the Renfrew Creamery Kings, and he really wanted to compete for the Stanley Cup, which was then controlled by the CHA. He tried (and failed) to join the CHA. So instead, he and Doran formed the National Hockey Association, with the wealthy O’Brien funding most of the teams at first. Well, this influx of cash led to the NHA making the CHA look weak, in comparison, and so the CHA disbanded before the 1910-11 season even ended, with two CHA teams joining the NHA.
O’Brien failed to win the Stanley Cup, and he eventually left the hockey business entirely. The NHA was down to just four team. Eventually, a Toronto franchise joined the NHA, and then Eddie Livingstone bought the Toronto franchise for the 1914-15 season, the Toronto Shamrocks. Livingstone and his fellow NHA owners did not get along at all (by this time, Doran was out of the league, as well). The biggest problem came when a rival league, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), debuted in 1912, it started doing well, and making more money than the WHA, and began to poach its players.
The PCHA and the NHA cut a deal where the PCHA could only draft players from a single team per season. When it was the Quebec Bulldogs’ time, though, they then made a deal with Livingstone to trade him a bunch of players, thus blocking the PHCA from getting them. This enraged the PHCA (and the other NHA teams, the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers and the Ottawa Senators), and so the PHCA then raided the Toronto Blueshirts, instead, which had just been purchased by…Eddie Livingstone. Yes, he owned BOTH Toronto teams, which the other owners ALSO hated. They wanted him to sell one, and he was prepared to sell the Shamrocks, but then the Blueshirts players were all taken, so he had to transfer all of the Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts, and then the Shamrocks became a worthless asset. So the NHA just essentially banned the Shamrocks, and added a new Toronto team made out of military players.
That team disbanded due to World War I, and the owners were irked at having an odd number of teams (and only one Toronto team, which was annoying, as now you couldn’t do a two-game road trip to Toronto), so the league told Livingstone to sell. He refused. So they then disband the NHA and formed the NHL, with just the other four teams no Livingstone.
They were hoping he would back off, but he did not. Quebec couldn’t field a team in the NHL, so the league formed its own new Toronto team, using Livingstone’s players, and so the original NHL teams were the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Toronto Arenas and the Ottawa Senators.
Livingstone’s lawsuits against the league kept up for YEARS, but obviously, as time went by, the NHL became THE professional hockey league in the world, and they remain in that position to this very day.
The legend is…
I wrote about a lot of these same topics in an old Hockey Legend about the creation of the Montreal Canadiens, if you want to check that one out.
Be sure to check out Sports Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of sports. Here is the archie for just legends about hockey.
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2 thoughts on “Was the National Hockey League Formed Just to Get Rid of One Owner?”
I think you mean direct ancestor not descendent
I think I meant to say predecessor, but yes, ancestor is better than descendent! Fixed, thanks!