Canada's Lost Teams: Reviving The Hamilton Tigers

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Canada's Lost Teams: Reviving The Hamilton Tigers

While they started out as the Quebec Bulldogs, we'll save that for another article. Ultimately, what happened to them was after a disastrous season they relocated in 1920 to Hamilton.

This would be the first N only NHL Hamilton Franchise. At least until whether it's Jim Ballsillie or some other billionaire and Hockey fan get's another Hamilton franchise. Trust me on this one it's not a matter of "if," but rather "when."

So, let's press rewind on the DVD player and go all the way back to 1920. The Hamilton Bussiness Abso Pure Ice Company had just acquired the Bulldogs from Quebec.  Now, at the time Hamilton was the fifth largest population in Canada and was considered a vital Market. So, many people we're trying to land franchises in Hamilton figuring they could make some serious moolah.

To prevent a rival league from starting up everything that could be changed was changed. So, the NHL could prevent other leagues from starting up in Hamilton and they wouldn't have any competition(touchee).

Thus, The Hamilton Tigers were born, realizing more than just the name would need to be changed. The NHL ordered it's other three clubs The Toronto St. Patricks, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens(the original original 4).

The St. Patricks provided future Hall of Famer Babe Dye(he would go on to be re-acquired back to the St. Pats after one game, and the Tigers excepted Micky Roach in a trade), Joe Matte, and Goldie Prodgers.

The Senators provided no one willingly, but later the NHL ordered Sprague Cleghorn(that is one dirty name) and Harry Broadbent to report to Hamilton, but neither did. As, Cleghorn played some games with Toronto before they both returned to Ottawa(should have been fined and suspended).

The Tigers had some kinks in trying to sign former Bulldog star Joe Malone. But, he eventually signed with the Tigers four games into the season. He scored 20 goals in 28 games for the Tigers. Alas, that was not enough as the Tigers would end up placing last in both the first half 3-7-0 and the second halves 3-11-0.

In the 1921-22 season, the NHL abandoned their split schedule format. But, that didn't help the Tigers as they finished the season with ten more losses than they had wins, posting a final win/loss/tie record of 7-17-0.

After, constant seasons of failure Head Coach Percy Thompson was fed up with coaching the team and wanted to concentrate on building the team to elite status. He quit as Coach and took the job as General Manager of the team. 

Who would fill in the vacant Head Coaching space?

None other than a man with a trophy named after him and Hall of Famer Art Ross. But, this was only minor compared to the moves Thompson had in mind for the club. His first move was signing former St. Pats Goalie Jake Forbes to replace Howard "Holes" Lockhart in net.

He then signed future Hall of Famer Billy Burch who spent last season playing with the New Haven Westministers of the USAHA(United States Amateur Hockey Association). But, the biggest most controversial move was the trading of star forward Joe Malone in exchange for Montreal's Bert Corbeau and Edmond Bouchard.

This would turn out to be a good move as Joe Malone only scored 1 goal in 20 games for Montreal during the 22/23 season. The Tigers new acquisition Edmond Bouchard led the league in the 22/23 season with 12 assists.

Though, all these moves were made the Tigers were still in rebuild mode and finshed the 1922-23 season with a 6-18-0 record. They finished dead last in the league for the 3rd straight season. Head Coach Art Ross was let go in favour of Percy LeSueur.

Under their 2nd new Head Coach the Tigers continued to perform horridly for a fourth straight season finishing with a 9-15-0 record. Once again, though the big news was the acquisitons made by GM Percy Thompson. Who acquired the final pieces to rebuilding this team and all in a span of 10 days.

Thompson had acquired brothers Shorty and Red Green (I love that show, whoops wrong red green) from the Sudbury Wolves of the NOHA in November of 1923. If you think these brothers are the two final pieces of the puzzle you're wrong.

As Thompson signed defensive stars Alex McKinnon and Charlie Langlois also of the Sudbury Wolves(while the Sudbury Wolves were probably crap next season).

The Final Season: Unlike most teams last seasons before being relocated or wiped out the Tigers last season was anything but crappy. The addition of four more players gave the Tigers an advantage as teams only had ten players.

That plus, they seemed to really start to mesh under new Head Coach Jimmy Gardiner posting a sexy record of 10-4-1 by mid-season. Their best season yet, they would go on to hold down a late season surge by the Toronto St. Patricks to finish TOP place in the NHL.

Yes, that's right they went from last place to first in one season. Possibly the greatest surge in sports history. The Hamilton Tigers finished the 1924-25 regular season with a record of 19-10-1.

It earned them a berth in the NHL Final. Where they would face the winner of the semi-final between the St. Pats and Canadiens. The Canadiens would prevail making a Hamilton-Montreal Final.

Then, heartbreak happened as the 10 players of the Tigers informed General Manager Percy Thompson they would not play in the final without 200 extra dollars for playing an extra six games during the season (the NHL added six more games for the regular season).

They truly we're in the wrong and Percy would point this out to them. Showing them the statement in the contract they signed that from December 1 to March 31 they were under contract for that amount of money, no matter how many games they played during and between those months.

Therefore, Thompson refused to pay the money and passed the issue to the NHL. NHl President Frank Calder was appalled by this notion and stated that the players would be fined if they did not participate in the final. He also ordered that all players back-pay be held. 

He also stated that if the players still refused to play in the final he would replace Hamilton with fourth placed Ottawa Senators in the Final. On March 13th, Shorty Green met with Calder to try to reach an agreement. But, was of no avail. 

On March 14, after meeting with Tigers Management, Calder stated that Montreal Canadiens were league champions and fined the players the same amount they wanted their pay increased by $200.   

The Canadiens would go on to play the Victoria Cougars (winners of the Western Canada Hockey League). Where they were defeated by the Cougars for the Stanley Cup. The only time the NHL had been defeated by a rival league for the Stanley Cup.

The Summer of 1925 marked a new era for the NHL as they were expanding to the United States placing the first American franchise in Boston. New York's most celebrated Bootlegger "Big Bill" Dwyer purchased the Tigers from Percy Thompson for at the time a whopping $75,000. He relocated the Franchise to the brand new 18,000 seat Madison Square Garden an renamed them the New York Americans.As well as giving the players a raise of almost 200 percent (wouldn't we have liked to be those players).

The Hamilton Tigers were no more playing only five seasons as an NHL franchise. They didn't do very well in their first four seasons placing last. But, in their fifth season finished first in the NHL overall standings.

Could the Tigers have won the Stanley Cup that season had there not been the players strike who knows. But, they certainly looked like they had a legitimate chance.     

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