Tag Archives: Montreal Wanderers

How The Habs Were Born

And how were the Habs born? Let’s go to Andy O’Brien’s 1967 book, ‘Fire-Wagon Hockey’, later to become ‘Les Canadiens’ (I have both), which has original Canadiens owner J. Ambrose O’Brien’s own recollections of what happened.

First, from the author Andy O’Brien – “On that chill November 25, 1909, J. Ambrose O’Brien was in Montreal buying supplies for a railway contract on the St. Maurice River. He also owned the Cobalt and Haileybury teams in the miners-supported, rip-snorting Temiskaming League. He received a phone call from the owners (George and Jim Barnett) of the Renfrew Millionaires, suggesting he apply for a franchise in the established league, renamed the Canadian Hockey Association.

And this is Ambrose O’Brien describing how it all went down.

“My application was laughed at in Room 135 of the Windsor Hotel where the new CHA was meeting. Out in the hall I ran into General Manager J. Gardner of the Wanderers who said: ‘Why don’t we form a new league – you own Cobalt and Haileybury and represent Renfrew, while I have the Wanderers?” So we held a meeting Room 129.”

At that meeting, Gardner had another idea. He said to O’Brien:

“Why don’t you get together a French team here in Montreal to balance off the Wanderers with a French-English rivalry?”

O’Brien, surprised, replied: “But I don’t know any French players here.”

“So what?” came back Gardiner. “I do. in fact, all you’d have to do is back Jack Laviolette financially and the team will be formed for you.”

So the National Hockey Association came into being in Room 129 – made up of the Wanderers, Renfrew, Cobalt, Haileybury, and a team to be known as Les Canadiens.

J. Ambrose told the author: “My total investment in forming the great Canadiens club was $5000. I paid nothing for the franchise; that amount was for expenses including guaranteeing of player salaries. The understanding was that the Canadiens’ franchise would be turned over to French sportsmen in Montreal as soon as practicable.” (The O’Brien interests withdrew from hockey two years later.)

The Canadiens played their first game on January 5, 1910. They won 7-6 over Cobalt.

It took the Canadiens six years to build from the NHA bottom to the Stanley Cup top.

The author also issues this footnote: “Confusion between J. Ambrose O’Brien and the author often enters because of an interesting coincidence. Both were born in Renfrew, Ont. When Ambrose took over the Millionaires, the author’s late father, Bill O’Brien, was the team trainer. Bill had started a thirty year career as a major league trainer extending through the NHL to baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. But the two O’Brien families are not related.

Barn Burners

Are you feeling romantic and appreciative and looking to do something nice for your spouse?

You could do what I did. I took my wife to see the places where the Canadiens played before they made the Forum their home. It goes without saying that she was overcome with joy and appreciation.

Three rinks. And all three burned down.

First, the 3,200-seat Jubilee Arena in east-end Montreal, at the corner of St. Catherine and Malborough (now Rue Alphonse – D. Roy.)

The Canadiens played there during their first ever season, 1909-10, and again from 1917 until it burned down in 1919.

What the Jubilee looked like, inside and out –

Jubilee Arena

Jub.

And what it looks like now, from two angles –

Jubilee 1

Jubilee 2

From 1910 to 1918, the Canadiens played at the Montreal Arena (or Westmount Arena as it was also called), at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood, one block west of what would become the Forum.

The place held 4,000 people seated and another 6,000 standees, and burned down in 1918, forcing the Canadiens to move back to the Jubilee for a very short period.

The Montreal Wanderers played there also, and I kind of feel for this long-gone team. After being a powerhouse in the old ECAHA and NHA, they joined the NHL in 1918 and played just four games before their barn burned down. So they called it quits permanently.

What the Montreal Arena looked like then –

Westmount Arena

And what it looks like now –

Westmount 1

Westmount 2

And finally, the 6,000-seat Mount Royal Arena near the corner of Mount Royal and St. Urbain, where the Canadiens, after the Jubilee burned down, played from 1920 to 1926 . After that they would take residence (with the Maroons) in the Forum, which was built two years prior in 1924.

The Mount Royal Arena burned down in 2000.

What it looked like then –

Mount Royal Arena

And what it looks like now. A Provigo –

Mount Royal 1

 

Cheer Up, Canucks’ Fans. Someday, Maybe. Probably Not, But Stranger Things Have Happened

Although it’s sad for Vancouver Canucks’ fans that their team has never won a Stanley Cup, they just have to remind themselves that someday, somehow, it could happen. Meanwhile, I’ll try to cheer them up by telling them about the time the Canucks’ great-grandfathers, the Vancouver Millionaires, did hoist the big old mug.

 

In 1915, the Millionaires, led by flashy forward Cyclone Taylor who had come out to Vancouver, liked it and stayed, clobbered the Portland Rosebuds 11-3 to clinch the Pacific Coast League title. Back east, the Ottawa Senators were doing the same thing to the Montreal Wanderers, beating them 4-1 to win the National Hockey Association championship.

 

So it was Ottawa against Vancouver, in Vancouver, for the first Stanley Cup series ever staged in Western Canada.

 

As the Senators made their way across the country by train, the Millionaires went to Portland to play a couple of games to keep them sharp for the big series. While there, captain Si Griffis twisted his ankle. And the guy the team hired for five bucks to sit in the dressing room and watch their valuables made off with all their money, Griffis’ gold watch, and goalie Hugh Lehman’s diamond stickpin. (I once had Hugh Lehman’s autograph on a small scrap of paper and sold it for 500 bucks on ebay.)

 

The big Stanley Cup series was a five-game series, and it was decided that each member of the winning team would receive $300. Big sell-outs were predicted at the old Denman Arena, which would eventually burn to the ground 21 years later. And in an unbelievable outpouring of generosity, each member of the Ottawa team was presented with a free streetcar pass by BC Electric.

 

The three big games were, somewhat surprising, less than sold out, but the Millionaires, all seven of them, clobbered those eastern lads in three straight games by a whopping 28-6 margin. And back then, players played the entire games without substitution.

 

The Millionaires collected their $300 and probably bought new fedoras, and maybe Easter bonnets for the little ladies. It’s not known if the Ottawa players ever got to use their free streetcar passes.

 

The Millionaires came close in other years but never saw the team’s name on the Stanley Cup again. However, in 1925 the Victoria Cougars won an east-west series with the Montreal Maroons to join the Millionaires as western Canada Stanley Cup champions. It’s possible that Millionaires’ fans did a slow, jealous burn about this.

 

Anyway, that was then, but this is now. The Canucks are now starting their 38th year and still no Cup in sight. The modern day Canucks may be millionaires, but they’re no Millionaires.

 

Not until they finally get the big job done.

J. Ambrose O’Brien And His $5000 Montreal Canadiens

There’s been some good blog talk lately regarding the origins of the Montreal Canadiens, and the fact that Andy O’Brien’s book, “Fire-Wagon Hockey” later to become “Les Canadiens”, has original Canadiens owner J. Ambrose O’Brien’s own recollections of what happened.

 

I have both books, and they both print Ambrose’s memories of how it happened.

 

“On that chill November 25, 1909, J. Ambrose O’Brien was in Montreal buying supplies for a railway contract on the St. Maurice River. He also owned the Cobalt and Haileybury teams in the miners-supported, rip-snorting Temiskaming League. He received a phone call from the owners (George and Jim Barnett) of the Renfrew Millionaires, suggesting he apply for a franchise in the established league, renamed the Canadian Hockey Association.

 

This is Ambrose O’Brien’s recollection of what happened when he did apply.

 

“My application was laughed at in Room 135 of the Windsor Hotel where the new CHA was meeting. Out in the hall I ran into General Manager J. Gardner of the Wanderers who said: ‘Why don’t we form a new league – you own Cobalt and Haileybury and represent Renfrew, while I have the Wanderers?” So we held a meeting Room 129.”

 

At that meeting, Gardner had another idea. He said to O’Brien:

“Why don’t you get together a French team here in Montreal to balance off the Wanderers with a French-English rivalry?”

 

O’Brien, surprised, replied: “But I don’t know any French players here.”

 

“So what?” came back Gardiner. “I do. in fact, all you’d have to do is back Jack Laviolette financially and the team will be formed for you.”

 

So the National Hockey Association came into being in Room 129 – made up of the Wanderers, Renfrew, Cobalt, Haileybury, and a team to be known as Les Canadiens.

 

J. Ambrose told the author: “My total investment in forming the great Canadiens club was $5000. I paid nothing for the franchise; that amount was for expenses including guaranteeing of player salaries. The understanding was that the Canadiens’ franchise would be turned over to French sportsmen in Montreal as soon as practicable.” (The O’Brien interests withdrew from hockey two years later.)

 

The Canadiens played their first game on January 5, 1910. They won 7-6 over Cobalt.

 

It took the Canadiens six years to build from the NHA bottom to the Stanley Cup top.

 

The author also issues this footnote: “Confusion between J. Ambrose O’Brien and the author often enters because of an interesting coincidence. Both were born in Renfrew, Ont. When Ambrose took over the Millionaires, the author’s late father, Bill O’Brien, was the team trainer. Bill had started a thirty year career as a major league trainer extending through the NHL to baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. But the two O’Brien families are not related.