As I’ve noted before, I’m big fan of alternate history. I’ve posted a couple hockey-related timelines here before and lamented via Twitter that the alternate history project on Puck Daddy earlier this summer generally focused less on the “What” and more on the “If.”
Last month, a user at AlternateHistory.com asked for good early-1900s sports-related points of departure, and I suggested Eddie Livingstone winning the legal battles around the founding of the NHL. As I thought about it more, I decided to actually write that timeline.
The owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, and Ottawa Senators vote to suspend operations of the National Hockey Association. Officially the reasoning is a shortage of players due to the Great War as the league lost one entire team the previous season when the 228th Battalion was sent overseas.
The truth is that the owners of four teams – and league president Frank Calder – were tired of doing business with Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone and had found that they could not force him out of the league. They could, however, form a new league without him.
Just weeks later, the same four groups – joined by Calder and a representative of Toronto’s Arena Company, owners of the Arena Gardens – form the National Hockey League. Calder is named President. The Arena Company is given a provisional franchise in the new league with its roster stocked by players under contract to Livingstone’s Blueshirts, under lease from Livingstone.
The newborn NHL’s Quebec franchise, short on money, will not play the 1917-18 season.
Montreal Arena is destroyed in a fire. The Montreal Canadiens move to Jubilee Arena and continue but, already on shaky footing, the Montreal Wanderers disband.
As a legal battle continues between the NHL, the Arena Company, and Livingstone, NHL champion Toronto defeats the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Vancouver Millionaires in a five game series to claim the Stanley Cup.
The Arena Company suffers a blow when it is ruled that they had not given Eddie Livingstone his share of the revenues from the roster that they leased from him. Those revenues had soared with the team’s Stanley Cup Championship. The company is already on thin ice – as newspapers can’t help themselves from joking. On the verge of collapse and after several months of negotiations, the Arena Company comes under the control of Livingstone.
The National Hockey League – down to just the Canadiens and Senators – scrambles to come up with a solution for Toronto. Livingstone remains oddly quiet as the Arena Company’s provisional franchise lapses. The NHL is able to find other groups interested in owning a team but with Livingstone in control of Arena Gardens, there isn’t anywhere suitable for them to play.
The league’s Quebec franchise is provisionally sold to Percy Quinn, a former business partner of Livingstone’s. It is quickly revealed that Quinn planned to use the franchise not in the NHL but in the National Hockey Association. With that revelation, the sale falls through and the Quebec franchise is cancelled.
Eddie Livingstone breaks his silence, announcing that he intends to operate his Toronto Blueshirts in the National Hockey Association for the coming season. He reveals that he intends to resurrect his Toronto Shamrocks franchise as well, under the trusteeship of Percy Quinn.
The announcement is somewhat bizarre as Livingstone has no capacity to bring the Shamrocks into the NHA. The league essentially exists only on paper but Frank Calder is still its president and restoring the Shamrocks would require the agreement of the teams that had bolted for the NHL.
The National Hockey League, meanwhile, also exists mostly on paper, with only two solvent teams.
Despite the objections of Tommy Gorman, the Ottawa Senators announce that they will return to play in the National Hockey Association. Over the previous summer, Ted Dey had come to control the team. Never a part of the plot to blackball Eddie Livingstone, Dey – owner of the The Arena in Ottawa – was enticed by the idea of a league run by arena owners.
With Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers and Mike Quinn (no relation to Percy) of the Quebec Bulldogs out, Livingstone and Dey outvote George Kennedy of the Canadiens at a meeting of the National Hockey Association. Frank Calder is ousted as the league’s President, replaced by Livingstone himself in a dual role. Kennedy, one of the ringleaders of the plot to oust Livingstone, sees his NHA franchise cancelled. The return of the Toronto Shamrocks is made formal, as is the league’s three-team schedule for the coming season.
Refusing to let Livingstone get the best of them, Kennedy and Calder call in every favor they can to ensure the survival of the National Hockey League. Lichtenhein’s Wanderers rejoin the league and the Mike Quinn gets the Quebec Bulldogs back up and running, with both teams mostly funded by Kennedy and the Canadiens.
Unsurprisingly, the Montreal Canadiens are champions of what is essentially their house league. The Toronto Blueshirts claim the National Hockey Association title and the two teams are set to play each other for the right to head to Seattle to face the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Metropolitans for the Stanley Cup. George Kennedy refuses to have his team play Eddie Livingstone’s, however, so the Blueshirts head west by default.
Toronto is unable to retain the Stanley Cup, falling to the Metropolitans in five games. It marks Seattle’s second Stanley Cup Championship.
Eddie Livingstone and Ted Dey spend the summer after the National Hockey Association’s first season back looking for like-minded arena operators. They come up short. While there are prospective ownership groups in cities with available arenas, none actually own the arenas.
Meanwhile, after a season of essentially funding an entire league, George Kennedy is looking for anyone who can field a team and pay for it themselves. While the National Hockey League doesn’t have the same arena ownership requirement that the NHA is informally operating under, Kennedy finds that potential owners are hesitant to join up with a league where one owner is funding multiple teams.
Both the National Hockey League and the National Hockey Association settle for returning as three team leagues. Frank Calder and George Kennedy thought they had convinced an ownership group in Hamilton to join on but they decided that they wouldn’t be ready to start the season.
Once again the Montreal Canadiens claim the National Hockey League championship and once again they refuse to play the National Hockey Association’s champion in a playoff. As such, the Ottawa Senators host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Seattle Metropolitans.
The Metropolitans become the first repeat champions of the NHA/NHL vs PCHA era, defeating the Senators three games to one.
The Quebec Bulldogs are folded by the National Hockey League. George Kennedy simply can’t justify funding them any longer and the placeholder team isn’t expected to be necessary with new ownership joining the league before the start of the next season.
In a surprise move, the National Hockey Association awards a team to the Abso Pure Ice Company, to play out of Barton Street Arena in Hamilton. Ted Dey gives up on his dream of an arena-controlled league. Eddie Livingstone – more tied to the idea of stopping Kennedy than to having teams owned by their home arena – is thrilled at having blocked the NHL.
Needing a third team to legitimize the National Hockey League, president Frank Calder finds a group in Kingston willing to field a roster. The NHL will consist of the Kingston Frontenacs, Montreal Canadiens, and Montreal Wanderers for the 1920-21 season. Additionally, the Montreal teams will move into the new Mount Royal Arena, constructed to replace the destroyed Montreal Arena.
The National Hockey Association is healthier by comparison. The Hamilton Tigers join the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Shamrocks, making it a four-team league for the first time since the founding of the NHL.
Returning to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Ottawa Senators claim the Cup for the East, defeating the Vancouver Millionaires in a five-game series
The hastily-arranged Kingston ownership group backs out of the National Hockey League. Luckily for the NHL, Eddie Livingstone has made a misstep, angering a potential National Hockey Association ownership group in Buffalo. Frank Calder is able to persuade them to join the NHL instead, putting a team in that city’s Broadway Auditorium as the Buffalo Bisons.
Meanwhile, Sam Lichtenhein has finally had enough of owning the Montreal Wanderers. Even with George Kennedy’s assistance, the team has become too much of a burden. He sells the Wanderers to local businessmen Joseph Cattarinich, Leo Dandurand and Louis A. Letourneau.
To prevent the new owners of the Wanderers – who don’t share the animosity towards Livingstone that Lichtenhein had – from jumping back to the NHA, Kennedy works out a deal with the owners of Mount Royal Arena blocking any team from the rival league from playing there.
Even without Buffalo, the NHA still makes in-roads to the United States, convincing the owners of the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets to go fully pro and join the NHA rather than the barely-amatuer United States Amatuer Hockey Association.
The National Hockey League and National Hockey Association begin their seasons. The NHL remains a three-team league, made up of the Buffalo Bisons, Montreal Canadiens, and Montreal Wanderers. The NHA includes the Hamilton Tigers, Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Shamrocks. While the NHL will continue to use a split schedule, the NHA abandons it for the first time.
The Montreal Wanderers are the champions of the National Hockey League and expect to play the National Hockey Association’s Ottawa Senators for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. They are surprised to learn that the Stanley Cup trustees no longer consider the three-team NHL to be a top-level league.
The move is a largely political one masterminded by Eddie Livingstone, as the three-team Pacific Coast Hockey Association is still allowed to contend.
With the Wanderers out of the way, the Senators automatically move on to face the PCHA’s Vancouver Millionaires in a rematch. The Millionaires get their revenge on the Senators, bringing the Cup back west.
Embarrassed by the National Hockey League’s status as a second-tier league, the new owners of the Montreal Wanderers push NHL President Frank Calder and Montreal Canadiens owner George Kennedy to expand the league. Both are open to the idea, with Kennedy looking for expansion dues to make up for years of funding three teams. The NHL isn’t the only league looking to expand, however.
National Hockey Association President Eddie Livingstone sees his rivals on the ropes and, chastened by losing Buffalo to the NHL, pulls out all the stops to prevent it from happening again.
The NHA hands out three new expansion franchises over the summer. Huntington Hardwick leads a group out of Boston in acquiring a team to play at Boston Arena. A group of Detroit businessmen purchase a franchise and land to build a new arena. Their team will play across the river in Windsor until the new stadium is built. Finally, a team is given to Philadelphia, to play at Philadelphia Arena.
It is widely acknowledged that the NHA’s Philadelphia franchise is something of a consolation prize, as the NHL lands the biggest market available with bootlegger Bill Dwyer bringing a team to New York City. Dwyer’s New York Americans will retrofit the Brooklyn Ice Palace with bleachers to make it a suitable arena for hockey as the city is lacking other options.
The hockey season begins with the National Hockey League at four teams and the National Hockey Association at eight. The Wanderers will not be surprised this year as the Stanley Cup trustees make it clear that the NHL is second to the NHA in the East.
The NHL consists of the Buffalo Bisons, Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, and New York Americans. The NHA is comprised of the Boston Braves, Detroit Olympias, Hamilton Tigers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Arrows, Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Shamrocks.
The Western Canada Hockey League, founded just two years earlier, ends its season early due to financial difficulties and lack of players. The expansion war in the East has caused a drain on the talent pool, leaving the Pacific Coast Hockey Association suffering as well (though the PCHA will finish out their season).
The Hamilton Tigers defeat the Seattle Metropolitans to claim their first Stanley Cup Championship. It will mark the last game played by a Pacific Coast Hockey Association team.
May 18, 1923
Montreal Canadiens owner George Kennedy is killed in a car accident at age 41. The team falls under the control of his widow, Myrtle Agnes Pagels, who looks to sell the Canadiens to recoup some of her husband’s losses over the previous years.
The National Hockey Association continues expanding, adding a team in Chicago to play at Chicago Coliseum. Owned by coffee tycoon Frederic McLaughlin, the team will be known as the Chicago Blackhawks after the unit McLaughlin commanded during the Great War. The team will wear a modified version of the unit’s insignia as a crest on their sweaters.
While hockey in the East is flourishing, in the West it is struggling. The Western Canada Hockey League and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association merge to form the Western Hockey League, with teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, and Vancouver.
The National Hockey Association opens its season earlier than ever before. With the league up to nine teams, each team will play 40 games, nearly doubling the length of the season. The season will be the first for the Ottawa Senators in the new Ottawa Auditorium.
The National Hockey League begins its season in the traditional month. Also beginning this month is a firesale of the Montreal Canadiens players. With Myrtle Agnes Pagels having been unable to find buyers for the Canadiens as a team, she decides to sell the players individually instead. By the end of the season the once-proud franchise is a laughingstock at the bottom of the NHL standings.
January 29, 1924
The Detroit Olympia, for which the city’s National Hockey Association entry is named, opens after roughly 18 months of construction, far longer than initial estimates. The stadium is briefly the largest (by capacity) in North America and, along with the soon-to-open Montreal Forum, ushers in a new era of arena construction.
The Toronto Shamrocks of the National Hockey Association defeat the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Tigers to claim the Stanley Cup.
The awarding of the Stanley Cup sets off a flurry of activity, starting with the defection of the league champion Montreal Wanderers from the National Hockey League to the National Hockey Association. With their new arena, the Montreal Forum, set to open in the fall, the team is no longer subject to Mount Royal Arena’s NHA ban.
Shortly after the Wanderers state their intentions, the Buffalo Bisons also jump to the NHA. NHL President Frank Calder is left scrambling trying to add to a league that now consists of the decimated Montreal Canadiens, whose owner doesn’t even want them, and the New York Americans playing in a retrofitted community rink.
National Hockey Association President Eddie Livingstone completes negotiations with the New York Americans and George “Tex” Rickard, owner of Madison Square Garden. The Americans will join the NHA, effective immediately, and will move into the new Madison Square Garden upon its completion in 1925.
The National Hockey League, once rescued by the reckless spending of George Kennedy, is effectively gone. Livingstone has triumphed over those who attempted to force him out in 1917.
The National Hockey Association begins its season as a twelve-team league. The somewhat-incorrectly-named Canadian Division includes the Buffalo Bisons, Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Shamrocks. The American Division is made up of the Boston Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Olympias, New York Americans, Philadelphia Arrows, and Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets.
December 19, 1924
National Hockey League President Frank Calder and Montreal Canadiens owner Myrtle Agnes Pagels announce that the NHL and the Canadiens will fold.
The first all-American Stanley Cup Finals occur, with the National Hockey Association champion Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets taking on the Seattle Metropolitans of the Western Hockey League. The country’s first Stanley Cup Champions are no match for the winners of the enormous league from the East, as the Yellow Jackets easily defeat the Metropolitans.
With the National Hockey Association having emerged as the continent’s dominant league, the Western Hockey League admits that it can no longer attract top-level talent. The league does not strictly fold but reorganizes into a lower-level organization, bringing back some of the cities that lost teams when the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and the Western Canada Hockey League merged. The WHL will no longer compete for the Stanley Cup.
The trustees of the Stanley Cup announce that, with no other top-level leagues remaining, the Stanley Cup will be awarded to the champions of the National Hockey Association.
The National Hockey Association begins it’s 1925-26 season after a relatively calm summer. No new teams have been added and no teams have moved, though the New York Americans will begin play in the new Madison Square Garden, as was agreed to a year earlier.
The Toronto Blueshirts finish atop National Hockey Association’s Canadian Division while the Philadelphia Arrows claim the top spot in the American Division. Philadelphia wins the two-game total-goals series between the two to become the second American NHA team to win the Stanley Cup.
After getting an up-close look at the New York Americans, Madison Square Garden owner George “Tex” Rickard decides he wants a team of his own, and National Hockey Association President Eddie Livingstone is happy to oblige. In a pun off of Rickard’s nickname, the team will be known as the Rangers, though their red sweaters with blue diagonal lettering down the front inspire the nickname “Rickard’s Redshirts.” Madison Square Garden joins Toronto’s Arena Gardens as hosting two teams.
With the New York Rangers added to the American Division, the National Hockey Association begins the 1926-27 campaign at 13 teams.
Although the Toronto Shamrocks and Toronto Blueshirts have been operated independently for nearly a decade, some of the National Hockey Association’s newer owners have concerns about Eddie Livingstone owning two teams. As such, he sells the Shamrocks to Conn Smythe, who immediately renames the team the Maple Leafs and replaces their shamrock sweater crest with a maple leaf in the style of Canada’s Olympic hockey teams.
The Toronto Blueshirts defeat the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, 5-2, in a two-game total-goals series to claim the Stanley Cup.
As long as there are markets interested in National Hockey Association teams, league president Eddie Livingstone is interested in expansion. Cleveland adds a team to play at Elysium Arena – seating only 2,000 – as the league’s 14th team. They will be known as the Cleveland Falcons and play in the league’s Canadian Division.
The Buffalo Bisons move across the Niagara River to the newly-constructed Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie, Ontario. Much like when the Detroit Olympias were in Windsor, the team retains the Buffalo name.
The Bisons aren’t the only team moving into a new stadium for the coming season. The Boston Braves have their new arena, Boston Madison Square Garden. Locals quickly drop the “Madison Square” part of the name. Meanwhile the Chicago Blackhawks are set to open Chicago Stadium.
With these moves, half of the league now resides in stadia constructed as part of the building boom that started with the Montreal Forum and Detroit Olympia in 1924.
In debt following the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929 and playing in by far the league’s oldest arena, the owners of the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets sell the team to a group that includes the owners of the American Hockey Association’s St. Louis Flyers and James E. Norris. The team relocates to play in St. Louis Arena, taking on the AHA team’s name.
Conn Smythe begins construction on a new arena for his Toronto Maple Leafs. It is expected to be ready for the 1931-32 National Hockey Association season. Spurred on by this development, Eddie Livingstone fast-tracks a replacement for Arena Gardens, though it will not be ready for the new season.
Just before the start of the season, the Cleveland Falcons suspend operations. Playing in a 2,000-seat venue proves to be unsustainable in a league where new stadia regularly seat over 10,000. The owners hope to construct a new arena in Cleveland, thus avoiding the relocation that befell the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets a season earlier. That hope is kept alive by a team in the Canadian-American Hockey League replacing them at Elysium Arena.
The National Hockey Association season begins with the league made up of thirteen teams. The Canadian Division includes the Buffalo Bisons, Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Maple Leafs (now playing out of Maple Leaf Coliseum). The American Division is made up of the Boston Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Olympias, New York Americans, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Arrows, and St. Louis Flyers.
February 13, 1932
The Toronto Blueshirts open their new arena, Toronto Gardens, with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Ottawa Senators, playing in one of the National Hockey Association’s smallest markets, are failing to make ends meet despite residing in a relatively new, large arena. The team requests to suspend operations, as the Cleveland Falcons did the year before, but NHA president Eddie Livingstone has other ideas. Instead of suspending the franchise, it is temporarily transferred to a group in Minneapolis. While Minneapolis arena is significantly smaller than the Ottawa Auditorium, the population of the Twin Cities is higher, and this move will prove as a test for it as a hockey market.
With the Senators off to far-flung Minneapolis and travel costs already high, the league restructures itself to limit those expenses, splitting the teams into three geographical divisions. The four-team Western Division features the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Olympias, Minneapolis Millers, and St. Louis Flyers. The Eastern Division is made up of the Boston Braves, New York Americans, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Arrows. The Canadian Division is the Buffalo Bisons, Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The three division champions will play a round-robin series at the end of the season to determine the Stanley Cup Champion.
March 17, 1936
The roof of Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie collapses after heavy snowfall. Thankfully, the arena is not occupied at the time. The Buffalo Bisons have one remaining game on their schedule, a road game in Montreal, so they will be able to finish out the season.
While the Minneapolis market has shown support for their National Hockey Association team, travel costs and the small Minneapolis Arena are enough to force the Minneapolis Millers to fold.
Meanwhile in Hamilton, the Tigers are suffering. Playing in the smallest city in the league and in the league’s oldest arena has forced them to sell some of their best players. With the Buffalo Bisons temporarily homeless, a deal is reached between the two teams. The Bisons and Tigers will merge and play in Hamilton until a new arena is built in Buffalo, at which point the team will move there.
With the completion of the new Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, the Hamilton Tigers move to Buffalo and resurrect the Buffalo Bisons name, as agreed upon in 1936.
Another returning market is Cleveland. Albert C. Sutphin, owner of the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Barons, built Cleveland Arena for his team in 1937. Upon acquiring the city’s dormant National Hockey Association franchise, he brings the Barons into the NHA, to play in the Western Division.
With new arenas in Buffalo and Cleveland, the Philadelphia Arrows are left in the league’s smallest stadium, as Philadelphia Arena was built just before the construction boom that started in 1924. As such, the team begins looking for opportunities to build a new arena, determined not to become the next Hamilton.
The Philadelphia Arrows complete construction of a new arena – Philadelphia Auditorium – on the site of the former Baker Bowl, abandoned by Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies in 1938. Like Buffalo’s new stadium, the arena is completed in part as a public works project.
Despite being the first team in the market, the New York Americans have been played second fiddle to the New York Rangers since the Redshirts joined the National Hockey Association. It doesn’t help that the Rangers have been run well, first by Tex Rickard, then John Reed Kilpatrick, while the Americans have been operated on a shoestring budget by Red Dutton.
Dutton requests to be allowed to move back to the Brooklyn Ice Palace. NHA President Eddie Livingstone recognizes the move as a horrible idea and rejects it outright. Citing the success of the strategy in Cleveland, he recommends that the Americans suspend operations while attempting to build a new arena in Brooklyn. Dutton agrees and the Americans go dark for the 1941-42 season.
The rechristened Brooklyn Americans return to the National Hockey Association, playing out of their newly-constructed Veterans Memorial Arena.
With the league back to an even number of teams and rationing lifted due to the end of the Second World War, the NHA takes the opportunity to go back to two divisions. The East Division is made up of the Boston Braves, Brooklyn Americans, Buffalo Bisons, Montreal Wanderers, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Arrows. The West Division includes the Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Barons, Detroit Olympias, St. Louis Flyers, Toronto Blueshirts, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
November 9, 1947
One month into his thirty-first season as President of the National Hockey Association, Eddie Livingstone dies at age 63.
The summer and fall of 1917 remains the same as it did in our timeline, but we begin to depart with the note that the legal proceedings between Eddie Livingstone and everyone else are still going on in March of 1918. In our timeline, the initial judgement had already been passed by then and Livingstone had moved on to appealing it. The judgement finally comes down in April and that’s the big switch, with Livingstone winning rather than losing.
Honestly, I have no idea how feasible that is. It’s been a long time since I read Deception and Doublecross so I don’t know what would need to change to impact the outcome there. Maybe Livingstone hires a better lawyer or it’s a different judge or something. For the sake of this, the details don’t matter, just the outcome.
The Arena Company was already in financial trouble in our timeline but the added pressure of having lost the lawsuit and needing to appeal (rather than simply fight off an appeal) gives Livingstone leverage to simply take over the company.
I imagine that Livingstone and Quinn would make their play for Quebec regardless of what was happening in Toronto but that the NHL – already scrambling to figure out what to do – would clue in on Quinn’s intentions pretty quickly.
As I recall it, Ottawa’s participation in the coup against Livingstone was led by Tommy Gorman. With Ted Dey gaining full control of the team, he’s able to be lured to join Livingstone with the prospect of a league controlled by arena owners. Livingstone doesn’t actually care about that idea but uses it as bait for Dey, which gives him the voting bloc he needs to take over the NHA.
Frank Calder and George Kennedy aren’t going to take their loss lying down, hence propping up dead teams to keep the NHL alive. These are teams run on a shoestring budget, hence the Canadiens dominating the league.
Come spring of 1919, the Canadiens don’t go West for the Stanley Cup, which means the team doesn’t get the Spanish Flu. Joe Hall lives and the Cup is awarded as scheduled.
After a chaotic year, the two sides are still trying to figure out where they stand, which is part of why the NHL fails to close the deal with Hamilton. That gives Livingstone time to steal the market out from under them (as the NHL did to Livingstone’s stillborn CHA in our timeline). Going back to Quebec isn’t financially viable for the NHL. Neither is Kingston, really, but for the NHL, giving up Quebec for Kingston looks better than giving up Quebec for Hamilton, losing out on Hamilton anyway, then being forced to go back to Quebec.
Unsurprisingly, Kingston fails but now the NHL gets to take advantage of a Livingstone mistake, picking up Buffalo. The NHA still gets Pittsburgh. We’re seeing cities that didn’t have teams in our world get them sooner because the two leagues are pushing harder for expansion to muscle each other out.
Meanwhile the Montreal Wanderers get bought up by the group that bought the Canadiens in our timeline. No longer run as a placeholder, the team makes an immediate turnaround.
The fight for markets becomes most visible in 1922.
Huntington Hardwick, who got the Chicago NHL franchise in 1926 in our timeline (before flipping it to McLaughlin), is four years earlier in his career here, so he partners with other interests in his hometown instead of going to Chicago. This cuts out Charles Adams, who didn’t get interested in hockey until our 1924 Stanley Cup Finals, and results in the team being the Boston Braves instead of the Boston Bruins.
In Detroit we find a relatively generic group of local businessmen and a plot of land. Are they the same businessmen who brought the NHL to Detroit in our world? Is the plot of land where our Olympia was? Doesn’t matter. The new arena is still named after the Olympia in London, though, and without the associated purchase of the Victoria Cougars, the team is named after the arena (as a real-world minor league team was).
Livingstone was holding out for New York but there’s simply no good arena there in 1922. Madison Square Garden II doesn’t have ice, so he backs off and goes to Philadelphia instead (where “Arrows” was a minor-league team in our timeline). That’s not how it looks as it happens, though, as the more-desperate NHL goes to New York anyway.
In our world, the Brooklyn Ice Palace is where the Americans practiced after changing their city name to “Brooklyn.” In this world, they played there under the “New York” location name.
We get a look out West and see that with the influx of teams in the East (twelve in this timeline compared to four in ours) is wrecking the western leagues sooner.
George Kennedy dodged the Spanish Flu in this timeline only to die in a tragic car accident two years later. This puts the Canadiens in the hands of his widow, who promptly sold them in our world. Here, no one wants to be the second team in Montreal in a second-tier league, so there are no buyers. Kennedy also burned through more cash keeping the league afloat so she’s more willing to sell the team piece by piece to get money back.
Meanwhile, with the NHA having gone to Detroit already, Chicago is closer to the league’s footprint, close enough to reach out to to gauge interest. So the Blackhawks come in with McLaughlin the owner (he already had money in 1923 so the change in timeframe doesn’t matter so much there). With the Boston Braves already in the league, the Blackhawks never go with their Indian-head branding, which is part of why the spelling is “Blackhawks” instead of “Black Hawks” from the start. Maybe this means my Blackhawks fauxback concept gets used in this world.
The Montreal Forum still gets built and the Wanderers jump there, then jump to the NHA. You have to imagine that move had been in the works for a while, given how the Wanderers chafed at being in a second-tier league but were hamstrung by the NHA ban at Mount Royal Arena. They’d probably talked to Buffalo about it as well, which is why they jumped so quickly, too. The Americans still have arena issues but Livingstone is able to negotiate a deal for them.
The NHL is dead. The WHL follows soon after. None of the WHL teams’ rosters are purchased as a whole but the top players find their way east pretty quickly. It should be noted that at this point, team rosters are nothing like what they were in our timeline, so there’s simply no comparing the 1926 New York Rangers of our world with their alternate counterparts.
Speaking of the Rangers, with the Toronto Blueshirts already in the league, blue sweaters with red lettering aren’t going to work so well. Hence the red sweaters with blue lettering. There are no Montreal Canadiens to worry about matching, after all.
Cleveland getting a team is a stretch. The arena is ridiculously small compared to the new stadia going up at the time but Livingstone isn’t one to say no to an interested ownership group. They’re not helped by having to play in the Canadian Division with the league already imbalanced.
As previously mentioned, rosters are nothing like they were in our timeline, so this is where I stop making note of Stanley Cup Champions on an annual basis.
Boston Garden goes up as in our timeline while Chicago Stadium is built a year early, as the team started earlier. Buffalo goes to Peace Bridge Arena, which is constructed exactly as it was in our world.
The owners of the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets hit the same financial problems as they did in our timeline and Duquesne Gardens is ancient even by 1930 standards. With Philadelphia already taken (and not competing with the C-AHL, therefore healthier), it’s not available as a relocation target, so the team is sold to the same group that would attempt to acquire an expansion team in 1932 in our world. That group is led by James E. Norris and with his money behind them (and the NHA’s upcoming travel-friendly realignment), the Flyers are in better shape than the Eagles.
Cleveland fails quickly, as playing in such a small venue will do to a team. But the venue is suitable for a C-AHL team so we see the market live on.
The Maple Leafs build their new arena, but with Livingstone (informally, if nothing else) owning the “Garden” brand in Toronto, Conn Smythe builds “Maple Leaf Coliseum.” Not willing to be a tenant to the Leafs or play in the city’s now-second-class arena, Livingstone builds Toronto Gardens. Neither of these are strictly analogous to our Maple Leaf Gardens but you have to think that MLC is pretty close to MLG given that the same people are building it at the same time. Perhaps Toronto Gardens are based more on Chicago Stadium and the Detroit Olympia.
With Norris owning the Flyers, he doesn’t buy the Detroit team, but because the Olympias are not the Cougars/Falcons, they don’t have the same problems anyway and never go into receivership. This means they don’t become the Red Wings.
While Detroit is better off, Ottawa still has trouble, because they’re small-market. Livingstone sees an opportunity in Ottawa’s failure and gives Minneapolis a shot (since St. Louis isn’t available for the Senators to relocate to anyway). Minneapolis Arena isn’t much smaller than Philadelphia Arena but with the Millers having to travel so much further than the Arrows, it just doesn’t work out there.
Peace Bridge Arena still collapses, as it did in our timeline. Rather than going back to Broadway Auditorium, though, the Bisons go to Hamilton. Despite the merged club initially taking the Tigers’ name, this is really the Bisons temporarily moving to Hamilton and adding some of their players. Future histories will probably show the Bisons as on hiatus during their time in Hamilton.
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium gets built two years earlier than in our world, with the Bisons stuck in Hamilton waiting for it. Cleveland Arena gets built on schedule but it takes another year before Albert C. Sutphin gets the NHA franchise from its original owners.
The Philadelphia Arrows build a new arena as a public works project. That wouldn’t have happened in our timeline because there was no team to build an arena for. The location is one that would be proposed several years later by the people who wanted to reactivate the Montreal Maroons franchise in Philadelphia in our world.
As happened in reality, the New York Americans look to move to Brooklyn. Having actually played there in this timeline, they try to go back to their old venue. Livingstone, backed by the success of Cleveland having taken a hiatus to build an arena, suggests that the Americans do the same, so the season of the Brooklyn Americans playing at Madison Square Garden doesn’t happen. Post-war, though, the Amerks get their arena, named in honor of the war’s veterans, and successfully return to the league.
Readmitting the Americans and realigning the league is the last thing Eddie Livingstone does as league president. More successful in this world than in ours, he lives two years longer, but even his time runs out.
The timeline is really Livingstone’s story so it ends there but I have thoughts about the NHA’s future.
The league has basically been run as a benevolent dictatorship for thirty years, so it’s going to take some time to figure out how things work without Livingstone. Once that’s sorted out, I think you’ll see another push to go out west. While our NHL was conservative with awarding teams, to the point of blocking the return of the Americans and keeping the Cleveland Barons out, this NHA takes chances and has been rewarded by getting to markets first, in the case of St. Louis and Philadelphia (though they don’t have the hindsight that we have to know that).
There is no “Original Six” era, no “Great Expansion” to delineate things. The Livingstone Era and the modern era, perhaps.
At this point, you can’t count on any of the arenas constructed in our world to exist in this one, but there will probably be analogues. I see someone building a new arena in Minneapolis/St. Paul in the early- to mid-1950s and the Minneapolis (or Minnesota) Millers making a return. Possibly Kansas City gets a team around the same time but I’ll assume not.
In the early 1960s there would be a jump to the Pacific coast. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. Throughout that decade some holes in the footprint would be patched up. Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh.
By 1970, every city that had an NHL team in our timeline has one, with two in New York and Toronto, plus Cleveland, Seattle, Baltimore, and Denver. Twenty teams instead of fourteen.
This probably means there’s no World Hockey Association, or if there is one it’s not as successful. The NHA is just too big to challenge, entrenched in too many markets. That means there’s no battle for players (though this NHA is bigger than our NHL so they’re still fighting amongst themselves).
If Atlanta builds the Omni, I see the NHA going there. Would Uniondale even build a Nassau Coliseum analogue with Madison Square Garden and Brooklyn’s Veterans Memorial Arena already? I’m going to say no, or at least it’s going to be smaller than the NHA would be interested in, so there are no New York Islanders.
The Baltimore team probably moves to Washington, much like the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets did, if Capital Centre gets built.
Kansas City probably gets their team in the 1970s sometime to put the league at 22 teams, at which point the league starts expanding in pairs to keep things even. Without a battle for players, Kansas City is better in their expansion year, which might save them.
That puts the NHA in every market that our NHL was in by the mid-1970s. With no WHA, does the league go to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec, and Hartford? I don’t think so, which probably means the NHA never goes to the Canadian prairies at all, leaving it for the CHL.
That means further expansion is in the American Midwest and South, looking a little bit more like NBA expansion. Dallas and Phoenix in 1980. Milwaukee and Houston make noise but always seem to fall short. As does Oklahoma City, with some significant hockey history. The new Meadowlands Arena seems like a landing spot for a team in the early 1980s but no one really wants to be the fourth team in the market, behind the Rangers, Americans, and Arrows.
By the 1990s the league is still going to want the big national TV deal the NHL chased in our reality. If Disney and Blockbuster come knocking, they’re going to go to Anaheim and Miami (and if the owners are the same, the team names are probably going to be the same). Tampa Bay doesn’t make it, with Oklahoma City edging them out in the 1995 expansion and the league going back to Ottawa.
Our NHL aimed to be at 28 teams by 2000 but expanded to 30. This NHA is at 28 teams in 1995 so there’s no late-1990s/early-2000s expansion.
With the Toronto Blueshirts and the Montreal Wanderers facing off in the NHA Centennial Classic on January 5, 2010, the league is as follows:
Anaheim Ducks (1993)
Atlanta Flames (1972)
Boston Braves (1922)
Brooklyn Americans (1922)
Buffalo Bisons (1921)
Chicago Blackhawks (1923)
Cleveland Barons (1927)
Dallas Texans (1980)
Denver Spurs (1967)
Detroit Olympias (1922)
Florida Panthers (1993)
Kansas City Scouts (1976)
Los Angeles Stars (1962)
Minnesota Millers (1952)
Montreal Wanderers (1909)
New York Rangers (1926)
Oklahoma City Blazers (1995)
Ottawa Senators (1995)
Philadelphia Arrows (1922)
Phoenix Roadrunners (1980)
Pittsburgh Hornets (1965)
San Francisco Seals (1962)
Seattle Totems (1962)
St. Louis Flyers (1930)
Toronto Blueshirts (1912)
Toronto Maple Leafs (1912)
Vancouver Canucks (1962)
Washington Eagles (1974) / Baltimore Clippers (1967)