National Hockey Association

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Development of the NHL

The National Hockey Association ( NHA ) was a professional North American ice hockey league that existed from 1909 to 1917. The National Hockey League emerged from the league .


Formation of the NHA (1909–1910)

Renfrew player Lester Patrick

John Ambrose O'Brien , who financially supported the Cobalt Silver Kings and Renfrew Creamery Kings , failed several times in 1909 with the project with his teams to challenge the reigning Stanley Cup winner Ottawa Senators to the prestigious cup that was the best at the time Team Canada was awarded because the successes of the teams were not enough for the administrators of the Stanley Cup. For this reason, O'Brien and his son Ambrose decided to join the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association , in which the Senators were playing at the time, in order to irrevocably prove their own capabilities. With the help of the owner of the Montreal Wanderers , PJ Doran, they wanted to achieve admission to the ECAHA, but there were disagreements about the future location of the Wanderers between their owners and the league, so that the other teams of the ECAHA the league on November 25, 1909 disbanded and instead founded the Canadian Hockey Association . Just a week later, on December 2, 1909, O'Brien and Jimmy Gardner, who represented Doran in the negotiations, decided to meet at which they founded the National Hockey Association. This had five members in its premiere season - the Montreal Wanderers, Cobalt, Renfrew, the Haileybury Comets and les Canadiens , from which the Canadiens de Montréal emerged .

Newsy Lalonde , top scorer in 1910

The first game of the NHA took place on January 5, 1910 between Cobalt and the Canadiens, while the competing Canadian Hockey Association had already started on December 31, 1909. Both leagues tried to get the best ice hockey players in the country under contract, but with the financial background of the O'Brien family, who financially supported four of the five NHA teams, the NHA was able to offer significantly higher sums and players like Newsy Lalonde , Didier Pitre , Brothers Frank and Lester Patrick and Cyclone Taylor all received several thousand dollar contracts for just twelve games of the season. Due to the higher financial possibilities and the fact that the league was geographically better balanced - three of the five teams played in Montréal in the CHA - the CHA stopped playing on January 15, 1910 and only the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Shamrocks became accepted into the NHA as expansion teams. The Montreal Wanderers were the first team to win the championship of the NHA in 1910, winning eleven of their twelve games. Then they prevailed in the Stanley Cup Challenges. The league's top scorer was Newsy Lalonde.

Stanley Cup dominance of the NHA (1910–1913)

The Quebec Bulldogs Stanley Cup winning team (1913)

The first NHA season with its high financial expenditures ensured that O'Brien stopped supporting the teams from Cobalt and Haileybury, who then had to leave the league. The Montreal Shamrocks also left the NHA after just one year. As a replacement, the Quebec Bulldogs were newly added to the league and the team of the les Canadiens was given to Georges Kendall, who changed its name to Canadiens de Montréal. The 1910/11 season was won with 13: 3 victories by the Ottawa Senators, who were then able to assert themselves in the Stanley Cup Challenges. For the 1911/12 season , Renfrew also had to withdraw from the league, as the town's population of 4,000 proved to be too small for professional ice hockey at the highest level. The Quebec Bulldogs became champions for the first time. In the meantime, the Patrick brothers had long since left the league to found the Pacific Coast Hockey Association , which in the following years developed into serious competition to the NHA, which also involved the transfer of numerous top players between the two leagues. In the 1912/13 season , the Quebec Bulldogs were able to successfully defend both their championship titles in the NHA and the Stanley Cup. Before the season, two other teams from Ontario were added to the league with the Toronto Blueshirts and Toronto Tecumsehs .

Serious competition from the PCHA (1913–1917)

The Toronto Blueshirts , 1914 Stanley Cup winners

In the 1913/14 season the Toronto Blueshirts won the NHA championship title after they had prevailed against the Canadiens de Montréal with 6-2 goals in two games in a playoff final. Then they beat the Victoria Aristocrats in the Stanley Cup Challenge, in which the PCHA teams were allowed to participate for the first time, in a best-of-five series with 3-0 victories. In the 1914/15 season , the league had to accept a reduced average attendance, as numerous stars of the NHA had committed to military service after the outbreak of World War I. In addition, with the Vancouver Millionaires, a PCHA team won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the same year when they prevailed against the Ottawa Senators. Before the 1915/16 season , Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Shamrocks, had acquired the Toronto Blueshirts franchise , which meant too much power to the other team owners, which is why he should sell the team again. This turned out to be a fatal decision, however, as Livingstone sold the entire Blueshirts roster to the new PCHA Seattle Metropolitans team , instead integrated the Shamrocks roster into its Blueshirts franchise and disbanded the Shamrocks, leaving the NHA with a whole team and a few good player lost. While the Canadiens de Montréal won the championship title of the NHA in 1916 and then the Stanley Cup against the Portland Rosebuds from the PCHA, in the 1916/17 season, of all things , the team from Seattle was supposed to be the first American team to win the Stanley Cup after being in the Challenge series had beaten the Canadiens, who had again become NHA champions. In that season, the ice hockey team of the Toronto 228th Battalion also took part in the game operations of the NHA, but was shipped to Europe after ten games. Since the other teams could not agree with the Blueshirts owner Livingstone on a uniform schedule, his team was also excluded for the second half of the season, and the players of the Blueshirts were distributed to the other NHA teams.

Transformation of the NHA into the NHL (1917)

Logo of the successor to the National Hockey League

In the fall of 1917, the return of the Toronto Blueshirts to the NHA was originally planned, but the other team owners wanted to get rid of Livingstone for good, so in November 1917 they founded the National Hockey League and gave a new Toronto franchise to a different owner group. Livingstone tried several times to revive the old NHA, but this project failed several times before it was finally abandoned in 1919.

Innovations of the NHA

The introduction of the playing time of thirds of 20 minutes each, the abolition of the position of the rover and the associated reduction in the number of players to six per team, as well as many other major and minor rule changes.




  • Dan Diamond (Ed.): Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League . 1st edition. Total Sports, 1998, ISBN 0-8362-7114-9 .

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