The line in the NHL record book is simple and direct: 1919, No
A health crisis swept the world that year -- a flu epidemic
killed at least 20 million people -- and the championship series was
called off after five games.
No Stanley Cup was awarded.
hockey champ since 1893, when Lord Stanley, the governor general of
Canada, came up with a trophy for the best hockey team in North
There won't be a Stanley Cup paraded around the ice this year,
either. The NHL canceled what little was left of the season
Wednesday after a series of last-minute offers were rejected on the
final day of negotiations focusing on a salary cap.
Back in 1919, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the winner of a
series between the champion of the 2-year-old NHL -- then an
intimate three-team league with franchises in Montreal, Ottawa and
Toronto -- and the winner of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association --
with teams in Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.
The NHL schedule was an 18-game affair in those days, a time
well removed from the October-to-May marathon of modern hockey. The
season was split into two halves, with the first-place finishers
meeting in what amounted to the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Then it would be on to the championship series against the PCHA
champs for the treasured Cup.
That year, Seattle won the PCHA title in a two-game series
against Vancouver decided by total goals. The NHL title went to
Montreal in a best-of-seven playoff series against Ottawa.
In the finals opener, Seattle beat Montreal 7-0, easily scoring
on Hall of Fame goalie Georges Vezina. Montreal tied the series in
Game 2, winning 4-2 as Newsy Lalonde scored all four goals. In Game
3, Seattle won 7-2 on Frank Foyston's four goals.
Game 4 ended at 0-0 after 1 hour, 40 minutes of overtime. And
Game 5 stretched into overtime, too, going an extra 15:57 before
Odie Cleghorn scored for Montreal to tie the series at two games
But there was a problem: The players were exhausted. The flu
outbreak was becoming widespread, and Montreal defenseman Joe Hall
left Game 5 with a high fever (he never made it out of the hospital
in Seattle and died of the flu). Lalonde was sick, too. Three other
Canadiens and manager George Kennedy were hospitalized.
Rosters were limited to eight skaters back then, and Montreal
was left with three healthy players. Kennedy offered to use
replacements from Victoria, but Seattle balked.
So the series was abandoned after five games, declared a
Perhaps sports historians should have sensed in October that
something would be amiss come Stanley Cup time. After all, that's
when the season was supposed to begin -- and also the month in which
the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
The last time the Red Sox were baseball's champions, of course,
was 1918, and the following spring there was no Stanley Cup.