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The 1917-18 NHL season was the first season of the National Hockey League (NHL). Play was held in two halves, December 19 to February 4, and February 6 to March 6. Canadiens won the first half, and Toronto the second half. The Montreal Wanderers withdrew early in January 1918 after their rink, the Montreal Arena, burned down. Toronto won the NHL playoff and then won the Stanley Cup by defeating the PCHA's Vancouver Millionaires three games to two in a best-of-five series

League Business

See main article, History of the National Hockey League

On November 9, 1917, it was reported that the Toronto NHA franchise was sold to Charles Querrie of the Toronto Arena corporation. At this point, NHA president Robertson and secretary Calder denied that the NHA would change, dissolve or adopt other subterfuge.[1] This sale never completed.

The November 10, 1917 annual meeting of the NHA was presided over by Mr. Calder and was adjourned without any public statement.

On November 17, 1917, it was announced that Quebec had dropped out, but that NHA league play would continue.

On November 26, 1917, representatives of the NHA clubs met at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. The decision was made to start a new league, the NHL:

  • constitution and rules the same as the NHA
  • Frank Calder elected president and secretary
  • M. J. Quinn of Quebec was named honorary president
  • franchises were granted to Ottawa, Canadiens, Wanderers,
  • Quebec players to be disbursed among the other teams

A Toronto franchise was to be operated 'temporarily' by the Toronto Arena Company while the Toronto ownership situation was resolved. The franchise used the players of the Blueshirts, including those who had been transferred to other NHA teams for the second half of the 1916-17 NHA season. This was done without the permission of Mr. Livingstone, who would sue for the team's revenues. According to George Kennedy, owner of the Canadiens:

"The Toronto players belong as a body to the National Hockey League, for they were only loaned to the Toronto Arena Company, though Livingstone tried to make the Arena Company believe that he controlled those players"[2]

The team played without a nickname for the season.

According to Holzman[3], the NHL itself was intended to operate temporarily until the Toronto NHA franchise was resolved. The NHA had a pending lawsuit against the 228th Battalion, and could or would not fold until after that was heard.

Major Rule Changes

The championship trophy, the O'Brien Trophy, which was transferred to the new NHL from the defunct National Hockey Association, became the league's championship trophy. It was awarded to the winner of the NHL playoffs and that winner then went on to play for the Stanley Cup in a series against rival leagues.

On January 9, 1918, the league decided to allow goaltenders to drop to the ice surface in order to make saves. This was the first implemented and amended rule change in the National Hockey League. It was done in response to Ottawa's Clint Benedict constantly falling to make saves.

Benefit Game

In mid-December the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers would stage a benefit game for the victiims of the Halifax Explosion which occured a little over a week prior..  This game would be the first exhibition game in league history.

Regular Season

The new league faced stiff competition for players from a number of other leagues including the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Also, filling rosters was a challenge because the talent pool was decimated by World War I.

The Wanderers were in trouble from the start of the season. They won their home opener but drew only 700 fans. The Wanderer then lost the next three games and owner Lichtenhein threatened to withdraw from the league unless he could get some players. Although they could have acquired Joe Malone in the draft they turned to the PCHA and signed goaltender Hap Holmes. They also obtained permission to sign such players as Frank Foyston, Jack Walker and others if they could do so. The Wanderers loaned Holmes to the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA but he eventually found his way back to the NHL when Seattle loaned him to the Toronto Arenas.

A league meeting was planned to deal with the situation, however on January 2, 1918, the matter was resolved when the Montreal Arena burned down, leaving the Canadiens and Wanderers homeless. The Canadiens moved into the 3,250-seat Jubilee Rink. The Hamilton arena offered to provide a home for the Wanderers, but Lichtenhein disbanded the team on January 4, after the other clubs refused to give him any players. The remaining three teams would complete the season.

The last active player from the inaugural season was Reg Noble, who retired following the 1933 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


The first game of the season featured Toronto versus the Wanderers. Montreal's Dave Ritchie scored the first goal in NHL history and Harry Hyland had four goals in the Wanderers 10-9 victory, which would be their only one in the NHL. The opening game was played in front of only 700 fans.

On January 28, when Canadiens visited Toronto, players Alf Skinner and Joe Hall got into a stick-swinging duel. Both players received match penalties, $15 fines and were arrested by the Toronto Police for disorderly conduct, for which they received suspended sentences.

Final Standings

First Half
Montreal Canadiens 14 10 4 0 20 81 47
Toronto Hockey Club 14 8 6 0 16 71 75
Ottawa Senators 14 5 9 0 10 67 79
Montreal Wanderers 6 1 5 0 2 17 35
Second Half
Toronto Hockey Club 8 5 3 0 10 37 34
Ottawa Senators 8 4 4 0 8 35 35
Montreal Canadiens 8 3 5 0 6 34 37

[4] Note: GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.
The Wanderers defaulted scheduled games against the Canadiens (Jan. 2, 1918) and Toronto (Jan. 5, 1918), when their arena burned down.
These appear as losses in the standings, but the games were not played.[5]

Scoring Leaders

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties In Minutes

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Joe Malone Montreal Canadiens 20 44 4 48 30
Cy Denneny Ottawa Senators 20 36 10 46 80
Reg Noble Toronto 20 30 10 40 35
Newsy Lalonde Montreal Canadiens 14 23 7 30 51
Corbett Denneny Toronto 21 20 9 29 14
Harry Cameron Toronto 21 17 10 27 28
Didier Pitre Montreal Canadiens 20 17 6 23 29
Eddie Gerard Ottawa Senators 20 13 7 20 26
Jack Darragh Ottawa Senators 18 14 5 19 26
Frank Nighbor Ottawa Senators 10 11 8 19 6

Leading Goaltenders

Name Club GP GA SO Avg.
Georges Vezina Canadiens 21 84 1 4.0
Harry Holmes Toronto 16 76 4.8
Clint Benedict Ottawa 22 114 1 5.2
A. Brooks Toronto 3 18 1 6.0
Sam Hebert Toronto/Ottawa 2 15 7.5

Stanley Cup Playoffs

All dates in 1918

NHL Championship

Montreal had won the first half of the NHL split season and Toronto had won the second half. The two teams then played a two game total goals series for the NHL championship and the O'Brien Trophy. Toronto won the series and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals.

Toronto vs. Montreal Canadiens

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
March 11 Montreal Canadiens 3 Toronto 7
March 13 Toronto 3 Montreal Canadiens 4

Toronto wins total goals series 10-7 for the O'Brien Trophy


Vancouver Millionaires vs. Toronto
Date Away Score Home Score Notes
March 20 Vancouver Millionaires 3 Toronto 5
March 23 Toronto 4 Vancouver Millionaires 6
March 26 Vancouver Millionaires 3 Toronto 6
March 28 Toronto 1 Vancouver Millionaires 8
March 30 Vancouver Millionaires 1 Toronto 2

Toronto wins best-of-five series 3 games to 2 for the Stanley Cup

NHL Playoff Scoring Leaders

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

Player Team GP G A Pts

Alf Skinner

Toronto 7 8 3 11
Newsy Lalonde Canadiens 2 4 4
Harry Cameron Toronto 7 4 4
Harry Meeking Toronto 7 4 4
Reg Noble Toronto 7 3 3


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1917-18 (listed with their first team, not including players who previously played in the NHA):

Last Games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1917-18 (listed with their last team):

See Also


  • NHL Official Website
  • Hockey Database
  • Holzman, Morey, and Joseph Nieforth. Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2002), pp. 169-70.
  • Coleman, Charles (1966). The Trail of the Stanley Cup, vol. 1, 1893-1926 inc. 
  1. Coleman, Charles (1966). The Trail of the Stanley Cup, vol. 1., 1893-1926 inc, 328. 
  2. from "Trying Hard to Wreck Pro Hockey", Montreal Star: pg. 6, October 1, 1918 as quoted in Holzman, page 371.
  3. Holzman, Morey (2002). Deceptions and Doublecross, pg. 193. 
  4. Standings: NHL Public Relations Department (2008). in Dave McCarthy: THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE Official Guide & Record Book/2009. National Hockey League, 145. ISBN 978-1-894801-14-0. 
  5. Holzman, Morey (2002). "Lichtenhein Loses the War", Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 169–70. ISBN 1-55002-413-2. “The league did not accept the Wanderers' resignation immediately, electing to wait and see whether the team showed up for its scheduled match in Toronto on Saturday January 5. ... The deadline did expire, and the once-powerful team that had been known as the Little Men of Iron was thrown onto the scrap heap of hockey history. The Wanderers' scheduled games of January 2 and 5 were officially recorded in the standings as victories for their respective opponents, the Canadiens and Torontos.”