For other teams of the same name, please see Hamilton Tigers (diambiguation).
The Hamilton Tigers were a professional ice hockey team, and a member of the National Hockey League (NHL), based in Hamilton, Ontario that played from 1920 – 1925. The Tigers were formed from the sale of the Quebec Bulldogs NHL franchise to Hamilton interests. The team struggled to succeed, becoming the top team in the league, before being dissolved after a players strike. The franchise's assets (the player contracts) were sold to New York interests to stock the expansion New York Americans.
The origins of the team go back to the old Quebec City Bulldogs team which started play in 1878. They would eventually play in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada and different leagues thereafter (including the NHL in 1920). Their last season in Quebec (1919–20) was a dismal one as they finished last in the NHL with only four wins in 24 games.
After the 1919–20 season, the NHL took back the Quebec Bulldogs franchise and sold the team to the Abso Pure Ice Company of Hamilton, Ontario. The club was moved to Hamilton for the 1920–21 season and renamed the Hamilton Tigers. This was done to prevent the startup of a rival league, which was trying to land a club in Hamilton. (see Eddie Livingstone) At the time (1920), Hamilton was the fifth-largest population in Canada (Hamilton-114,200/ Toronto-521,900) and considered a vital market. Percy Thompson, a part-owner and manager of the Barton Street Arena would be the manager of the team.
The move to Hamilton did not improve the team's record. Despite earning a shutout in their first game, a 5–0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on December 22, 1920, being the only team to ever do so, it was plain that the Tigers didn't have a team that could compete. As a result, the NHL ordered the other three teams to supply players to the Tigers. Despite receiving quality players from the other teams and the signing of Joe Malone four games into the season, Hamilton still finished with the worst record at 6 wins, 18 losses, and 0 ties in 24 games. Even with Malone managing to score 30 goals in only 20 games, they couldn't climb out of the cellar.
The next three seasons were just as dreadful as the first one as the Tigers finished last in each of those three seasons making a total of 5 straight (counting the one season as the Bulldogs) with last place finishes. During these dreadful years, the Tigers attempted a rebuilding phase to bring the team up to par. After the 1921–22 NHL season, they hired Art Ross as their new coach and made many player changes, including trading superstar Malone to the Montreal Canadiens for Bert Corbeau and Edmond Bouchard. The fans were outraged at seeing Malone leave, but felt vindicated when Malone -- near the end of his career -- only scored one goal in twenty games in one season for Montreal.
Prior to the 1922–23 season, the NHL would hold it's governors meeting at the Royal Connaught Hotel on King Street, where visiting teams stayed as well.
After four years of futility, things started to come together in the 1923–24 NHL season with another new coach (Percy LeSueur) and the signing of four players from the Sudbury Wolves of the NOHA: Brothers Red and Shorty Green, Alex McKinnon, and Charlie Langlois. This year saw the Tigers achieve a team high of nine wins in 24 games. It was the next season, though, that saw the results of the previous years' wheelings and dealings.
With yet another new head coach (Jimmy Gardner) the Hamilton Tigers roared off to an impressive 10–4–1 start in the 1924–25 NHL season. Only half way through the season, they had more wins than any other season in their NHL history. The team slumped somewhat in the second half of the season but still managed to finish first overall with a record of 19 wins, 10 losses, and 1 tie, just ahead of the Toronto St. Patricks. It looked like the Hamilton Tigers were going to have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since they won it as the Quebec Bulldogs over a decade prior in 1913.
But it was not to be. During the rail travel back to Hamilton after the season's final game, the Tigers' players went to their general manager, Percy Thompson, and demanded $200 pay for the six extra games they played that season or they would not play in the playoffs. The NHL had increased the number of games played that year from 24 to 30, but the players didn't receive an increase in pay. The Tigers management, stating that the players' contracts stated that the players were under contract from December 1 to March 30, regardless of the number of games, refused to pay the money and passed the issue to the NHL. Thus began the first players strike in NHL history.
NHL President Frank Calder stated that the players would be suspended if they refused to play in the final and at first said that the fourth-place Ottawa team would replace them in the final. At the same time, Calder ordered that the players' back-pay be held. The impasse continued while the second and third-place teams Toronto and Montreal played their semi-final, ending with Montreal winning on March 13. On March 14, after consulting with Tigers management, Calder declared that the Montreal Canadiens were league champions and fined each player $200. The Montreal Canadiens then went on to play the Victoria Cougars for the Stanley Cup but lost. That marked the last time that an NHL team had lost the Stanley Cup to a rival league.
Takeover by New York
Thomas Duggan of Montreal, owner of the Mount Royal Arena, held two options for expansion teams in the United States. He sold the first of the two to Boston. He sold the second to a New York bootlegger named "Big Bill" Dwyer for a team to play in New York. At the NHL league meeting of April 17, 1925, Dwyer was granted an expansion franchise for New York. Although Dwyer wished to purchase the Hamilton players, for a little while it seemed that Hamilton might remain in the NHL as Abso-Pure talked about building a new arena. The arena was not built and Dwyer bought the rights to the Tigers' players from Thompson for $75,000, and gave the players raises, some as high as 200% of their previous salary. Dwyer's team was for a time known as the "New York Hamilton Tigers" by the time it reached training camp, but this was changed to the New York Americans. The Hamilton franchise was officially revoked at the September 22 league meeting in the same year, and the matter of the players' suspensions and fines dropped with little additional comment. Dwyer, ostensibly the owner, was not publicly named by the NHL at the meeting announcing the team. Instead, Colonel Hammond of Madison Square Garden, Duggan, and former Ottawa manager Tommy Gorman were announced as the officers.
The last active Tigers player was Billy Burch, who retired in 1933.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1920–21||24||6||18||0||12||92||132||154||fourth (last) in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1921–22||24||7||17||0||14||88||105||76||fourth (last) in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1922–23||24||6||18||0||12||81||110||182||fourth (last) in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1923–24||24||9||15||0||18||63||68||83||fourth (last) in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1924–25||30||19||10||1||39||90||60||332||first in NHL||Team suspended|
Hall of Famers
- 1920–21: No Coach (Percy Thompson Owner / Manager)
- 1921–22: No Coach (Joe Malone Player / Manager)
- 1922–23: Art Ross
- 1923–24: Percy LeSueur
- 1924–25: Jimmy Gardner
- List of Hamilton Tigers players
- List of NHL players
- List of NHL seasons
- List of defunct NHL teams
- New York Americans
- Phoenix Coyotes
- Quebec Bulldogs
- Coleman, pp. 368-369
- Holzman, pp. 214-224
- Coleman, p. 378
- Wesley, p. 80
- Duplacey, James. Hockey’s Book of Firsts. JG Press, 40. ISBN ISBN 978-1-57215-037-9.
- "Hamilton "Pro" Team Demands More Money", The Globe, March 13, 1925, p. 8.
- Wesley, p. 81
- "Canadiens Declared Champions of N.H.L", The Globe, March 16, 1925, p. 8.
- Coleman, p.487
- Coleman, Charles (1966). Trail of the Stanley Cup, Vol I., 1893–1926 inc.. Kendall/Hunt.
- Fischler, Stan; Shirley Fischler, Morgan Hughes, Joseph Romain, James Duplacey (1999). 20th Century Hockey Chronicle. Publications International Ltd..
- Holzman, Morey & Nieforth, Joseph (2002), Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey, Dundurn Press, ISBN 1-55002-413-2
- Melville, Thomas Bailey (1981). Dictionary of Hamilton Biography, Vol III.(1925–39). W.L. Griffin Ltd..
- Wesley, Sam; Wesley, David (2005). Hamilton's Hockey Tigers. James Lorimer & Company Ltd.. ISBN 1550288873.
- Wong, John Chi-Kit (2004), Lords of the Rinks: The Emergence of the National Hockey League, University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-3725-9
- Hamilton Herald Newspaper articles, (1920–1925)
- Hamilton Tigers (c. 1920; 20??)
- Hamilton Tigers Jersey Images
- Hamilton Tigers on geocities
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