PHT Time Machine: When the Canadiens visited Seattle a century ago

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We like to take an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at when the Montreal Canadiens first visited Seattle to play hockey, more than 100 years ago.

The Montreal Canadiens will be in Seattle on Tuesday night to play the NHL’s newest franchise. Even though it will be the Canadiens’ first trip to play the Kraken, it will not be the first time the organization has played an NHL game in the Emerald City.

The most recent time it happened: More than 100 years ago when the Canadiens played the Seattle Metropolitans for the 1919 Stanley Cup.

It never ended up getting awarded.

The Seattle Metropolitans and the early days of the Stanley Cup

While the Kraken are new to the NHL, Seattle does still have a deep hockey history that goes back to the earliest days of the NHL. In fact, the Metropolitans were the first American-based team to win the Stanley Cup.

The Metropolitans existed between 1915 and 1924 and played their games in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, a key professional hockey league in the development of the sport due to several innovation that are staples in the modern game. Among them: The blue line, the goal crease, forward passing (something that the NHL did not initially allow), playoffs, and the removal of the rule that required goalies to always remain on their feet.

Starting in 1915 the PCHA entered into an agreement with the National Hockey Association, the predecessor to the modern day NHL, to compete for the Stanley Cup at the end of their respective regular seasons.

Seattle, as a three-time champion of the PCHA, played for the Stanley Cup on three different occasions — 1917, 1919, and 1920.

In the 1917 Stanley Cup Final they defeated the Canadiens 3-1 in a best-of-five series to become the first American-based team to win it. All four games were played in Seattle, with the Metropolitans clinching the cup with three consecutive victories in Games 2-4 by a combined score of 19-3. That series was also the last time non-NHL teams competed for the Cup as the NHA rebranded as the NHL the following season. The Metropolitans never engraved their name on the Trophy, while their name was not added until 1948, more than three decades after their championship season.

The rematch that was never concluded

It was just two years later that Seattle and Montreal were to set to face off for the Stanley Cup with the entire series to again be played in Seattle. Because the two leagues had differing rules and every game was played in Seattle they alternated which league’s rules would be used on a game-by-game basis.

The problem this time around is that the series was played against the backdrop of a global pandemic (the 1919 flu outbreak) and it would ultimately take over the series in the worst possible way.

With the series tied through five games (Seattle winning two games, Montreal winning two games, and one game being tied) a deciding sixth game was set to be played on April 1. But both teams were hit hard by the flu, with Montreal especially in trouble with all but three players being sick. Montreal had attempted to use replacement players from the PCHA’s Victoria team, a request that was ultimately refused by the leagues.

Hours before the scheduled puck drop the deciding game was cancelled, with Montreal attempted to forfeit the Stanley Cup to Seattle.

The impact of the flu was devastating on the Canadiens. Defenseman Joe Hall died four days after the deciding game was to be played, while team manager George Kennedy never fully recovered from his illness and died a few years later.

Seattle refused to accept the Stanley Cup due to forfeiture because of the circumstances, making it the first the time the Stanley Cup was not awarded during a season. The only other year since then that it was not awarded was the 2004-05 lockout season.

When the Stanley Cup was redesigned in 1948, the 1919 Cup Final was engraved on it to include the names of both teams.

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