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History ‘n’ Hockey: The day the NHL was born

This week in Canadian history in 1917, the first National Hockey League (NHL) games were played on Dec. 19.
Toronto Maple Leafs player scoring goal against Detroit Red Wings, 1942 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Source: Wikimedia Commons
This week in Canadian history in 1917, the first National Hockey League (NHL) games were played on Dec. 19.

The league formed a month earlier in November, consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators, and the Toronto Arenas. Previously, the two Montreal teams and Ottawa operated in the National Hockey Association (NHA), which also included the Quebec Bulldogs and the Toronto Shamrocks.

When the other teams had reached an impasse with Toronto’s owner, Eddie Livingstone, they responded by disbanding the NHA and forming the NHL without him and his team. There was certainly not a lack of scoring in the first set of games as the Wanderers beat the Arenas 10-9 and the Canadiens, aided by a five-goal performance from Joe Malone, picked up a 7-4 victory over the Senators.

Vancouver Canucks at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: VAN 11-13-8 (4th in the Pacific); PHI 13-12-6 (6th in the Metropolitan)
Leading Scorers: Daniel Sedin (14G, 20A); Claude Giroux (11G, 17A)

Philadelphia is known as the city of Brotherly Love and what could be more fitting for the Vancouver Canucks, a team that has twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the roster. Even at age 35, the brothers are still demonstrating they are elite talents in the NHL. After combining for a modest 15 points in October, the duo has since logged 50 points from November until now. Historically, the Canucks have had the edge in Philadelphia as they are 5-1-0 against the Flyers dating back to the 2005-06 season.

Prediction: Philadelphia by 1

San Jose Sharks at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: SJS 15-14-1 (2nd in the Pacific); TOR 10-13-6 (8th in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Joe Pavelski (14G, 14A); James van Riemsdyk (9G, 10A)

To say that the Leafs have not fared well against the Sharks would be an understatement. Since the 2004-2005 lockout, the Leafs have not beaten the Sharks. Full stop. They are 0-10-0 over that span. In fact, to find the last Toronto win against San Jose you’d have to go back to Jan. 29, 2002, when the Leafs beat the Sharks 4-3 at home. At that time, Usher’s “U Got it Bad” was occupying the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, a very apropos song for Leafs fans, who certainly have got it bad.

Prediction: San Jose by 1

Los Angeles Kings at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: LAK 19-9-2 (1st in the Pacific); MTL 20-9-3 (1st in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Jeff Carter (11G, 16A); Tomas Plekanec (7G, 20A)

This is the penultimate matchup in a six-game road trip for Los Angeles, which concludes an Eastern Conference swing against Toronto on Saturday. If tonight’s contest is anything like their previous two meetings in Montreal, it could be a carnival. Over their last two games in the Bell Centre, the Kings and Canadiens have combined for 14 goals. Los Angeles will look to rebound after dropping a game against Ottawa on Monday night, while the Habs will continue to weather the storm without Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher in the lineup.

Prediction: Los Angeles by 1

Edmonton Oilers at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: EDM 14-6-2 (5th in the Pacific); CHI 17-11-4 (4th in the Central)
Leading Scorers: Taylor Hall (15G, 20A); Patrick Kane (19G, 27A)

Two notable storylines came crashing down on Tuesday night. Chicago’s Patrick Kane point streak, the longest since 1992, ended at 26 games. Over that span, he put up 40 points and was two games shy of nearing the top ten for all-time streaks, which would have placed him in the company of Paul Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, and Steven Yzerman. Meanwhile, prior to their game against the Rangers, the Oilers were undefeated in December and were occupying a divisional playoff spot. They are now back to being on the outside looking in and Edmonton playoff optimism is once again a Christmas wish.

Prediction: Chicago by 2

Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames, 8:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: DAL 23-6-2 (1st in the Central); CGY 14-14-2 (4th in the Pacific)
Leading Scorers: Tyler Seguin (17G, 25A); Johnny Gaudreau (12G, 20A)

If you were to look at the last 10 meetings in Dallas between the Flames and the Stars, it would be pretty even on paper. Calgary has a 5-3-2 record, but tonight will be a huge a mismatch as the teams sit on opposite ends of the goal spectrum. Powered by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, two of the league’s leading scorers, the Stars are third best in goal differential at +23. Conversely, the Flames sit dead last with the worst ratio in the NHL at -25, having only scored 78 goals to the 103 they have allowed.

Prediction: Dallas by 2

Last Minute of Play

The NHL’s first season certainly had some interesting storylines. Montreal’s arena, shared by both of the city’s hockey teams, burned down on Jan. 2, 1918.

While the Canadiens relocated to the Jubilee rink, the Wanderers withdrew from the league. The league’s goalies caught a break, as a new rule change permitted them to defend their crease from any position. Prior to this, netminders could only block pucks from a standing position and the NHA even went as far as issuing $2 fines to goaltenders who sprawled around on the ice to make a save.

When the inaugural regular season ended, the Stanley Cup was contested between Toronto and the Vancouver Millionaires from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The Arenas won the series in five games and captured the trophy.

Prediction Record: 6-8

*Before you start your New Year Eve festivities, be sure to check back here for a brief history of Auld Lang Syne and some previews for the three Canadian NHL teams in action that evening.

Mike Commito is a Canadian historian and avid hockey fan. Follow him on twitter @mikecommito.


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