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December 02, 2009

Montreal Canadiens 7 - Cobalt Silver Kings 6 (OT)

Did you know that the Montreal Canadiens first ever game was a 7-6 overtime win over the Cobalt Silver Kings?

The Montreal Canadiens were born on December 4, 1909. Meeting in room 129 of the Windsor Hotel, Ottawa based businessman/sports entrepreneur J. Ambrose O'Brien, with financial backing from business partner T.C. Hare, submitted the $1000 National Hockey Association league entry fee and guaranteed $5000 for player salaries.

The NHA, forerunner to the NHL, also included the Renfrew Creamery Kings, the Cobalt Silver Kings, the Haileybury Comets, and the Montreal Wanderers, who shared the Jubilee Arena with the Canadiens. The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Shamrocks jumped from the Canadian Hockey Association to join the NHA later, giving the league 7 teams.

The Canadiens first game came on January 5th, 1910 against the Silver Kings from Cobalt. An estimated crowd of over 3,000 people witnessed "a whirlwind of a game" highlighted by the scoring exploits of Newsy Lalonde, the Canadiens first great superstar, even though he left the game with an ankle injury.

The game was a rough one with several players were sporting cuts and bruises, although the worst injury occurred to a female spectator, an unidentified mother of one of the players on the ice, who was struck by an errant stick.

Cobalt actually had a commanding 6-4 lead late in the game, but Montreal, wearing what would quickly become forgotten blue jerseys (see Joseph Cattarinch picture above) stormed back. The tying goal scored by Jack Laviolette, the man who was asked to build the team roster. The third period ended 6-6, and many fans headed for the exits unaware that the referee was going to drop the puck on an overtime period. Many fans left having never seen Skinner Poulin's winning goal.

Interestingly, the game never counted in the standings. In order to absorb the defecting Senators and Shamrocks, the NHA restarted their season on January 19th, 1910. The Canadiens first game was struck from the official record books.

The Habs could have used those two points against Cobalt that first season, too. They finished their inaugural season with an uninspiring record of 2 wins and 10 losses, the worst team in the NHA.

It was an inauspicious beginning for what would become hockey's most storied franchise.

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