July 08, 2014

1918-19: Flu Kills Player, Cancels Stanley Cup

The world was barely at ease from the ending of World War I when apprehensions of a killer flu arose. The influenza epidemic spread from Europe to North America no one realized the among the many victims would be one of hockey's greatest players and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Not that the Spanish Flu was a huge concern when the Stanley Cup playoff began. The Montreal Canadiens journeyed all the way to Seattle to meet the strong PCHA champion Metropolitans, led by the great Frank Foyston. The hotly contested series was tied 2-2-1 when, after the conclusion of overtime in game 5, several Montreal players became violently ill with the flu. Jack McDonald, Billy Couture, Newsy Lalonde, Louis Berlinquette and manager George Kennedy were immediately be ridden. Hall of Fame defenseman Bad Joe Hall was the most seriously affected. He was rushed to a Seattle hospital where he would die a week later.

The Stanley Cup was then cancelled. Seattle refused to be declared champion via Montreal's forfeiture. Montreal offered to complete the series by borrowing substitutes from the PCHA Victoria Cougars, but that idea was also nixed.

It was a terrible ending to a rough season of hockey. The NHL's second season again featured just three teams, as Quebec again delayed it's inclusion.

The NHL did adopt western rules by adding two bluelines and creating a neutral zone where forward passing was permitted. The also standardized a new statistic - assists. 

Montreal (10-8) was the best team in the first half while Ottawa (12-6) would earn that tile in the second half. Montreal would defeat Ottawa to win the O'Brien Cup - the NHL championship trophy - and the right to compete in the Stanley Cup.

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