July 09, 2014

1919-20: The Phantom Of Hockey


The dormant Quebec Bulldogs returned after a 2 year hiatus to make their National Hockey League debut in the 1919-20 season. Though they were able to reclaim many of their former players such as Joe Malone, Harry Mummery, Jack McDonald and Tommy Smith, they had a dreadful season, finishing with just 4 wins in 24 games.

But it was not for a lack of effort from Joe Malone, the NHL's first superstar. He had scored 51 goals in just 28 games the previous two seasons while playing for the Montreal Canadiens, including an astonishing 44 goals in 20 games in 1917-18. He returned to Quebec and again led the league in goals, scoring 39 in 24 games! He added 10 assists for 49 points to lead the entire NHL in scoring for the second time in 3 years back in the days before there was an Art Ross Trophy.

One night Malone scored an astonishing 7 goals in one game - a NHL record never equalled. On January 31st, 1920 he scored all seven goals against goaltender Ivan Mitchell of the Toronto St. Patricks (who had changed their name from Arenas this season). Quebec won the game 10-6.

The handsome Malone became hockey's answer to Babe Ruth - the superstar who they could sell to the public.

Years later Frank Selke Sr. described Malone for those of us who never got to see him play.

"He might have been the most prolific scorer of all time if they had played more games in those days. It was amazing the way Joe used to get himself in position to score. In that respected his style was similar to Gordie Howe's. Joe was no Howie Morenz as far as speed was concerned but he was a clean player like Dave Keon and Frank Boucher. On the other hand, Joe never took a backward step from anybody."

Charles Coleman, one of the earliest hockey historians, dubbed Malone as "The Phantom."

"Malone was a tricky stick handler, deceptive skater and always a clean sportsmanlike player. He stood out in an era that was featured by rough play," he wrote.

Malone was not the only great goal scorer that season. Newsy Lalonde of the Montreal Canadiens scored 6 goals in a wild 14-7 win over Toronto on January 10th. Lalonde would finished with 36 goals.

But this was to be the year of the Ottawa Senators, as their dynasty began it's rise. They won both halves on the NHL regular season, meaning that their would be no NHL playoffs this year. The Senators were given the O'Brien Cup. Jack Darragh played goal scoring hero in a tight 5 game series victory over the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA to win the Stanley Cup.

1920 was big year for hockey outside of the professional ranks as well.

The inaugural hockey tournament at the Olympics was held - with hockey and figure skating introduced at the Summer Olympics (because the winter Olympics were not created until 1924). Canada, represented by the Winnipeg Falcons, won that tournament easily.

The Memorial Cup was also introduced to crown Canada's national junior champions. The Toronto Canoe Club won the first title.


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