July 11, 2014

1921-22 - Babe, Punch and Sprague

Ottawa's Punch Broadbent sets a NHL record that has never been equalled when he scored at least one goal in 16 consecutive games! He scored 25 goals during that streak, and finished the season with a NHL leading 32 goals.

Though Ottawa had the best overall record in the regular season, it was the Toronto St. Patricks who would win the O'Brien Trophy as NHL champions and later win the Stanley Cup.

The Toronto St. Patricks were powered by goal scoring sensation Babe Dye. They were happy to have him, because he did have options. He had already been a star with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and he turned down $25,000 to play baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics. After leading the entire NHL in goals the previous season, Dye finished second to Punch Broadbent with 30 goals.

Dye then added 11 goals in 7 playoff games, including 4 in the decisive game 5 victory over the western champion Vancouver Millionaires, backstopped by the great goalie Hugh Lehman. The Toronto St. Patricks were Stanley Cup champions!

The St. Pats were aided by a rival from Ottawa. When Toronto's star defenseman Harry Cameron was felled by an injury in the Stanley Cup final, the Vancouver Millionaires agreed to allow Toronto to replace him with Ottawa's star Eddie Gerard. That did not last long though. After just one game in which Gerard obviously excelled, Vancouver changed their tune and barred Gerard from playing.

The hockey landscape in Western Canada changed significantly. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association continued despite hiccups, mostly in cities on both sides of the border along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile the Western Canada Hockey League also started up, placing franchises in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon. Not only did this dilute the talent pool further nationwide but especially in the west, but it changed up the Stanley Cup playoff format. It was decided the winners of the PCHA and WCHL would play each other to see who played the NHL champion for the Stanley Cup championship.

Back in the NHL it was an interesting season for the Montreal Canadiens. Their owner, George Kennedy, died and his widow sells the team to Joe Cattarinich and Leo Dandurand for the princely sum of $10,000, but also to the dismay of team star Newsy Lalonde. The team also acquired crazed tough guy/hockey player extraordinaire Sprague Cleghorn, ensuring many interesting nights in the season ahead.

Such as the February night when Cleghorn decided to carve up his former teammates on the Ottawa Senators. He cut Eddie Gerard and Cy Denneny and assaulted Frank Nighbor. All three players would miss 2 games due to injury. The villainous Cleghorn drew a $30 fine, though Ottawa police also looked at pressing charges.

But perhaps the most important event of 1921 for the Montreal Canadiens future did not happen on the ice but rather in an unassuming hospital room in the city. Maurice Richard was born on August 4th, 1921.

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