1925-26: Hockey Takes Manhattan
The Three Stars:
New York Americans Open Madison Square Gardens - The NHL comes to New York and it is a huge success. A NHL record 17,000 people crowd Madison Square Gardens on December 15th, 1925 to watch the Montreal Canadiens defeat the hometown New York Americans 3-1. The Americans are owned by an infamous prohibition bootlegger named Big Bill Dwyer. He had acquired the team from the NHL after they decided to dissolve and relocate the Hamilton Tigers. Billy Burch, with 22 goals, led the way with a roster that included brothers Shorty Green and Red Green as well as Bullet Joe Simpson. The Amerks finished 12-20-4 and failed to make the playoffs.
Georges Vezina Dies - Montreal Canadiens legendary goaltender Georges Vezina passes away on March 26th 1926. After not missing a game for 15 straight years he collapses during the season opening game vs. Pittsburgh on November 28th, 1925. He is diagnoses with tuberculosis and is forced to retire only to die weeks later. The Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL's best goalie, is named in his honour.
Salaries Cap Introduced - Times are good, as few realize the economic peril that awaits just a couple of years down the road. People enjoy filling arenas to be entertained by the gladiators of the ice. The NHL has tried to keep up with that demand, expanding from four to seven teams in two seasons and the schedule expands to 36 games, but that also increases players salary. A $35,000 per team salary cap is introduced to slow the escalating costs.
- The Montreal Maroons, playing in just their second NHL season, win the Stanley Cup, thanks to Nels Stewart and Babe Siebert. Reg Noble, Dunc Munro, Punch Broadbent and Clint Benedict, who shutout Victoria 3 times in 4 Stanley Cup playoff games.
- Though there was no such thing as a rookie of the year award back then, Nels Stewart may have had the finest freshman performance of all time. "Ol' Poison" led the entire NHL in goals (34) and points (42) and won the Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player. He also finishes 2nd in penalty minutes.
- The New York Americans were not the only new team in the NHL. The Pittsburgh Pirates join the league, with Odie Cleghorn as player and coach. He experiments by rotating three lines in a time when teams only spotted their top five skaters for rest breaks periodically during the game. They do well, f inished in third place, thanks to goalie Shrimp Worters and his 1.94 GAA and 7 shutouts.
- On December 26th, 1925 the Amerks and Pirates play a wild game with a 141 shots on net. New York, who took 73 shots, won 3-1.
- The 100 penalty minute mark is eclipsed for the first time. Five players managed to do it, led by Toronto's Bert Corbeau with 121.