September 17, 2015

The NHL's First Exhibition Game Benefited Halifax Explosion Victims

As the pre-season NHL exhibition schedule is almost here, I thought now is a good time to look back at the very first NHL pre-season exhibition game.

The NHL's first exhibition game was played on December 15th, 1917 - four days before the start of the regular season. The Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers played a benefit game for victims of the Halifax Explosion, which had occurred 10 days earlier.

The Halifax Explosion was a cargo shipping disaster that occurred on the morning of 6 December 1917. A French cargo ship fully loaded with wartime explosives, collided with a Norwegian vessel near Halifax harbour, causing a devastating explosion leveling all structures within a half mile radius. Approximately 2,000 people were killed by debris, fires, and collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured. Furthermore the explosion caused a tsunami to flow the opposite way, leveling a Mi'kmaq first nations community that had lived there for generations.

Approximately 6,000 people were left homeless, though as many as 25,000 had sustained damage to their homes so bad that their living conditions were really insufficient. A nasty winter blizzard that followed up the explosion certainly did not help.

The game itself saw the two Montreal teams face-off, but with the teams mixed. The Canadiens big line of Newsy Lalonde (4 goals), Didier Pitre (3 goals) and Joe Malone (2 goals) remained in tact. Stephen Smith of Puckstruck tells me their side, which also featured Habs goaltender Georges Vezina, won over Bert Lindsay's squad by a score of 10-3.

Smith also determined that 800 fans were in attendance though the total money raised for the Halifax victims remains a mystery.

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