Toronto Arenas
Name: Toronto Arenas
League: National Hockey League
City: Toronto, Ontario
Arena: Arena Gardens
Owner: Toronto Arena Company (1917-1918
Hubert Vearncombe (1918-1919)
Founded: 1917
Ceased: 1919
Stanley Cups: 1

History - Main Discussion

The Toronto Arenas, or Torontos, were a professional hockey team that played in the first two seasons of the National Hockey League's existence. It was owned and operated by the owner of Arena Gardens, the Toronto Arena Company. Due to a dispute regarding the Toronto franchise in the National Hockey Association, a temporary Toronto franchise was established in the NHL, and was intended only to be a one-year entity until the NHA franchise could be reactivated. However, this never occured.

For the first season of its existence, Toronto played without an official nickname, but was dubbed the "Blueshirts" or the "Torontos" by local newspapers, as was done with previous professional hockey franchises in Toronto. After the 1917-1918 season, the dispute regarding the NHA franchise remained, so the Toronto Arena Hockey Club was formed as a temporary franchise. After another season, and the dispute still unresolved, the NHL awarded a permanent franchise to Toronto, which went on to become the Toronto St. Patricks, and later the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927.


1917-18 seasonEdit

Prior to the 1917 season, the NHA, through a majority vote of its board of directors, suspended operations. At the same time, those same teams (Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderes, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs), minus the Toronto Blueshirts, formed the NHL.

Since Quebec would not operate, a solution with a Toronto club was needed to make it a four-team 'even numbered' league. So, by order of NHA/NHL President Frank Calder, all players of the NHA Toronto Blueshirts were assigned to a 'temporary' Toronto franchise to be operated by the Toronto Arena Company, which also owned Montreal Arena. Mr. Calder had given the owner of the Blueshirts an order to sell the team, although the owner, Eddie Livingstone, did not want to sell.

As Arena Gardens was the only suitable place to play at the time, the players had little choice but to play, if they wanted to play in the NHL. The NHL had also announced that there was an agreement to buy out Livingstone, though this never took place. Despite this uncertainty, the team was successful from the start. The team won the second half of the 1917-18 NHL season, leading to a playoff against the Montreal Canadiens. The team won the playoff and would then face off against the Vancouver Millionaires for the Stanley Cup. Toronto then won the best-of-five series 3-2.

After the Cup win, the team did not engrave its name on the Stanley Cup. The NHL would later engrave "Toronto Arenas 1918" in 1947. In many books, the name Toronto Arenas is listed as the Stanley Cup champion for 1918, but this is technically incorrect because the Toronto Arena Hockey Club was formed after the season.

1918-1919 seasonEdit

On October 19, 1918, Hubert Vearncombe, treasurer of Toronto Arena Company formed the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company and applied for a permanent NHL franchise. This was done so that the hockey club could operate separately, without the legal action which was brought against Arena Company that threatened to stop NHL play in Toronto. The Stanley Cup run had been lucrative for the Arena Company, and they had refused to pay any of the revenues to Livingstone, whose players they had used.

The owners paid nothing for this new temporary franchise as there was an agreement to split profits with the league until five thousand dollars was received by the league. The players now knew that the club was in trouble, and several signed contracts with both Livingstone and Vearncombe, not knowing who would win out. Those players eventually would be sued by Livingstone as well.

This year, the club was not successful, falling to 5 wins and 13 losses, finishing last in both halves of the season. Attendance was especially poor, recorded as only hundreds for a February 4, 1919 game against the Canadiens. Several players left the team, including Harry Holmes, Harry Meeking and Dave Ritchie. This was partly due to the operations of the team, as most players were without legal contracts, as they were under contract to the Blueshirts. Many players were thus forced to be paid in cash.

The team wrote to Calder to end the season early, and the season ended after each team had played 18 games. The Toronto Arenas then officially withdrew from the league on February 20, 1919. This left the two remaining teams, Montreal and Ottawa, to play a playoff for the league championship.

1919-1920 seasonEdit

On December 13, 1919, the NHL, under the direction of Frank Calder, transferred the Toronto franchise this time to the Toronto St. Patricks group for the fee of five thousand dollars. While the money was to go to Eddie Livingstone to settle his NHA club, it was never received by Mr. Livingstone and appears to have been appropriated by Mr. Calder. The incorporation date of the club was December 22, 1919, and listed Fred Hambly, Percy Hambly, Paul Ciceri and Charlie Querrie with 99 shares each, and Richard Greer with 4 shares.

Notable PlayersEdit