In this edition of the Mark Rivkin Hockey Review we wanted to take another look back at the rich history of our fine sport and learn a bit more about one of the first official professional ice hockey leagues. The National Hockey Association of Canada Limited was a pro hockey organization with teams in Ontario and Quebec, and the league is actually the predecessor of today’s National Hockey League.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association was the premier amateur league operating in Central Canada. The teams that made up the league were the Quebec Bulldogs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Shamrocks and Montreal Wanderers. But the league was dissolved in November of 1909 and what resulted was the formation of the Canadian Hockey Association. The addition of a new team (the Montreal Nationals) and the exclusion of the Montreal Wanderers led to a meeting between the Wanderers and Renfrew (previous Federal League) and a new hockey league known as the National Hockey Association was created with franchises for Renfrew, Haileybury, Cobalt and the Montreal Wanderers. The first game of this newly formed league was played between the Cobalt Silver Kings and the Montreal Canadians in January of 1910. Only days later, the Canadian Hockey Association was disbanded and the National Hockey Association was reorganized with the addition of the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Shamrocks. In summation, the origins of professional hockey were disorganized at best, and these fickle arrangements can be attributed to conflict between owners, bidding wars and rivalries over the Stanley Cup.
It was during this time that the National Hockey Association created many of the modern rules and regulations that are still in place today, and around 1915 it was decided that the Stanley Cup would be awarded exclusively to the winner of a playoff between the NHA and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), which was another premier league created during this time.
In 1916 the NHA consisted of only six teams, and World War 1 had created a shortage of players. In November of 1917 the NHA board announced that because of these shortages they were suspending the league. Ottawa, Quebec, the two Montreal franchises and the owners of the Toronto Arena Company met separately and discussions about a new league began. That same month the National Hockey League was created and included franchises in Quebec, Ottawa, Montreal (2) and a new Toronto franchise.
As you can see the history of professional ice hockey is riddled with conflicts between owners and a number of leagues were created and disbanded. The National Hockey Association was one of these leagues that developed from the turmoil, and to it we can attribute the origins of professional ice hockey as we know it today as well as the NHL.