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The Hamilton Tigers were a Canadian ice hockey team that played in the NHL from 1920 to 1925. The team’s home arena was the Barton Street Arena in Hamilton, Ontario. The club later relocated and became the New York Americans, the first NHL team in America.
How did the Hamilton Tigers Start up?
The Tigers franchise can trace its origins to 1878 in the form of a club called the Quebec Bulldogs. In 1920, following a dismal 4-20 season, the struggling Quebec club was sold to a company called the Abso Pure Ice Company, who then relocated it to Hamilton. The Tigers nickname was borrowed from a football team by the same name that had existed in the area for a long time.
The Tigers in Competition
The team opened their competitive life with a 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens becoming the first startup team to register such a margin with a shutout. By December, it was clear that the players the Tigers had inherited from Quebec were not good enough and the league ordered other teams to contribute quality players to the team. Despite the acquisition of some good players, the Tigers continued to perform dismally and finished the1920/21 season in last place with a 6-18-0 record. The following season, the Tigers only improved by two points, registering a 7-17 record again in last place.
Despite extensive changes in management and playing staff, the Tigers were again bottom of the league in 1922/23 with a 6-18 record. Further personnel changes followed but could not prevent the Tigers finishing last for a straight fourth season in the 1923/24 season. The following season, the Tigers were barely recognizable as they erupted to a 10-4-1 start by mid season, a then NHL record. They then went on to finish the season in first place with a 19-10-1 record. This earned them a place in the NHL semi-finals and they were firm favorites to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup. However this was not to be as a player strike led to the suspension of the club. The Montreal Canadiens were declared league champions and went on to lose the Stanley Cup to the Victoria Cougars.
Hamilton Tigers Most Notable Moments
Though unfortunate, the player strike that kept the Tigers from challenging for the 1925 Stanley Cup is definitely the most memorable event. After getting themselves suspended from the Playoffs, the Tigers changed ownership and were relocated to Broadway, New York where they would play at the Madison Square Gardens. The NHL certainly owes the Tigers big time as the player strike effectively led to the league’s entry into the US, a crucial factor in its success.
Hamilton Tigers most Notable Players
Legendary center Billy Burch joined the Tigers in 1923 and top scored for the team in the two subsequent seasons, with 22 goals in 1923/24 and 20 goals in 1924/25. His haul in the latter season earned him the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s most valuable player.
Joe Malone played two seasons, (1920/21 and 1921/22) for the Tigers as a center, scoring 28 and 24 goals respectively to put him top of the Tigers scoring charts both seasons.
Other notable players include Shorty Green, Mickey Roach, Red Green, Jake Forbes and Leo Reise.
What Happened to the Hamilton Tigers?
The Tigers’ demise represents one of the sharpest turn in fortunes for a sports team. Seemingly destined for the Stanley Cup following a season topping 1924/1925 season, the Tigers were hard done by what would be the first player strike in the NFL. At the time, player contracts stipulated that players would receive a fixed pay regardless of how many games they played each season. The NHL had increased the number of games played from 24 to 30 that season in addition to which the Tigers had to play two playoff games with no extra pay. After the final game of the season and having qualified for the playoffs, Tigers Players led by Captain Wilf Green informed club president Percy Thompson that they would not play any further games unless each player was paid an extra 200 dollars. Green was quoted in the media as saying that teams added matches to the schedule to increase their profits and players did not get compensated adequately for their services. Citing the terms of the contract, the management refused to barge and referred the matter to the NHL. Despite the threats of suspension and fines, the players refused to ease off on their demands. Unable to solve the stalemate, the NHL suspended all the players, ordered that their back pay be withheld and that they each pays a fine of $200. Later, the Tigers were sold to Bill Dwyer who moved the team to New York, renaming it the New York Americans. Dwyer gave the players salary hikes including Green who saw his pay shoot up from $3000 to $5000. That move paved way for the success of the NHL in the US market.