The Montreal Wanderers

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The Montreal Wanderers were a Canadian ice hockey team that existed between 1903 and 1918. The team played in four different associations; the Federal Amateur Hockey League (1903 to 1905), the Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (1905-1909), National Hockey association (1909 to 1917) and the National Hockey League (1917-1918). They were based at the Westmount Arena in Montreal.

How did the Montreal Wanderers Start up?

The team joined the Federal Amateur Hockey League (FAHL) as a charter member in 1903 along with other teams that had been rejected by the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL). The franchise formed as a result of fallout within the Montreal Hockey Club, a successful team which had won the Stanley Cup in 1902/1903 season. The ‘Wanderers’ nickname had been used by at least four amateur Montreal teams before 1903.

The Wanderers in Competition

The Wanderers were a very successful team especially during their early years. During their very first year, they challenged for the Stanley Cup. They played to a 5-5 deadlock with the legendary Ottawa Green Silvers, but unable to agree on a suitable venue for the second game, they forfeited the series. Two years later, they came up against the same opponent in the Stanley Cup, this time winning 12-10 over the two game series to lift the coveted trophy. They then defeated the New Glasgow Cubs by an aggregate of 17-5 in 1907 to retain the Stanley Cup. In 1908 they won a third straight Stanley Cup and extended this run to four after winning the 1909 version.

Beginning the 1909/10 season, the Wanderers went professional as ECAHA was dissolved and reformed into the Canadian Hockey Association. However, the Wanderers were expelled from the new league and went to the start up National Hockey Association. The Wanderers were dominant from the outset and finished the season with an 11-1 record and a colossal 91 goals to win the NHA Championship. They then went on to reclaim the Stanley Cup by beating the Berlin Dutchmen. In 1910/11, the Wanderers were only able to finish fourth with a dismal 7-9 record as many of their star players began to age. They then finished third in the 1911/1912 season with a 9-9 record. A second place finish in 1912/1913 season with a 10-10 record would be followed by a disappointing 7-13 for fifth in 1913/14.

They had a realistic chance of making the Stanley cup in 1914/1915 but they lost a first place tie breaker 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators for the rights to challenge the Vancouver Millionaires. In 1915/16 they could only manage a 10-14 record to finish fifth. Plagued by injuries, they dropped further down the ladder the next season, as they finished dead last with a 5-15 record in 1916/17. The Wanderers hierarchy would engineer another reform of the league, this time changing the NHA into the NHL. Their short lived stint in the NHL would be one to forget however. At some point, with the Wanderers understaffed due to players leaving for the war, they had to borrow players from other teams to fill their roster. Things then went from bad to worse when their rink and all their equipment was destroyed by a fire. The Wanderers were unable to complete the season having amassed a terrible 1-5 record.

Montreal Wanderers’ most Notable Moments

Successive Wanderers managements had a way of coming out of coming out of disputes with their heads in the air. The team itself was formed by a rebel faction from the Montreal Hockey Club and went on to enjoy a lot of success. In 1910, then owner Jimmy Gardner decided to move Wanderers games to the smaller Jubilee Rink opening a feud with fellow ECHA owners who felt the smaller rink would reduce revenue. The other owners formed a new league, the CHA and refused Gardner’s request to join. Annoyed, he joined hands with fellow reject Ambrose O’Brien with whom they formed the NHA. The CHA would collapse barely a month later and many owners rushed to Gardner to admit their teams to the NHA. In 1918, new Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhien led other NHA owners in throwing out Sam Livingstone the owner of the Blueshirts for unethical business practices. When Livingstone threatened to sue, Sam led the other owners in forming the NHL giving an empty shell NHA to Livingstone.

Montreal Wanderers’ Most Notable Players

Ernie Russell played for the Wanderers from 1905 to 1908 and from 1909 to 1914. He was their best forward, scoring 32 goals in their Stanley Cup winning season of 1909/1910.

Sprague Cleghorn who played for the Wanderers from 1911 to 1917 regularly top scored for the team with his best tally of 21 coming in 1914/15 season.

Harry Hyland played for the Wanderers in two stints between 1909 and 1911 and then 1912 to 1918. He formed a strong partnership with Ernie Rusell, helping the Wanderers to several league and Stanley Cup wins.

Other notable players include Odie Cleghorn, Ernie Johnson, Art Ross and Gordie Roberts.

What Happened to the Montreal Wanderers?

The events that led to the team’s demise unfolded very quickly. In their inaugural season in the NHL and with World War 1 raging, the Wanderers had to release many players including Odie Cleghorn for military duty. Other teams lent them players to help them stay afloat but the January 1918 fire is what actually hit the last nail on the Wanderers’ coffin. The fire which started in the locker rooms is believed to have been an act of arson with fingers pointed at former Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone.

No official inquisition into the matter was made however. The Montreal Canadiens offered to share the Jubilee Rink with the Wanderers while a similar offer from the City of Hamilton was made. However, Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhein chose to dissolve the team because he had already lost $30,000. A subsequent attempt by a startup team to take up the ‘Wanderers’ name failed and it was named the Montreal Maroons.