The Original Ottawa Senators

[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free

The Ottawa Senators were a Professional Canadian Ice Hockey team that was one of the founding clubs of the NHL and played in the league from 1917 to 1934. During their time as an NHL team, the Senators played their home games at the Dey’s Arena from 1917 to 1923 and at the Ottawa Arena from 1923 to 1934.

How did the Ottawa Senators Start up?

The franchise had been in existence since 1893 when they were formed as an amateur club playing in the AHA (Amateur Hockey Association). They were then known as the Ottawa Hockey Club and the name Ottawa Senators first appeared in 1902 when they turned professional. In 1917, the Senators were one of four franchises that abandoned the National Hockey Association (NHA) and formed the National Hockey League (NHL).

The Ottawa Senators in Competition

The Senators were one of the most successful teams in the NHL. During their NHL years, they amassed a haul of 4 Stanley Cups (from 4 Finals appearances), 7 division championships and 11 playoff appearances. The Senators’ first competitive game in the NHL was a 7-4 away loss to the Montreal Canadiens. That result would set the tone for the rest of the season as they went on to finish the 1917/18 season with a 9-13 record. They would pick themselves up the next season as they posted a 12-6 record for a second place finish. In the NHL Championship, they went out in five games to the Montreal Canadiens. In 1919/20, they gave one of the most dominant performances and won the NHL Championship with a 19-5 record. In the Stanley Cup Final, they faced the Seattle metropolitans who they beat in 5 games to win their second Stanley Cup.

They were at it again the next season, winning the NHL Championship game against the Toronto St. Patricks 7-0 before beating the Vancouver Millionaires in 5 games to clinch the Stanley Cup for the second season running. After narrowly losing the 1921/22 NFL Championship, they would return to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1923. In the new format cup Final, they beat the PCHA’s Vancouver Maroons in five games and then dismissed the Edmonton Eskimos of the WCHL in two straight games. They would have to wait until 1927 for their next Stanley Cup Finals appearance where they won two and drew two games against the Boston Bruins in yet another tweaked format where the series would go four games no matter what. After their 1927 Stanley Cup win, the Senators would go into decline making only two playoff appearances for the next seven years. Their last season in action was 1933/34 in which they finished last with a 13-29-6 record.

Ottawa Senators Most Notable Moments

On December 27, 1919, the most distinguished fan in attendance at the Dey’s Arena was the Duke of Devonshire. In those days, there was no division between the stands and the ice playing surface and fans would get quite wet especially when temperatures were high. The Governor-General, seated in the front row received the worst of this treatment. Also, during the game a player knocked off the Governor General’s top hat with a putting stick and it landed among the fans. To his credit, the Duke took these incidents with a touch of humor and was reportedly smiling despite the indignation.

Ottawa Senators Most Notable Players

Cy Denney was a crucial fixture Iin the Senators’ attack line from 1917 to 1928. He led the team in scoring during eight of those seasons.

Goalie Alex Connell played for the Senators from 1924to 1931 and was an indispensible part of the defense. During the 1927/1928 season, he set a NHL record of 6 consecutive shutouts, still unsurpassed to date.

Frank Nighbor formed a formidable attacking cast with Cy Denney during the Senators’ most successful years. He was joint top scorer alongside Denney in 1918/1919 with 22 goals and was regularly near the top of the scoring charts.

Other notable players include Clint Benedict, Eddie Gerrard, King Clancy and George Boucher.

What Happened to the Ottawa Senators?

Ultimately, a sports club financial success is only as good as its success in play. Towards the end of the 1920s, the Senators’ performances dropped and they were unable to replicate the success of past years. Game attendance, which had once been full capacity, waned as the years progressed. Moreover, Ottawa being a small market at the time could hardly sustain the fan turnover required for a major sports franchise. As early as 1927, the Senators had started experiencing financial difficulty. The expansion of the NHL to the US ultimately meant higher travelling costs, which did not help the Senators’ cause.

By the start of the 1930s, the team was forced to sell its star players in order to stay afloat. Talk of potential relocation at this time was rife with Chicago, Toronto and Philadelphia featuring prominently as potential destinations but these were precluded by various factors. After the 1933/34 season, the league was sold to St. Louis based businessmen who moved the team there and renamed it the St. Louis Eagles. The new franchise was short lived however, playing only one season before it folded. Ottawa would wait nearly 60 years for the return of the NHL. In 1992, the current Ottawa Senators was created to commemorate the memory of the defunct earlier franchise.