The Hamilton Tigers were a professional ice hockey team, and a member of the National Hockey League (NHL), based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada that played from 1920–1925.
The Tigers were formed from the sale of the Quebec Bulldogs NHL franchise to Hamilton's interests.
After years of struggling, the franchise finished first in the league in the 1924-25 NHL season.
However, a players' strike after the season resulted in the franchise's dissolution. The players' contracts were sold to New York City interests to stock the expansion New York Americans.
A name-sake amateur team existed prior and during, the NHL team's existence and a minor league professional team named the Hamilton Tigers existed from 1926 until 1930.
The origins of the team go back to the old Quebec Hockey Club team, which started play in 1878. Originally an amateur team, it turned professional in 1909.
Quebec was a charter member of the NHL in 1917, but due to financial difficulties, and the NHA-NHL dispute, the Quebec franchise was dormant until the 1919-20 season when it was operated by the Quebec Athletic Club. That season proved to be a dismal one; despite the presence of Joe Malone the club only finished with four wins in 24 games.
After the 1919–20 season, the NHL took back the Quebec franchise and sold the team to the Abso Pure Ice Company of Hamilton, Ontario. The club was moved to Hamilton for the 1920–21 season and renamed the Hamilton Tigers. This was done to prevent the startup of a rival league, which was trying to land a club in Hamilton.
At the time, the NHL had no teams in the United States and no teams in Western Canada. Hamilton was the fifth-largest city in the country and third-largest in Central Canada (pop. 114,200) and therefore was considered a vital market. Percy Thompson, a part-owner and manager of the Barton Street Arena, would be the manager of the team.
The move to Hamilton did not improve the team's record.
Despite earning a shutout in their first game, a 5–0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on December 22, 1920 — the only team ever to do so up to that point), the Tigers were as noncompetitive as the Bulldogs. As a result, the NHL ordered the other three teams to supply players to the Tigers.
Despite receiving quality players from the other teams and the reacquisition of Malone four games into the season, Hamilton still finished dead last in the league with 6 wins, 18 losses, and 0 ties in 24 games. Even with Malone managing to score 30 goals in only 20 games, they couldn't climb out of the cellar.
The next three seasons were just as dreadful as the first one. The Tigers finished dead last every year, making a total of 5 straight (counting the one season as the Bulldogs) with last place finishes. During these dreadful years, the Tigers attempted a rebuilding phase to bring the team up to par.
The fans were outraged at seeing Malone leave, but the Tigers felt vindicated when Malone (who was nearing the end of his career) only scored one goal in twenty games in one season for Montreal.
Prior to the 1922–23 season, the NHL would hold its governors meeting at the Royal Connaught Hotel on King Street where visiting teams stayed as well.
After four years of futility, things started to come together in the 1923–24 NHL season with another new coach (Percy LeSueur) and the signing of four players from the Sudbury Wolves of the NOHA: brothers Red and Shorty Green, Alex McKinnon and Charlie Langlois.
This year saw the Tigers achieve a team high of nine wins in 24 games. It was the next season, though, that saw the results of the previous years' wheelings and dealings.
With yet another new head coach (Jimmy Gardner), the Hamilton Tigers roared off to an impressive 10–4–1 start in the 1924–25 NHL season.
Only halfway through the season, they had more wins than any other season in their NHL history. The team slumped somewhat in the second half of the season but still managed to finish first overall with a record of 19 wins, 10 losses, and 1 tie, just ahead of the Toronto St. Patricks.
It looked like the franchise would have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since winning it as the Bulldogs over a decade prior in 1913, but it was not to be. During the rail travel back to Hamilton after the season's final game, the Tigers' players went to their general manager, Percy Thompson and demanded $200 pay for the six extra games they played that season or they would not play in the playoffs.
The NHL had increased the number of games played that year from 24 to 30, but the players didn't receive an increase in pay. The Tigers management, stating that the players' contracts stated that the players were under contract from December 1 to March 30, regardless of the number of games, refused to pay the money and passed the issue to the NHL. Thus began the first players' strike in NHL history.
NHL President Frank Calder warned the players that if they sat out the final, they would be suspended and replaced in the final by fourth-place Ottawa.
At the same time, Calder ordered that the players' back-pay be held. The impasse continued while second-place Toronto and third-place Montreal played their semi-final, ending with Montreal winning on March 13.
On March 14, after consulting with Tigers management, Calder declared the Canadiens league champions and fined the Tigers' players $200. The Canadiens then went on to play the Victoria Cougars for the Stanley Cup but lost. That marked the last time that an NHL team had lost the Stanley Cup to a rival league.
Takeover by New YorkEdit
Thomas Duggan of Montreal (the owner of the Mount Royal Arena) held two options for expansion teams in the United States. He sold the first of the two to Boston grocery magnate Charles Adams, who used it to start the Boston Bruins.
He sold the second to a New York bootlegger named "Big Bill" Dwyer for a team to play in New York. At the NHL league meeting of April 17, 1925, Dwyer was granted an expansion franchise for New York.
Although Dwyer wished to purchase the Hamilton players, for a little while it seemed that Hamilton might remain in the NHL as Abso-Pure talked about building a new arena.
The arena was not built and Dwyer bought the rights to the Tigers' players from Thompson for $75,000, and gave the players raises, some as high as 200% of their previous salary. Dwyer's team was for a time known as the "New York Hamilton Tigers" by the time it reached training camp, but this was changed to the New York Americans.
The Hamilton franchise was officially revoked at the September 22 league meeting in the same year, and the matter of the players' suspensions and fines dropped with little additional comment. Although Dwyer was ostensibly the owner, due to his underworld ties he was not publicly named by the NHL at the meeting announcing the team.
Instead, Colonel Hammond of Madison Square Garden, Duggan and former Ottawa manager Tommy Gorman were announced as the officers.
Although the Americans' roster was composed almost entirely of the former Tigers players, despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, the NHL does not consider the Americans to be a continuation of the Bulldogs/Tigers franchise.
The last active Tigers player was Billy Burch, who retired in 1933.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1920–21||24||6||18||0||12||92||132||154||4th in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1921–22||24||7||17||0||14||88||105||76||4th in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1922–23||24||6||18||0||12||81||110||182||4th in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1923–24||24||9||15||0||18||63||68||83||4th in NHL||Out of playoffs|
|1924–25||30||19||10||1||39||90||60||332||1st in NHL||Team suspended|