Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Long It's Been: The Ottawa Senators Won the Stanley Cup

Last night, the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. The new version of the Ottawa Senators, founded in 1992, were one of the teams involved, trying to live up to the tradition of the team originally known as the Ottawa Hockey Club, then the Ottawa Silver Seven, and finally as the Ottawa Senators.

It was quite a tradition, while it lasted.

April 13, 1927, 90 years ago: The Ottawa Senators beat the Boston Bruins, 3-1 at the Ottawa Auditorium, taking the Finals 3 games to 1, and winning the Stanley Cup.

It was their 9th win, and their 4th in the last 8 seasons. They were a dominant team in their sport, the way the New York Yankees were in the process of becoming in baseball. Indeed, the Senators were the 1st NHL dynasty.
A 1927-28 Ottawa Senators sweater,
complete with shield denoting them as defending World Champions.
They really were "sweaters" rather than "jerseys" in those days.
Moths put an end to that tradition.

No one knew it at the time, but it was a last stand. The Senators made the Playoffs again in 1928, losing the Quarterfinals to the Montreal Maroons; missing them in 1929; and losing the Quarterfinals to the New York Rangers in 1930.

Then the Great Depression took hold. The Senators didn't make the Playoffs in 1931, then suspended operations for the 1931-32 season, played 1933-34, played their last game on March 17, 1934, and moved to become the St. Louis Eagles in 1934-35, and then folded.

The Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, was won by Ottawa-area teams in 1958, 1971, 1972, 1980, 1981 and 1984. (And again in 1999 after the new Senators arrived.) But it would be October 8, 1992 before another Ottawa team would take the ice in an NHL regular-season game -- 58 years, 6 months and 22 days. Although the uniforms look very different, they have the same color scheme: Red, white and black.

It would be 1996 before the new Ottawa Senators made the Playoffs, 2003 before they reached the Conference Finals, and 2007 before they reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

But it has been 90 years since a team with the name, or any other Ottawa team for that matter, has won the Stanley Cup. How long has that been?

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The 1926-27 NHL season was an expansion year, as the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Pirates all made their debuts. The Pirates would be done in by the Great Depression: In 1930, they would become the Philadelphia Quakers, and last 1 more season.

The Senators had dethroned the Montreal Maroons as Cup winners. The Maroons would not survive the Depression, either, folding in 1938 despite winning another Cup in 1935.

The Senators' owner was Frank Ahearn. Their head coach was Dave Gill. Their roster was as follows: Number 1, goaltender Alex Connell; 2, defenseman Edwin Gorman; 3, defenseman and Captain George "Buck" Boucher; 4, defenseman Alex Smith; 5, left wing Cyril "Cy" Denneny; 6, center Frank Nighbor; 7, right wing Reginald "Hooley" Smith; 8, right wing Frank Finnigan; 9, defenseman Fracis "King" Clancy; 10, left wing Hector "Hec" or "Hurricane" Kilrea; 11, center Jack Adams; and 14, defenseman Milt Halliday.

Ahearn, Connell, Boucher (brother of early Rangers legend Frank Boucher), Denneny, Nighbor, Hooley Smith (but not Alex, no relation), Finnigan, Clancy (better known for his play for the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Adams (better known for being the coach and GM of the Detroit Red Wings and the namesake of the NHL's coach of the year trophy) are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Nighbor, Boucher and Denneny were the only players to play on all 4 of their 1920s Cup-winning teams.

Finnigan, involved in the effort to return the city to the NHL, but dying in 1991, after the announcement but before the 1st regular-season game, was the last survivor of this team.

The other titleholders were the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball and the Philadelphia-based Frankford Yellow Jackets in the fledgling NFL. It wasn't fully "major league" at this point, and professional basketball certainly was not. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Gene Tunney.

The Cup itself has grown from a bowl on top of a small stand to the barrel-shaped, 35 1/4-inch, 34 1/2-pound trophy of today, a version introduced in 1948, by which point it had already been 21 years since an Ottawa team had won it.

The Senators played their home games at the Ottawa Auditorium from 1923 to 1934, including Games 3 and 4 of the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals. With the opening of the Ottawa Civic Center in 1967, the Auditorium became obsolete, and was demolished. A YMCA now stands on the site.

Of all the arenas in use in the NHL in 1927, only 2 remain standing, and 1 won't for much longer. The 1st-year Red Wings were waiting for the Olympia Stadium to be completed, so they played across the river at the Border Cities Arena in Windsor, Ontario. Now known as the Windsor Arena, the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires have moved out, a plan was recently approved to tear it down and build a high school on the site. The other is the Montreal Forum, which has been converted into a shopping mall and movie theater.

The West Coast Hockey League, successor to the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, had collapsed, and so, as with MLB and the NFL, there were no teams south of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers, and St. Louis on the Mississippi River was the westernmost sports outpost.

This was so far back that the defining hockey players of the immediate post-World War II period were as yet unknown. Syl Apps was 12 years old, Maurice Richard 5, Doug Harvey 2. Gordie Howe, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Jean Beliveau and Glenn Hall hadn't been born yet.

The World Cup soccer tournament had not yet been held for the 1st time. The Olympic Games have since been held in America 7 times; 3 times each in Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan; twice each in Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Austria, France and Russia; and once each in the Netherlands, Finland, Mexico, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Greece, China and Brazil.

There were 48 States. The President of the United States was Calvin Coolidge. The Prime Minister of Canada was William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Canada had 9 Provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador wouldn't become the 10th Province until 1949, and Alaska and Hawaii wouldn't make it 50 States until 1959.

William Howard Taft, now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was the only living former President. Former First Ladies Edith Wilson, Helen Taft, Edith Roosevelt, Mary Harrison and Frances Cleveland were still alive.

Herbert Hoover was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and had appeared in what is often regarded as the 1st demonstration of television, although Philo Farnsworth is usually credited as TV's inventor, also in 1927.

Franklin Roosevelt was practicing law in New York, and waiting for his chance a political comeback. Harry Truman was a County Freeholder in Kansas City. Major Dwight D. Eisenhower was a regimental executive officer at Fort Benning, Georgia. Lyndon Johnson was a student at what's now Texas State University. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were in high school. John F. Kennedy was 10 years old, while George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were 2 years old.

The Governor of the State of New York was Alfred E. Smith, the Mayor of the City of New York was Jimmy Walker, and the Governor of New Jersey was Harry Moore. The Premier of Ontario was George H. Ferguson, and the Mayor of Ottawa was John P. Balharrie.

The holders of the Nobel Peace Prize were Aristide Briand, the Foreign Minister of France and that nation's once-and-future Prime Minister; and Gustav Stresemann, Foreign Minister of Germany, for their work on the Locarno Pact, which helped keep peace between the combatants of the recent World War -- for a while.

The Pope was Pius XI. The monarch of Britain was King George V, and its Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin. Within days of the Senators' Stanley Cup win, Newcastle United would win the Football League, and Cardiff City of Wales would stun Arsenal in the Final to become the 1st, and still only, team from outside England to win the FA Cup. Neither of these events -- Newcastle winning the League, and Cardiff winning a major trophy -- has happened since 1927, either.

Major novels of 1927 included Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis, Oil! by Upton Sinclair (eventually adapted into the film There Will Be Blood), The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven, and The Tower Treasure by Leslie MacFarlane, writing under the name of Franklin W. Dixon. It was the 1st Hardy Boys mystery.

Also published that year were A.A. Milne's poetry book Now We Are Six; The President's Daughter, by Nan Britton, mistress of the late President Warren Harding; Being and Time by Martin Heidegger; An Outline of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell; and Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained), the posthumous last installment of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time -- a title usually incorrectly translated as Remembrance of Things Past.

J.R.R. Tolkein was teaching at Oxford University, and had just finished writing a translation of Beowulf. It may have inspired him to write the first words of what became a legend: "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." C.S. Lewis was also teaching at Oxford, and he and Tolkein had met for the 1st time in the previous year. Ian Fleming was kicked out of Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point, for having contracted what we would now call an STD. He had not yet begun to write.

A month after the Senators won the Cup, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in Los Angeles. Two years later, it would host the 1st Academy Awards -- the Oscars. Wings, Howard Hughes' film about World War I pilots, would premiere on August 12, and win the 1st Oscar for Best Picture. It would be the only silent film to win it, as on October 6, Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer would premiere, ushering in the era of "talkies." Laurel and Hardy's 1st film, the silent short Putting Pants on Philip, would also premiere that year.

The year saw the 1st recordings by The Soul Stirrers, The Carter Family, Blind Willie McTell and Big Bill Broonzy. Popular songs that debuted that year -- many of them to return to the charts years later, including in versions by rock and roll singers -- included "Ain't She Sweet," "Among My Souvenirs," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," "The Birth of the Blues," "Blue Skies," "Funny Face," "(I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream," "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover," "In a Little Spanish Town," "Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella," "Let's Kiss and Make Up," "Me and My Shadow," "Mississippi Mud," "My Blue Heaven," "My One and Only," "Paree," "'S Wonderful," "Side By Side," "Star Dust," "Thou Swell" and "The Varsity Drag."

Louis Armstrong began recording with his Hot Five. Bing Crosby was recording with Harris Barris and Al Rinker as The Rhythm Boys. Frank Sinatra was 11 years old. Chuck Berry was a baby. Neither Elvis Presley, nor Bob Dylan, nor any of the Beatles had yet been born.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 bought then, $14.13 would buy now. Or, more to the point of the country in question, in Canadian dollars, what $1.00 bought then, $14.50 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp was 2 cents, and the New York Subway system still had its initial fare of 5 cents.

There wasn't really "fast food" as we now understand that term, although White Castle had been founded in 1921. Harland Sanders was running a service station in Kentucky, and hadn't yet operated any kind of food service. Ray Kroc was a songwriter, and wouldn't be nearly as successful as a man he'd met as an ambulance driver in World War I, Walt Disney, who had just arrived in Hollywood in 1927.

The average price of a gallon of gas was 23 cents, a cup of coffee 20 cents, a movie ticket 25 cents, and a new house $7,680. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed on April 13, 1927 at 164.17.

There were still living veterans of the American Civil War (1861-65), the Crimean War (1853-56), the European revolutions of 1848, and even the Mexican-American War (1846-47).

Most American and Canadian homes did not yet have telephones or radio sets. The 78 RPM record had just been introduced 2 years earlier. NBC was in its 1st full year as the 1st American national radio network. There were no antibiotics, so a minor infection could become a major one and kill you. Robert Goddard had recently begun to launch rockets. Computers? Please: Alan Turing was in high school. Maybe Albert Einstein could have made it happen, but there's no indication that he ever worked on the idea.

In the Spring of 1927, Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli tried to fly from Paris to New York. They were sighted over Ireland, and never seen again. Charles Lindbergh went the other way, taking off from Long Island 12 days later and landing in Paris. Kuomintang forces committed the Shanghai Massacre, setting the Chinese Communist cause back years, but also giving them a tremendous amount of sympathy among the people. Australia moved its capital from Melbourne to Canberra.

Henry Ford was phasing out his legendary Model T ($650) for his bigger Model A ($1,400). Volvo began production. A banking crisis hit Japan, and the most devastating flood in American history struck the lower Mississippi Valley. Andrew Kehoe killed 38 children and 6 adults at a school in Bath, Michigan.

Early women's rights activist Victoria Woodhull, and 1892-93 murder defendant Lizzie Borden, and baseball pioneer Joe Start died. Coretta Scott King, and early Knicks star Harry Gallatin, and Hungarian soccer icon Ferenc Puskas were born.

April 13, 1927. The Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup. It was their 9th win, and their 4th in the last 8 seasons. Like the economic boom times, it seemed like their success would go on forever.

They're still waiting for that next Cup.

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