Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Triple-A's

If you're into hockey history in any way, you've probably heard of the Montreal AAA, alternately known as the Montreal Hockey Club, or the Winged Wheelers. They are perhaps best-known as being the very first recipients of the Stanley Cup, which they claimed by winning the championship of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada in 1893.

But the Winged Wheelers did more than win the first Stanley Cup and wear snazzy blue sweaters:

They were in fact a dominant team in most seasons from their first season in 1885 to 1892. Participating in the Montreal Winter Carnival tournaments and AHAC championships, they were generally the team to beat, and maintained that status with their exceptional defensive play, although their offence was nothing to sneeze at either. Here are their goals for and goals against results, compared to league average, for these seasons:

1885 1.70 0.34
1886 1.14 1.64
1887 0.84 0.73
1888 1.29 0.36
1889 1.15 0.55
1890 1.26 0.57
1891 1.63 0.50
1892 0.54 1.29
Average 1.19 0.75

This team frequently allowed less than 60% of the league or tournament average in goals per game, sometimes getting ridiculously low. There was far less parity among teams at this time than there is in the modern NHL, of course, and we're dealing with small numbers of games. But the fact that the Montreal AAA were able to do this season after season says something.

We'll be looking in some detail at their trio of great defensive players during these years in upcoming days: goaler Tom Paton, who you have probably heard of, cover-point Allan Cameron, who you might have heard of, and point James Stewart, who you've probably not heard of. We'll be discussing these three standouts, the role each played on this great team, who may have contributed the most to the team's defensive prowess, and a little bit about why Montreal was such a force in goal prevention. Stay tuned.

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