Tuesday, 12 August 2014

In-Depth Review: L'histoire du hockey au Québec, Part 5

We're up to part five of my in-depth review of Donald Guay's 1990 book L'histoire du hockey au Québec: Origine et développement d'un phénomène culturel avant 1917 ("The History of Hockey in Quebec: The origin and development of a cultural phenomenon before 1917"). We're still working through the quite extensive third chapter; after this post we'll about one-third of the way through the book.

Today I'm going to look at Guay's discussion of the development of the major eastern senior hockey leagues from 1886 to 1917. On page 77 he gives us a nifty graphic representation of the subject matter, which I cannot provide a scan of without ruining my copy of the book. So instead, I re-created it below.
The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC), which was formed in 1886, went along fairly swimmingly for the first decade of its existence. In 1897, the executive of the league passed a fateful resolution, but one that made a good deal of sense. With this resolution, the champion team of the AHAC intermediate section for a year could apply for admission into the senior ranks the following season, subject to the majority vote of all AHAC clubs (senior, intermediate and junior).

The Ottawa Capitals had, the season before, applied for admission into the senior AHAC. The Capitals were the champions of the Central Canada Hockey Association (CCHA), but as the AHAC did not recognize that league as a senior one, the Capitals instead joined the AHAC intermediate division for 1897/98. They were intermediate champions in 1898, and that's when the fun began.

As was their right, the Capitals applied to join the senior ranks of Canada's greatest hockey league. Guay notes that after a long debate and appeals to fair play, the team was admitted by a vote of 23 to 11. All of the intermediate and junior clubs were in favour of the motion, as were the senior Shamrocks. The older clubs - Ottawa, Québec, AAA and Victorias - were all vigorously opposed. So, they exhibited the very best in amateur sportsmanship, and took their pucks and went home. These four clubs withdrew from the AHAC, and formed the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL).  The Shamrocks eventually joined them, which was really their only option, and Guay notes that when drafting the CAHL constitution, the new executive made sure that it would require a unanimous vote to admit a new club to the senior level.

Guay states that after this split, the AHAC ceased operations entirely, but this not accurate. Michel Vigneault's dissertation on the history of hockey in Montreal makes it clear that the AHAC continued to operate at the intermediate and junior levels for several seasons, meaning that it should not be included at all in the illustration above since they were not senior. Guay's illustration is also inaccurate since it shows the Capitals splitting off to play in a league with Brockville and Cornwall. But this is a reversal of history; these three teams made up the CCHA before the Capitals joined the AHAC. At the senior level, there was no split; the senior AHAC became the CAHL.

Guay then discusses the Federal league, and notes that le National de Montréal were the first senior-level French-Canadian hockey club. When this club transferred to the CAHL in 1905, they were replaced by the Montagnards. The author suggests that the battle between the CAHL and FAHL that ensued in the mid-nineteen-oughts is the reason that the French teams became accepted in senior hockey. The Nationals had been rebuffed by senior hockey before, but with a rival league to battle, establishing a French-Canadian fanbase was important. I certainly cannot argue against Guay's conclusion here, and it's a very interesting observation.

The author proceeds with the development of the CAHL into the Eastern Canada league, but his illustration does not take note of the cross-pollination that occurred between the CAHL and FAHL, as Ottawa defected from the CAHL to the FAHL, and then went back, taking the Wanderers with them. Guay does correctly describe that the Eastern Canada league did not undertake a smooth transition to the NHA. In fact, arguably, the direct line of descent of AHAC to CAHL to ECAHA to ECHA ends with the Canadian Hockey Association, which began the 1909/10 hockey season but did not complete it, being absorbed by the National Hockey Association mid-season.

Guay's direct line between the Federal league and the NHA is really also invalid. Only one team from the 1908/09 FHL season actually played in the NHA in 1909/10. The Wanderers came over from the ECHA, and the Canadiens were an entirely new team. The greatest representation in the inaugural NHA season was actually from the Temiskaming Professional Hockey League (Cobalt and Haileybury), thanks to J. Ambrose O'Brien's money. The NHA was not a continuation of any league when it first started, it was assembled from bits and pieces, but Guay's direct line from the Federal league to this one would suggest otherwise. With the NHA and CHA merged into one, senior hockey in Canada was well in the hands of the professional leagues.

Overall, Guay gets quite a lot of the details wrong in the development of senior hockey in eastern Canada into the professional game in the 1910s. I can't give him a failing grade, but I can't say that I'm impressed:

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