Showing posts with label NHA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NHA. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Assists per Goal in the 1910s and Beyond

I was recently asked about assist rates in the first years that assists were officially awarded. As you may know, the PCHA began awarding assists in 1912/13, and the NHA followed a season later. And as you might also know, for many years very few assists were awarded per goal (as compared to modern standards). How few? This few:

It's possibly interesting to note that the NHA/NHL awarded fewer assists per goal than their western counterparts most every year (though their rate is less consistent). The possibly interesting part is whether this is simply due to slightly different standards in awarding assists, or whether it has to do with the fact that the PCHA still used the rover while the NHA did not. With more players available to participate in an offensive rush, perhaps it makes sense that more assists were awarded per goal.

It may be worth noting that when the PCHA finally dropped the rover after the 1921/22 season (as they began playing an interlocking schedule with the WCHL, which did not use the seventh man), its assist rate dropped from 0.57 to 0.51, and stayed at that level or lower, whereas in the final seven seasons with the rover, the PCHA had an assist rate of between 0.57 and 0.60 six times. This suggests to me that at least part of the reason that the NHA/NHL had a lower assist per goal rate is the lack of a fourth forward.

The first really big jump in assist rates occurred in in 1929/30. In 1928/29 there were 0.60 assists per goal, but there were 0.82 the following season. This is clearly due to the change in the forward passing rules that season, which made individual rushes less important and passing plays more important. The rate went to 0.92, then 1.05 in the next two seasons, and would never drop below that level again.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lineage of the NHL

The lineage of the National Hockey League, which played its first season in 1917/18, is normally tracked back through time as follows:

National Hockey Association (1909/10 to 1916/17)
Eastern Canadian (Amateur) Hockey Association (1905/06 to 1908/09)
Canadian Amateur Hockey League (1899/00 to 1904/05)
Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (1886/87 to 1898/99)

And this is certainly true, in the sense that these are the highest-quality hockey leagues in Canada in their times. They are the "major" leagues, meant in a sense different from the modern one.

However, if you want to track direct lineages of league-season to league-season, this progression isn't accurate. The AHAC led directly to the CAHL, which led directly to the EC(A)HA. But the NHL did not descend directly from the ECHA.

Before the 1909/10 ECHA season, the new owners of the mighty Montreal Wanderers desired to move the team from the Montreal Arena to the smaller Jubilee Rink. The three other teams in the league (Montreal Shamrocks, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs) strenuously objected to the move, finally going as far as leaving the ECHA over the dispute. These three teams formed the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), accompanied by a new team organized by Art Ross (All-Montreal), and the French-Canadian Montreal Nationale, which had played in the rival Federal Amateur Hockey League years before.

The Wanderers, for their part, joined the new National Hockey Association, along with the Renfrew club from the Federal Hockey League, and Cobalt and Haileybury from the Temiskaming Mines professional league. A new French-Canadian club was created for Montreal, the Canadiens, to fill out the league. Every club in the league, save Wanderers, were owned by Ambrose O'Brien, the son of a wealthy mining magnate.

It seems clear to me, then, that the direct lineage that began with the AHAC in 1886/87 came to an end when the CHA folded early in the 1909/10 season. The CHA had hockey history on its side (especially since the Wanderers did not even originate as part of the lineage), but the NHA had Ambrose O'Brien's mining money. In the end, the cash won out. Some talk of a merger took place, but ultimately the NHA accepted the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Shamrocks into its fold, bringing to an end the line of the AHAC. Although the NHA featured two clubs with long histories in the lineage, they had come over from another league, their own having died.

In fact, the Montreal Canadiens franchise was offered to the owners of le Nationale by O'Brien, who turned it down. It could very easily have been the Montreal Nationals in the NHA rather than the Canadiens. There's some alternate history for you.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Horace Gaul - Hockey Mercenary

The period from about 1907 to 1912 is an interesting and tumultuous one for Canadian hockey. This was the time of the professional hockey boom, when new pro leagues rose and fell every season: the Manitoba Hockey League (the first openly pro league in Canada), the Ontario Professional Hockey League, the Saskatchewan Hockey League, the Alberta Professional Hockey league, the Eastern Ontario Professional Hockey League, the New Ontario Hockey League...not to mention the National Hockey Association (NHA). Until the situation settled down around 1912 with the NHA and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association as the two major leagues, on opposite ends of the country, the professional hockey situation in Canada was constantly in flux.

And of course, with all these leagues coming and going, there was a constant demand for professional players. Many of these men moved to where the work was, so to speak, essentially becoming hockey mercenaries, playing for a different team every year, and often several teams in the same season. Today we're having a quick look at one of these nomadic hockeyists: Horace Gaul.

Horace Gaul was born in December 1883 in Gaspe, Quebec, but the earliest records we have of his amateur hockey career have him in Ottawa for the 1904/05 and 1905/06 seasons. Getting into a couple of games with the mighty Ottawa Hockey Club, Gaul was on the Stanley Cup-winning 1905 edition of the team. His first recorded play outside of Ottawa was in 1906 with the Brooklyn club of the American Amateur Hockey League. After playing a single game there, he was suspended from the league since he did not meet the residency requirement. Such requirements were common among amateur leagues, in order to prevent ringers from being brought in. The fact that Gaul (and another player) were brought in by Brooklyn, coupled with the number of Canadian players who would make an appearance in the New York league, casts doubt on the "Amateur" in that league's name.

In 1906/07, Gaul (a right wing) played for Pittsburgh of the International Hockey League, another pro league. In 1907/08 he made appearances for Brockville of the Federal "Amateur" Hockey League, and was brought in as a ringer by Renfrew of the Upper Ottawa League, another ostensibly amateur circuit, for a couple of playoff games. In 1908/09 he was back in Pittsburgh, and then jumped that contract to play for Haileybury of the Temiskaming league. He stayed with this team as they joined Cobalt and Renfrew for the first season of NHA play in 1909/10.

After a couple of games for Ottawa in 1910/11, he was released and finished the season with Berlin of the Ontario pro league. He then spent a year with New Glasgow of the Martime pro league, before finishing his pro career in 1912/13 with the Toronto Tecumsehs of the NHA, the team that was the first to experiment (for a few games at least) with a regular rotation of forwards each game, Gaul among them.

This experience is far from unusual for the time period. There are a number of players whose career takes a similar path to this, with a new team every year. Art Throop, Steve Vair, Skene Ronan and others had varied and interesting careers of this sort. They're some of the most interesting careers of their time. And this era is one of the reasons historical Point Allocation is needed; there were so many different leagues that comparing player performances from one year to the next is very difficult without it.

Horace Gaul was never much of a scorer. He was never near the league lead in offence, even with the leagues he played in being very small and having only a few forwards on each team to compete with. He did score a team-leading 20 goals in 12 games for Haileybury in 1909/10, which was seventh in the NHA (but only just over half of Newsy Lalonde's league-leading total of 38), so he certainly wasn't hopeless with the puck. He was noted as being a clever and tricky stickhandler, but there must have been more than this to his game; otherwise he wouldn't have been in such demand every year.

Gaul's real talent was on defence. He was noted as being an excellent defensive player, a diligent checker. That's why there was always a team ready to insert him into the lineup. He was never a star, just a hard-working, professional player. He checked his way into a contract every season.
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