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The Return of the Hamilton Tigers to the NHL?

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Should the Hamilton Tigers be revived?

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1 The Return of the Hamilton Tigers to the NHL? on Fri May 29, 2009 8:30 pm

davetherave

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Whether or not Jim Balsillie succeeds in his current efforts to obtain an NHL team for Southern Ontario, it may be time to look at the history of the National Hockey League in Hamilton.

The Tigers played in the NHL from 1920 to 1925, and had a troubled and controversial existence.

From Wikipedia:

The Hamilton Tigers were a professional ice hockey team, and a member of the National Hockey League, based in Hamilton, Ontario that played from 1920 1925. The Tigers were formed from the sale of the Quebec Bulldogs NHL franchise to Hamilton interests. The team struggled to succeed, becoming the top team in the league, before being dissolved after a player's strike. The franchise's assets (the player contracts) were sold to New York interests to become the New York Americans.

The origins of the team go back to the old
Quebec City Bulldogs team which started play in 1878. They would eventually play in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada and different leagues thereafter (including the NHL in 1920). Their last season in Quebec (191920) was a dismal one as they finished last in the NHL with only four wins in 24 games.

After the 191920 season, the NHL took back the
Quebec Bulldogs franchise and sold the team to the Abso Pure Ice Company of Hamilton, Ontario. The club was moved to Hamilton for the 192021 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 (1920), Hamilton was the fifth-largest population in Canada (Hamilton-114,200/ Toronto-521,900) and 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 50 win over the
Montreal Canadiens on December 22, 1920, being the only team to ever do so, it was plain that the Tigers didn't have a team that could compete. 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 signing of Joe Malone four games into the season, Hamilton still finished with the worst record at 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 as the Tigers finished last in each of those three seasons 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. After the
192122 NHL season, they hired Art Ross as their new coach and made many player changes, including trading superstar Malone to the Montreal Canadiens for Bert Corbeau and Edmond Bouchard. The fans were outraged at seeing Malone leave, but felt vindicated when Malone -- near the end of his career -- only scored one goal in twenty games in one season for Montreal.

Prior to the 192223 season, the NHL would hold it's 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
192324 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.

Players Revolt

With yet another new head coach (
Jimmy Gardiner) the Hamilton Tigers roared off to an impressive 1041 start in the 192425 NHL season. Only half way 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 Hamilton Tigers were going to have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since they won it as the Quebec 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.

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 player's 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.

NHL President
Frank Calder stated that the players would be suspended if they refused to play in the finals and that the fourth-place Ottawa team might replace them in the final. At the same time, Calder ordered that the players' back-pay be held. The impasse continued while the second and third-place teams Toronto and Montreal played their semi-final, ending with Montreal winning on March 13.

On March 14, after consulting with Tigers management, Calder declared that the Montreal Canadiens were league champions and fined each player $200. The Montreal Canadiens 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 York

Thomas Duggan of Montreal, 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. 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. Dwyer, ostensibly the owner, 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.

The last active Tigers player was Billy Burch, who retired in 1933.

---

Against this turbulent background, it is perhaps not surprising that the notion of bringing an NHL team back to Hamilton is no less contentious.

And while Mr Balsillie unveiled an ambitious plan to renovate the city's arena today, there have no been specifics about who will pay the $150MM or more needed for the project. Mr Balsillie himself also seems to be less than certain that the team--should he acquire a franchise--will be even called 'Hamilton'.

From his interview with SunMedia's Steve Simmons this week:

Balsillie did say if he was given the green light to purchase and move the franchise that it wouldn't necessarily be called "Hamilton".

In fact, he is keenly aware that some NHL owners object to a Hamilton named franchise for its lack of marquee appeal in the United States.

"The Minnesota Wild is a state," said Balsillie, when asked about the franchise name. The Carolina Panthers is a state. The New Jersey Devils is a state. I guess we could do something. I haven't really looked at it in detail. It's all about bringing value to everybody. For this, we're all ears."

---

So right now, no one knows what happens next. Will Balsillie get his team? Will the people of Hamilton get a team?

And should the Hamilton Tigers be revived?

When there are other cities in Canada waiting for a franchise, should Hamilton be at the top of the list?

What do YOU think?

shabbs

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All current Canadian teams are named after the city they are in (or near by as with the Senators before amalgamation).

How is "Hamilton" not marketable in the US? Not flashy sounding enough? Not enough pizazz?

I don't mind the sound of Hamilton Tigers... and it has historic value...

What about the Hamilton Hammers? Heh heh.

DTR... what to YOU think?

wprager

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And Minnesota is marquee?

caissie_1

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I wouldnt want the Tigers... They already have the Hamilton Tiger-Cats... It's too close. Two teams basicaly the same name nah lets get something different...

shabbs

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caissie_1 wrote:I wouldnt want the Tigers... They already have the Hamilton Tiger-Cats... It's too close. Two teams basicaly the same name nah lets get something different...
True... true. Steel production is a big thing down there...

The Hamilton Steel?

They also have a busy Port Authority...

The Hamilton Tankers?

Nah... that would not be good.

Hamilton Shippers? Goods movers?

Hamilton Barons!

Meh.

caissie_1

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Lol nice Shabbs... I had quickly tought og the Hamilton Metal Heads haha but yeh I dont think that would work.

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Hamilton Steel Heads.

shabbs

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The Guy With The Mustache wrote:Hamilton Steel Heads.
I like it.

wprager

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If they want the US public to get some name recognition, then call them the Steelers.

shabbs

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wprager wrote:If they want the US public to get some name recognition, then call them the Steelers.
The Hamilton Americans.

davetherave

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Images of the original Tigers logos and jerseys from the 1920s:



1920-21


1921-22, 1922-23


1923-34


1924-25


close up of an actual logo from the 1920-21 jersey:

TheAvatar

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I like the H-Tiger thingy but the jersey designs are pretty atrociou.s. I'm surprised they didn't win more games; by all accounts, these must have blinded the adversaries Wink

Anyways, I think there are better places than Hamilton for a Canadian expansion and that's where my vote went.

CHeers!

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Seems like the tiger has ill-fitting false teeth...



j/k

I think I like the Steel Heads name. Solid. Too bad that moron who owns Steelback Brewery is less successful than other brewers. Signing an endorsement for Hamilton Steelbacks would be a win/win...

davetherave

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Balsillie's plans for Hamilton and Copps Coliseum, as viewed by The Toronto Star:

Swanky Copps looks eerily familiar

Dave Feschuk, The Toronto Star, May 30, 2009

Jim Balsillie's vision of an NHL arena is a sea of Maple Leaves.

In the artist's rendering of proposed renovations to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum that Balsillie released yesterday, the national flag of Canada hangs from the rafters and wallpapers the state-of-the-art scoreboard and skirts the fa?ade of the upper bowl. The seats - "comfortable upholstered stadium seats," the news release pants - are patriotic red. And the digitized fans who populate the concourses look young and happy and overwhelmingly female, if you're into that
sort of thing.



It's a scene straight from a beer commercial, of course, and considering neither Balsillie nor Hamilton hold claim to an NHL team, the whole shiny picture remains a populace-rousing dream. Both the billionaire would-be owner and the downtrodden city will have a better idea of its chances of coming true after a June 9 hearing in an Arizona bankruptcy court, where Judge Redfield T. Baum is expected to address Balsillie's plan to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton against the protests of NHL lawyers intent on keeping the Coyotes in the desert.

Exactly who would pay for this lipsticking of Hamilton's 24-year-old barn isn't clear, but Balsillie, who has said he will fork over some of his personal stash for "short-term" improvements, is essentially asking taxpayers to foot the bill for the big-ticket overhaul.

Yesterday's news release estimated the tab for the upgrades at $150 million, but it was careful to point out that those costs were last worked out in 2007, and that the "the estimate could vary considerably."

In other words, and this is only a guess, don't blame Balsillie when costs inevitably balloon and the public purse takes the dent so that the billionaire owner can enjoy the fruits of the revenue-generating amenities like the 50 luxury suites the renovation would add to the arena.

And don't be alarmed, folks, that the federal government is running a $50 billion deficit, and the local politicians appear scarily optimistic about the prospect of 41 regular-season home games changing the fortunes of the Hammer's flagging downtown core.

"This would be a jaw-dropper of an attraction for Hamilton," Fred Eisenberger, the city's mayor, said in a release. "What I've seen would make the new Copps Coliseum a magnet for sports fans and concert goers across Ontario and North America. It would be a tremendous new asset for our city, and a major part of the revitalization of downtown Hamilton."

As over the top as the mayor sounds, the plan, put together a couple of years ago for Balsillie by BBB Architects and its subsidiary group, Stadium Consultants International, would address a lot of the building's shortfalls, including its current lack of an upper-level concourse and its shortage of latrines. There'd be a new video board hanging over new ice surface cooled by a new ice plant and a new climate-control system. There'd be new locker rooms. There'd be something called a "party deck" in the upper bowl and a new atrium-style lobby and retail stores below.

And as much as Balsillie has spoken of his wish to make his team's home the antithesis of the suit-and-tied Air Canada Centre - he quipped to the Star's editorial board that he'd like a no-necktie rule - some of the proposed features sound awfully corporate.

Ron Joyce, the Tim Hortons co-founder who once had similar NHL dreams, has noted that Hamilton doesn't have a sufficient corporate base to support a club, but Balsillie's proposed renovation would include 20 "bunker suites" for the folks in the first six rows between the blue lines.

One assumes that just as the ACC's platinum seats are often empty when play resumes after an intermission - because their occupants of the ACC's posh bunkers can't tear themselves away from, say, the expense-account shrimp trays - Hamilton's prime seats would presumably suffer the same in-game abandonment. Maybe it's worth double-checking if those Maple Leaves in the artist's rendering aren't blue.

shabbs

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Damn those were ugly jerseys.

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