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One Game Away: The 1919 Stanley Cup Final
By Michael Walters
No that’s not a typo in the title, this article is about the 1919 Stanley Cup Final and not last year’s championship.
The only time a Stanley Cup was not awarded due to a widespread illness was in 1919. The Stanley Cup Final featured the Montreal Canadiens against the Seattle Metropolitans. Back then the Cup was awarded between the Pacific Coach Hockey Association(PCHA) Champion(Seattle) and the National Hockey League(NHL) Champion(Montreal).
The scheduled five-game series was held at the Seattle Ice Arena. The rules for the series alternated between the PCHA and the NHL rules. The PCHA rules were slated to be used in games one, three and five. The NHL rules were slated to be used in games two and four. For game five the NHL rules were used again because it was considered a replay of game four, which ended in a tie.
In the NHL back then, players couldn’t make forward passes while in the PCHA forward passes were permitted. PCHA goalies were also allowed to leave their feet to make saves while they could not in the NHL.
Using the PCHA rules for Game 1, Seattle blew out Montreal in a dominant 7-0 performance. In Game 2, Montreal was able to tie up the series thanks to a hat trick by Newsy Lalonde, who end up scoring all of Montreal’s goals(4) in the contest. Seattle scored twice in the third, but Montreal still won by a 4-2 final.
In Game 3, Seattle would dominate again under the PCHA rules jumping out to an early 4-0 lead. Montreal would score twice in the third period, but Seattle would add three more goals to win 7-2. In Game 4, the teams battled to a double-overtime tie. After the game, there was a discussion as to what rules would be used for Game 5 and it would be determined that the NHL rules would be used again. It was also determined no playoff game would end in a tie in the future.
The following game would go into overtime as well. In Game 5, Seattle got out to a 3-0 lead, but Montreal was able to rally and tie the game up in regulation. In the extra session, Montreal’s Jack McDonald would score the game-winning goal completing the comeback for the Canadiens.
The series was tied 2-2-1 and would need an additional game to crown a champion, but it never happened. Several players were ill at the end of Game 5 and/or had become sick prior to Game 6, which was scheduled on April 1st. As a result Game 6 was canceled hours beforehand and never rescheduled.
Montreal manager George Kennedy attempted to concede the championship to Seattle, but Pete Muldoon, manager-coach of the Metropolitans, refused to accept the Cup in a forfeit. As a result, neither team was awarded the Stanley Cup. For the year 1919 on the Stanley Cup, it has both teams listed and the words “series not completed.”
Sadly, Montreal’s Joe Hall died a few days after the series was canceled. Their manager Kennedy was hospitalized shortly after the series and was released but passed away a few years later due to complications as a result of the Spanish Flu it was believed. Several other players were hospitalized with extreme fevers but recovered.
Despite just being one game away from its completion, the 1918-19 season remains the only time the Cup was not awarded once the playoffs had already started. This remains one of just two times in history that the Stanley Cup was not awarded. The second time was during the 2004-05 season due to the lockout.
Will the 2019-20 NHL season be the third time the Stanley Cup is not awarded? Only time will tell.
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April 9th, 2020