clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Seattle vs Montreal: the rematch a century in the making

A look back at the old hockey history shared between the two cities

Seattle Metropolitans Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images

Today, the Seattle Kraken will host the Montreal Canadiens in Seattle's second-ever home game. This is the only game in which the Habs will visit Seattle this season unless somehow they meet in the Stanley Cup Finals.

It would not be the first time Seattle and Montreal played for the Stanley Cup if that happens.

The Seattle Metropolitans: Seattle's first pro team

Seattle was coming into its own as a major city after seeing its population explode nearly one-hundredfold after the Klondike gold rush, ballooning from 3,533 in 1880 to 315,312 by the 1920 census. The population growth of the Pacific Northwest made it viable for a professional hockey league. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association was formed in 1912, and the Seattle Metropolitans were added in 1915. Seattle had its first professional sports team, making them a major league city.

When they announced the team, the fan response was enormous. Games sold out, which was far from a given back then and cause for celebration. Fans showed up in droves to watch the team practice. The people of Seattle loved their new hockey team.

Professional sports as a whole was in its early stages. Amateur and college sports still ruled the landscape. The Stanley Cup was initially a trophy for amateur hockey.

When Linton Muldoon Treacy told his family he was going to be a professional athlete, they did not want the family name tarnished by such a shameful profession and asked him to change his name, which he did to Pete Muldoon. Muldoon later became the coach of the Metropolitans.

Pete Muldoon (back row, left) with the Metropolitans circa 1920

Hockey in 1917: absolutely bonkers

In 1916-1917, the Metropolitans were in their second season in the PCHA, which had four teams that season. Each team played 24 games, and the winner of the PCHA would play the winner of the NHA for the Stanley Cup. The four teams were the Seattle Metropolitans, Vancouver Millionaires, Spokane Canaries, and the Portland Rosebuds.

Things were a little different back then.

  • PCHA rules had six skaters a side. There was a "rover" position who could morph into a third defenseman or a fourth forward.
  • Players usually played the whole game. Some teams only rostered seven players.
  • There were signs asking fans not to smoke because they feared the smoke would warm up the ice and ruin the ice surface.
  • Players didn't make a lot of money. Vancouver needed Seattle to lose to Portland in a late-season game and a very tight race to win the PCHA, so some Vancouver fan offered $200 to the Portland Rosebud players if they beat Seattle (a Seattle fan countered by offering $200 to the Seattle players if they won the league).
  • Players got a cut of the gate receipts.
  • Mickey Ion was the referee for the games. Claiming Ion was biased against them, Portland Rosebuds manager Frank Scott wanted to bring in an amateur referee as a second official. The league denied the request.
  • In a game between Portland and Seattle, the Mets were rushing up the ice towards the goal when a loud whistle blew at center ice, stopping play. Frank Scott (ugh, this guy) blew the whistle, claiming it was for too many men on the ice. There were not, in fact, too many men on the ice. Also, coaches couldn't blow plays dead. He was not punished for this because there was no rule at the time saying coaches can't blow a play dead when the other team has an advantage, citing the doctrine of Air Bud.
  • Portland threw another temper tantrum about referee Mickey Ion and refused to play against Seattle if he was officiating. Ion resigned in frustration.

Playing for the Stanley Cup

When the Mets won the PCHA in 1917 after a thrilling chase, they were set to play against the NHA champion Montreal Canadiens. The 1917 Stanley Cup would be played as a best-of-five series in Seattle. The PCHA and NHA had different rules, and the series would reflect that. Games 1, 3, and 5 would be with PCHA rules, while games 2 and 4 would play under NHA rules—the most important being the number of players on each side.

PCHA rules had six skaters aside, while the NHA had five skaters. The NHA did not allow you to pass the puck forward. Montreal was so confident in their ability to win the series that they did not even bring the Stanley Cup with them. The hubris!

Montreal won the first game 8-4, and their hubris may have seemed less hubris-y. But that was the only game they would win. Seattle lit up legendary Montreal goaltender George Vézina like a Christmas tree, outscoring Montreal 19-3 the rest of the series.

And in doing so, Seattle became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup.

Jack Walker of the Seattle Metropolitans, circa 1919

1919: The rematch for a second Stanley Cup title

Two years later, Seattle won the PCHA and met the Montreal Canadiens once again for the Stanley Cup in Seattle in a best-of-five series. One of the games was declared a draw after two overtime periods, per the rules at the time, so the teams were tied 2-2-1 heading into the decisive game 6. Seattle was one game away from lifting the Cup a second time in three years.

However, one thing was very different this time. Stop me if you've heard this before: there was a global pandemic going on.

Just hours before the game, five Montreal players fell ill with the flu. The game and series could not go on. Montreal owner/coach George Kennedy offered the Stanley Cup to Seattle in a forfeit, but Mets coach Pete Muldoon would not accept the forfeit, as he did not feel it was the right thing to do given the circumstances.

Montreal defenseman Joe Hall died in a Seattle hospital four days later. The flu ultimately also killed Montreal coach George Kennedy, who never recovered and died two years later.

The Mets legacy

The Mets would play for the Stanley Cup a third time in 1920, losing to the Ottawa Senators. They continued to support the team fervently until 1924, when the Seattle arena was demolished to make way for a hotel parking lot. The team had no home and had to fold.

The PCHA was folded into the Western Canada Hockey League. Portland found it tough sledding in Oregon and became the Chicago Blackhawks. Seattle would not get another pro sports team until the Sonics in 1967, and it would be 97 years until Seattle saw major league hockey again. Four Metropolitans are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Metropolitans were the city's first professional sports team and first love and brought its first championship. Seattle fans loved their hockey team. The stadium was so loud, Metropolitans players said they could feel it reverberating in their chest while the arena was shaking. Seattle has always been a hockey town — we just haven't had an opportunity to show it in a very long time.

The Kraken understand the legacy of the Metropolitans and their importance to the city's hockey history, even being part of the name reveal video.

This is not a coincidence

The Kraken may only be playing their 7th game in franchise history, but you can't tell the story of Seattle hockey without the Metropolitans, and you can't tell the story of the Metropolitans without the Montreal Canadiens.