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Relocated NHL Teams: The Hamilton Tigers

The Hamilton Tigers were a Canadian NHL team that existed between 1920 and 1925. The Tigers were based at the Barton Street Arena in Ontario. The club would later move to New York and rechristen to New York Americans, becoming the first American NHL team. The Tigers franchise began in 1878 as the Quebec Bulldogs and relocated to Hamilton in 1920 following a mediocre season in which they finished with a 4-20 record. At the time of relocation the team was owned by the Abso Pure Ice Company which was based in Quebec. The team adopted the Tigers nickname, which was borrowed from the Hamilton Tigers, a football team from the same area.

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The Tigers opened their competitive life in impressive fashion, beating the Montreal Canadiens 5-0, the first time a startup team managed such a score on their very first game. In December, a major shakeup of the Tigers’ playing staff was instigated by the NHL which compelled other teams to donate players, as it was evident that the roster inherited from the Bulldogs was severely inadequate. Despite the boost in their ranks, the team continued performing poorly and only managed a 6-18-0 record which saw them finish the 1920/21 season in last place. During the 1921/22 season, the team improved by two points but still finished in last place with a 7-17 record.

Far reaching changes in playing and coaching personnel prior to the 1922/23 season followed but the team again failed to respond and were bottom of the league again that season. The same scenario precipitated again the following season, with further reinforcements failing to spark a change in fortunes for the Tigers. That season the team finished in last place for a fourth straight season. In 1924/25, the Tigers surprised everyone when they exploded to a great start that saw them holding a 10-4-1 record by mid-season. They carried on their good form for the rest of the season, finishing in first place with a 19-10-1 record. In the NHL championship game, they were to face the Montreal Canadiens and were firm favorites to win but a players’ strike resulted in suspension of the team prior to the fixture. The suspension resulted in a change of ownership that would then see the team relocate to the USA as the New York Americans, marking the entry of the NHL to the American market. This was a crucial factor in the league’s success to date.

Why were the Hamilton Tigers Relocated?

The Tigers’ fortunes took some very turbulent turns during their final two seasons in Hamilton. Having come off a last place finish during the 1922/23 season, the team pulled off a miracle to finish top of the league the following season. However their fortunes would decline much faster, with the team seemingly poised to win the NFL championship. However just before their face-off with the Canadiens, a dispute arose over the payment of players for extra games played during the season. Player contracts at the time stipulated that players would receive a fixed salary regardless of the number of games they played each season. That season, the number of games had risen from 24 to 30 games and now the Tigers had to play two more games in the playoffs. When the team played the final game of the regular season, Captain Wilf Green led other players in demanding an extra 200 dollars for each player to play in the playoffs. Green complained in the media that the extra games were aimed at increasing profits for league teams, with players enjoying little benefit. The teams’ management refused to meet the players’ demands and referred the issue to the league. Despite the threats of fines and suspension, the players refused to barge, leading to what would become the first players’ strike in the NHL and a precursor to far reaching tweaks in the way player contracts were drawn. With no solution to the stalemate forthcoming, the team was forced to forfeit the championship, with the players each receiving a suspension and a $200 fine. Shortly thereafter, the team was sold to Bill Dwyer and relocated to New York, where they were renamed the New York Americans.

Hamilton Tigers Notable Players

Joe Malone C 1920-1922
Billy Burch C 1922-1925
Shorty Green RW 1923-1925
George Carey RW 1920-1923
Mickey Roach C 1920-1925
Goldie Prodger C 1920-1925
Leo Reise D 1920-1924
Red Green LW 1923-1925
Shorty Green RW 1923-1925
Jake Forbes G 1922-1925
Cully Wilson RW 1921-1923

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