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Relocated NHL Teams: The Montreal Wanderers

The Montreal Wanderers was one of four Canadian teams that used that name during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The team was in existence between 1903 and 1918, playing in various leagues during that period. They played in the Federal Amateur Hockey League (FAHL) from 1903 to 1905, Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey League(ECAHA) from 1905 to 1909, the National Hockey Association (NHA) from 1909 to 1917 and the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1917 to 1918. The Wanderer’s home stadium was the Westmount Arena. The team came into being as a charter franchise of the Federal Amateur Hockey League in 1903. It was mainly made of defectors from the Montreal Hockey Club, a formidable team that had won the Stanley Cup during the 1902/03 season.

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The Wanderers were one of the most successful teams in the league. They made it to the Stanley Cup during their very first season, where they drew 5-5 with the Ottawa Green Silvers. However after failing to come to an agreement on a suitable venue for game two, they forfeited the series. They would return to the Stanley Cup game two years later and took revenge on the Green Silvers, beating them by a combined score of 12-10 over the two legs. They repeated the feat the following season, this time beating the Glasgow Cubs 17-5 to win the 1907 Stanley Cup. They won a third straight Stanley Cup in 1908. For the 1910/11 season, the Wanderers left the newly formed Canadian Hockey Association which had succeeded ECAHA a year earlier. The Wanderers, who had been acrimoniously expelled from the CHA, led other teams into forming the National Hockey Association. In 1910/11, they finished in fourth place with a 7-9 record but they improved to third in 1911/12 and second in 1912/13.

After a mediocre fifth place finish in 1913/1914, they found themselves in Stanley Cup contention the following year but they lost to the Ottawa Senators in the tie breaker for first place. They failed to recover their good performance during the subsequent seasons and their stint in the NHA would end with another coup as they engineered a reformation of the league into the NHL for the 1917/1918 season. However, they would find the going tough in the NHL as they finished with a terrible 1-5 record in what proved to be their last season in competitive hockey. At some point during the season, the Wanderers were so understaffed that they had to borrow players from fellow league teams.

The Wanderers were arguably the main revolutionary force behind the formation of the NFL. The rebel nature of its subsequent management saw it fight countless battles with various leagues and always came out on top. Their first feud was with the ECAHA when then owner Jimmy Gardner decided to move the Wanderers’ home games to a smaller stadium, a step that would see the revenue for other teams also get affected. The other owners formed the CHA and refused to admit the Wanderers. However Gardner rallied fellow reject Ambrose O’Brien and together they formed the NHA. The CHA would collapse soon after and teams rushed to join the NHA. In 1918, the Wanderers new management instigated the ejection of the Blueshirts from the league for unethical practices by their owner Sam Livingstone. Livingstone countered with a lawsuit but Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhien led other owners in forming the NHL which left Livingstone with an empty shell in the NHA.

Why were the Montreal Wanderers Relocated?

The Wanderers existence unraveled very fast following the formation of the NHL. Many players left for military duty in the World War II, leaving the team severely short of playing staff. In order to help the Wanderers stay afloat, other teams donated their players. However misfortune struck the team in January 1918 when a fire burned down their rink, effectively spelling death to the franchise. Although it was not clear what caused the fire, fingers were pointed towards former Toronto Blueshirts owner because of the acrimony that existed between him and the Wanderers’ owners. Despite offers from the Montreal Canadiens and the Hamilton Tigers to share their rinks, Lichtenhein opted to kill the franchise citing losses of $30,000.

Montreal Wanderers Notable Players

Sprague Cleghorn D 1911-1917
Jimmy Gardner LW 1903/04, 1908-1911
Gordie Roberts LW 1910-1916
Riley Hern G 1906-1911
Ernie Russell C 1905-08, 1909-1914
Harry Hyland RW 1909-11, 1912-18
Art Ross D 1907-09, 1910-14, 1916-18
Ernie Johnson D 1905-1911
Jack Marshall C 1903-1905, 1906/07, 1909-1912, 1915-1917
Bill Chipchase 1903-1911
Frank Glass LW 1904-1911
Sprague Cleghorn D 1911-1917
Odie Cleghorn RW 1912-1917
Gord Roberts LW 1910-1916

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