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Relocated NHL Teams: The St. Louis Eagles

The St. Louis Eagles were a short-lived Ice Hockey team that played in the NHL during the 1934/1935 season. The team was based at the St. Louis Arena and played in white jerseys with a logo of an eagle holding a hockey stick. During their sole season in the NHL the St. Louis arena had the infamy of being the only stadium in the league with racially segregated seating. The Eagles can trace their roots back to 1883 in the form of the Ottawa Senators, a team that was one of the charter franchises of the NHL in 1917. After the 1933/34 season concluded, the relocated to St. Louis due to financial troubles. The Senators had finished in last place during their final two seasons in Ottawa. With Ottawa being one of the smallest markets in the Canadian market, the Senators had been going through tough financial times beginning in the mid-1920s. The team adopted the name ‘Eagles’ in reference to the bald eagle which is the national bird of America.

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The Eagle’s first competitive game was played on November 9, 1934 with 12,000 fans turning out at the St. Louis Arena as the Eagles faced the Chicago Black Hawks. Prior to the game a ceremonial face-off was presided over by St. Louis mayor Bernard Dickman. Although the team lost 3-1 to the Blackhawks, the excitement around the stadium gave reason for hope that the Eagles would do well in their new home. These sentiments would however unravel very quickly. The team was oddly retained in the Canadian Division of the NHL rather than move to the American Division. The Eagles continued the inept play that had been dished out by the Senators, as they finished last during the 1934/35 season with an 11-31-6. They changed coaches midway through the season with former Senators coach Buck Boucher returning to the franchise to replace player-coach Eddie Gerard, but with little effect on the substance on the pitch. An eight game losing streak in the course of the season was largely responsible for their mediocre placement that season. On Boucher’s debut, they suffered an 11-2 thrashing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the heaviest defeat by any team that season and one of the worst in NHL history.

Why were the Eagles Relocated?

When the team landed in St. Louis, they were handed a huge welcome by fans and the management had a favorable outlook for the future. However this proved to be misguided as the team immediately found itself in financial quagmire. Their miserable performance on the field of play saw fans get quickly disillusioned and turnout dropped drastically. The fact that they were in the Canadian Division meant that they had to travel farther than any other team for half their games and this further affected their ledgers due to the huge travel costs. By the end of the season, the team had accrued debts worth $70,000 and it was clear that relocation would be the only solution. Moves to either Cleveland or Ottawa were on the cards but both fell through and the owners filed a request with the league to be allowed to suspend operations for one year. Their request was denied and they immediately put the team up for sale. The NHL eventually acquired the team for $40,000 and a dispersal draft was held to share the players among the other NHL teams. 18 of the Eagles’ 23 players were acquired by NHL teams while the others were absorbed by the minor leagues. The dormant franchise was unable to find any interested buyers and eventually, the NHL with no option but to cancel the franchise. As a result, it joined the Montreal Maroons as the only other team with a Stanley Cup win ever to fold. Attempts to bring an NFL team back to St. Louis fell through in 1938 when the Montreal Maroons’ attempted move was blocked by the NHL in sight of the high travelling costs that had brought the Eagles to their knees. Eventually St. Louis did get an NHL franchise when the St. Louis Blues were created in 1967 as the NHL doubled in size to twelve teams.

The St. Louis Eagles Notable Players

Syd Howe C/LW 1934/1935
Carl Voss C 1934/1935
Glenn Brydson RW 1934/1935
Bill Beveridge G 1934/1935
Bill Cowley C 1934/1935
Ralph Bowman D 1934/1935
Joe Lamb C/RW 1934/1935
Vic Ripley C 1934/1935
Pete Kelly C 1934/1935

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