Historical context: the 1919 playoffs

Rating:
5/5,
  1. tarheelhockey Highest Boss

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64,274
    Likes Received:
    55,354
    Trophy Points:
    225
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Location:
    The Triangle
    Since it's being referenced a lot lately as a comparable to the current situation, a rundown of what happened in 1919:

    By the time the Stanley Cup finals were played in March, the Spanish flu pandemic was actually on its 3rd wave. The worst of the pandemic took place in late 1918; it was the second wave that killed Ottawa defenseman Hamby Shore in October.

    [​IMG]

    This flu was unusual in that it mainly targeted young adults. Bear in mind that this took place during the height of mobilization for WWI, when huge numbers of young men were traveling in crowded ships and trains.

    When the Habs beat Ottawa in the NHL Final, they qualified for a playoff against Seattle (the champion of the PCHA... the western major league and sort-of predecessor to the Western Conference) for the Stanley Cup. That meant a 3000-mile train ride across Canada, in which they stopped to play exhibitions in Regina, Calgary, and Vancouver. There was some speculation at the time that they may have picked up the flu while in the Vancouver area, but based on the incubation period for Spanish flu it seems much more likely it was contracted after they arrived in Seattle.

    [​IMG]

    Notably, PCHA president Lester Patrick had suggested back in February that the series be shortened to only 3 games. If that had happened, there's a very good chance that the flu outbreak among the two teams would not have occurred (see this thread).

    The series ran 3/19 to 3/29 and was very tightly played, and Game 4 was especially brutal. Ending 0-0 after 2OT, it was the longest game on record at the time. Fatigue and mounting injuries became a major factor in the series, which could not have helped the players' health status.

    The morning of the 30th, Habs defenseman Joe Hall and forward Jack McDonald woke up with high fevers. The next day, prior to the decisive final game, three more players (Newsy Lalonde, Billy Coutu, and Louis Berlinguette) were afflicted, as was Habs coach George Kennedy. As a last-ditch effort, a proposal was made to allow the Habs to fill their roster with players from the Victoria Aristocrats and play the game. That idea was rejected, and Game 6 was cancelled at 2:30pm. With warm spring weather already coming in, the decision was made to pull up the arena ice and call the series finished.

    [​IMG]

    This created a question of how to award the Cup. Technically the final game had been forfeited by Montreal. The Cup was offered to Seattle by forfeit, and manager Pete Muldoon refused to take it under those circumstances. The series was deemed a tie, and Toronto was granted an extra year as "champion" since they had won the most recent playoff. Profits from the five Finals games were divided 50/50, rather than 60/40 as usual. On the base of the Stanley Cup bowl, both teams are listed as champions with the words "SERIES NOT COMPLETED".

    On 4/2, Montreal's Odie Cleghorn came down with the virus, and then it hit two Seattle players (Muzz Murray and Roy Rickey) as well as coach Muldoon. This caused the cancellation of a post-season exhibition in Vancouver, and absolutely ended any possibility of a finish to the series. The remaining healthy players dispersed for the season.

    McDonald and Kennedy were both severe cases, but would ultimately recover. Hall's condition progressed to pneumonia on the 4th. He died the following day and was buried on the 8th in a high-profile funeral that had a constellation of Hall of Famers in attendance. Kennedy was the final surviving victim to be released.

    [​IMG]

    Notably, both Kennedy (complications of this virus, 1921) and Muldoon (heart attack, 1929) would die very young. Vezina, who almost certainly contracted the virus but was not symptomatic, died of tuberculosis in 1926.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
  2. NyQuil F.Y.O.U.S.

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2005
    Messages:
    70,053
    Likes Received:
    16,607
    Trophy Points:
    231
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Location:
    Ottawa, ON
  3. Esq in terrorem Sponsor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    6,679
    Likes Received:
    1,624
    Trophy Points:
    139
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Location:
    The Village in the City
    Thank you for this. Well researched and written.
     
  4. tarheelhockey Highest Boss

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64,274
    Likes Received:
    55,354
    Trophy Points:
    225
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Location:
    The Triangle
    One other detail on this, maybe one of the most bizarre things that ever happened in the Cup playoffs:

    Bernie Morris was a VERY good forward for Seattle. From 1916-1919 he repeatedly finished either 1st or 2nd in the PCHA in goals and points, which was just as impressive as doing the same in the NHL. During this time period he was behind only Cyclone Taylor as a scorer, and Taylor was regarded by many as the most dominant player in hockey.

    Moments before the start of Game 1, Morris had still not arrived at the arena. Suddenly, a telegram arrived... coach Muldoon carried it to the dressing room and read it to the Mets. It simply said "Fight like ---- tonight and Win!"

    [​IMG]

    When Morris didn't appear on the ice, and lacking any explanation of what was going on, the general speculation was that he had caught the flu which had recently ripped through Seattle.

    Bernie Morris did not have the flu. In fact, he wasn't even in Seattle. He was outside Tacoma, in a jail cell at Fort Lewis.

    Morris, being a Canadian working in the United States, had been registered as a draftee in both countries and successfully applied for professional exemption on both sides of the border. However, when the USA entered the War it revoked a large number of draft exemptions... including Morris'. He was placed back into the draft pool, and about a year later was selected for active duty. The United States Army sent a draft notice to his home.

    To his offseason home in Vancouver.

    During hockey season.

    Morris, having no idea that he had been drafted, was formally declared a deserter in October. No notice was given to him for months, and he proceeded to play (and dominate) the entire 1918-19 season as a technical AWOL fugitive. Upon somehow learning of his status, he finished up the regular season with a 2-week break before the Finals, and voluntarily presented himself at Camp Lewis to explain the situation.

    [​IMG]

    As hard as it is to imagine this in a modern context, Bernie Morris, one of the most prominent sportsmen in North America whose draft notice had been mistakenly sent to another country, was found guilty of desertion and sentenced to 2 years in Alcatraz. Upon realizing he was being held for a court martial, he sent the cryptic telegram to encourage his teammates in the Finals game without making himself a distraction.


    In the end, he only served about one year of his sentence, returning just before the 1920 Cup Finals. Morris was never the same player after this, perhaps in part because he was hitting the age when players start to decline naturally, but certainly because he spent a year in military prison without any time on the ice whatsoever.

    There's a very compelling argument to be made that the loss of Morris at the last moment cost Seattle the 1919 Stanley Cup, and perhaps it could even have been a factor in the flu outbreak as the series could have been much shorter with him on the ice.
     
    Pouliot, Tsujimoto, hirawl and 12 others like this.
  5. Hockey Outsider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Messages:
    5,948
    Likes Received:
    3,429
    Trophy Points:
    216
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Fantastic write-up. I never knew this about Morris. (Makes you wonder why he was never inducted into the Hall of Fame - so many players from his era were).
     
    tarheelhockey likes this.
  6. BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    23,048
    Likes Received:
    4,540
    Trophy Points:
    157
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Great stuff tarheel.

    For those interested, Joe Hall was the oldest player in professional hockey when he died from the spanish flu. He was a notoriously violent player---in the Sprague Cleghorn mold. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1912 and 1913 with the Quebec Bulldogs as their #1 defenseman and unofficial team captain. Also won it with Kenora in 1907. Years later he ended up with the Montreal Canadiens where he had a late-career surge as their #1 defenseman. He was 37 years old when he died.

    Despite his violent style of play, off the ice Hall was a popular teammate and level-headed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
    Tsujimoto likes this.
  7. adsfan Registered User

    Joined:
    May 31, 2008
    Messages:
    8,319
    Likes Received:
    1,104
    Trophy Points:
    140
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Milwaukee
    A great historical story! I had heard before that the series was impacted by the so called Spanish Flu. The details were worse than what I had imagined.

    "This flu was unusual in that it mainly targeted young adults."

    Absolutely true. My grandmother told me that her next door neighbor, a 21 year old man in good health, got sick and died two days later. This would have been in the fall of 1918, about the same time as the second and greatest wave of the flu. Because it was so cold and the ground was frozen in southwestern Ohio, the coffins were kept in church basements until graves could be dug by hand. Some of the dead didn't get buried until the spring of 1919.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
    tarheelhockey likes this.
  8. hockey diva HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Messages:
    3,366
    Likes Received:
    505
    Trophy Points:
    139
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Occupation:
    Advanced Practice Nurse
    Location:
    Beleriand
    I think you mean 1918, adsfan :)

    thanks for the write up! That strain of the flu was sequenced 10 years ago from the lung tissue of a preserved body from the Arctic.

    Spanish flu research - Wikipedia
     
  9. adsfan Registered User

    Joined:
    May 31, 2008
    Messages:
    8,319
    Likes Received:
    1,104
    Trophy Points:
    140
    SB Cash:
    $ 100,000
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Milwaukee
    Yes, thank you. I still write 2019 on some notes at work.

    Edit: Thanks for the reference. I have met a few people from Scripps.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice
monitoring_string = "358c248ada348a047a4b9bb27a146148"