Month: June 2017

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1893-1898 Summary

The Amateur Hockey Association played five of its first six seasons in a challenger format, a championship process we see in boxing where the winning party continues to hold the championship title until defeated. The AHAC did play its second season in 1888 in a balanced, round-robin format but switched back to challenge play from 1889 until 1892. In 1893 this all changed.

The six seasons from 1893 to 1898 are summarized below as a single entity because the AHAC adopted three critical practices in 1893:

  1. The AHAC would become the official premier hockey league when its champion was gifted the first ever Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.
  2. The AHAC switched to an ongoing round-robin format for each subsequent season, a tradition that has been followed ever since.
  3. The membership of the AHAC would become set with five premier clubs: Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Victorias, Montreal Crystals/Shamrocks, Quebec Hockey Club, and Ottawa Hockey Club.


Montreal Victorias 48 34 13 1 233 158 4/6
Montreal Hockey Club 48 28 20 0 185 135 2/6
Ottawa Hockey Club 48 28 20 0 173 140 0/6
Quebec Hockey Club 47 17 29 1 141 204 0/6
Montreal Shamrocks 31 8 23 0 89 142 0/4
Montreal Crystals* 16 3 13 0 35 77 0/2


* The Montreal Crystals were absorbed into and replaced by the Shamrocks in 1895.

SW/SP = Seasons Won / Seasons Played


Legacy of the Amatuer Hockey Association of Canada

The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada would establish itself as Canada’s (and the World’s) elite hockey league between 1887 and 1898. The MWC Tournament was the first ever organized ice hockey tournament that lead to the creation of the first ice hockey league, making the MWC Tournament the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

The Tournament helped establish Ice Hockey through the following important events:

  • First organized inter-city ice hockey competition, establishing Montreal as the premier ice hockey city in 1883.
  • First international ice hockey tournament when Tournament was moved to Vermont, USA for one year in 1886.
  • The top tournament teams went on to form first ice hockey league in 1887.
  • Canada’s Governor General Lord Stanley was inspired by watching MWC Tournament play in 1889 to the point that he considered donating a Championship Cup to Canada’s top hockey teams. He would later donate the Stanley Cup in 1893, ten years after the Tournament was established.
AHAC Senior Division
Season Number of Teams Format Champions
1887 5 Teams Challenge Montreal Crystals (final challenge)
1888 4 Teams Series Montreal Hockey Club (playoff)
1889 5 Teams Challenge Montreal Hockey Club (final challenge)
1890 4 Teams Challenge Montreal Hockey Club (final challenge)
1891 6 Teams Challenge Montreal Hockey Club (final challenge)
1892 4 Teams Challenge Montreal Hockey Club (final challenge)
1893 5 Teams Series Montreal Hockey Club (best record)
1894 5 Teams Series Montreal Hockey Club (playoffs)
1895 5 Teams Series Montreal Victorias (best record)
1896 5 Teams Series Montreal Victorias (best record)
1897 5 Teams Series Montreal Victorias (best record)
1898 5 Teams Series Montreal Victorias (best record)


Amateur Hockey Association of Canada Cumulative Standings:

Montreal Hockey Club 78 52 26 0 288 189 7/12
Montreal Victorias 67 45 21 1 291 194 4/11
Montreal Crystals 34 8 26 0 74 134 1/7
Ottawa Hockey Club 57 34 23 0 205 161 0/9
Quebec Hockey Club 52 17 34 1 147 218 0/10
Montreal Shamrocks 34 8 26 0 94 159 0/6
McGill University 8 0 8 0 5 49 0/2

SV = Seasons Won / SP = Seasons Played



Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Cumulative Championship Points Premier-League Championship Points span to 1887-98
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 7 (1888-94) 22
Montreal Victorias 4 (1895-98) 16
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4

Hockey League Schisms: AHAC/CAHL 1898-99

Between 1875 and 1898 Ice Hockey grew enormously. From the first ever pickup-game played in Montreal in 1875, to the establishment of a national championship cup (Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup) in 1893, in twenty-three years, Ice Hockey became a recreational power.

Popularity led to prestige. The top players and athletic clubs desired to be the premier representatives for the sport. The best way to ensure that this was maintained, it became critical to be selective of the company you kept.

The top athletic clubs worked together to create an exclusive circuit whereby they would play each other. It was the more direct method to control the quality of the athletics being played. This naturally led to elitism and eventual pretentiousness which was played out when top athletic clubs formed their own league (AHAC). Eventually, this league became a multi-divisional entity, but top division membership remained exclusive in order to lock out competition from others.

This culminated in the first Ice Hockey league schism, when the AHAC Senior Division decided to leave and form its own League in 1899.

Previously, the top exhibition teams joined the Montreal Winter Carnival and those teams went on to form a parallel circuit (the first top Hockey League) known as the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada.The AHAC was the top league, but it was not the only league. There was lots of teams competing in other circuits. A team know as the The Ottawa Capitals believed that they were worthy and campaigned to join the AHAC top circuit. The Ottawa Capitals were an early amateur senior men’s Ice Hockey club playing in Ottawa, Canada formed in the 1896.

After winning the Central Canada Hockey Association championship in 1897, the Capitals attended the annual meeting of the AHAC in December 1897, and applied to join the AHAC. They were turned down by the AHAC executive. Later in the month the Capitals challenged the Montreal Victorias for the Stanley Cup, but abandoned its challenge after only one game of a projected best-of-three, after losing 15-2. The AHAC executive were justified to say no.

In 1898, the Capitals joined the Intermediate division of the AHAC, won its championship and then applied again in December 1898 to be promoted to the AHAC Senior Division. This time, the AHAC executive voted in favor of admitting the Capitals for Senior division membership.

This led to the representatives of the Quebec Bulldogs, Montreal Victorias, and Ottawa Hockey Club opting to withdraw from the league. The representative of the Montreal Hockey Club asked the group to reconsider but was declined, after which point Montreal HC also withdrew. The Montreal Shamrocks did not take a side.

On December 14, the group met again and organized the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL), inviting the Montreal Shamrocks to join them to a create a complete conversion of the AHAC Senior Division into the CAHL. The new league adopted the existing constitution of the AHAC, with the exception that new teams required unanimous approval of the CAHL executive in order to join the league. The Ottawa Capitals applied to join the CAHL in 1899 but was declined. There would be no repeating what happened with the AHAC.

The Ottawa Capitals went on to join the Ontario Hockey Association and bide its time for another attempt to join the big league.

The 1898-99 AHAC/CAHL schism would be the first of many conflicts that would take place over the history of premier Ice Hockey Leagues.

Marquee Relay Theory: AHAC/CAHL 1898-99

The first Schism of Hockey saw the AHAC transition to the CAHL with the elite teams protecting their mutual rivalry by keeping their circuit exclusive. While this event took place in Ice Hockey for the first time it was common among all sports leagues, particularly professional and premier leagues. The desire and ability to create exclusivity and prestige allows them to maintain their position of prominence.

While sports leagues are about players, game results, and championships; the underlying dynamic is captured by some kind of Marquee team or Marquee rivalry. A Marquee team who commands awe and legend because of its feats becomes the flagship team that will boost any circuit’s profile. Alternatively, a Marquee rivalry is the stuff of legends (David vs Goliath, Sparta vs Athens, Rome vs Carthage, etc) and will enhance a league’s reputation.

This event became pronounced between 1898 and 1899 when we see the top teams of the AHAC leave to form a new circuit. This sets off a chain reaction that would eventually lead to the modern NHL via the Marquee Relay Theory. The Marquee Relay Theory posits that the four premier modern sports leagues (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB) can be traced back to the earliest leagues that were formed in the 19th century.

Below I have outlined the teams that provided the Marquee impetus that lead to the formation of the CAHL.


1875 to 1882
Exhibition Play
The top three exhibition teams (Mtl. Victorias, Ottawa HC, Quebec HC) forms the MWC Hockey Tournament. Montreal HC joins a few years later.
1883 to 1886
Three of the top MWC teams (Mtl. Victorias, Montreal HC, McGill University) forms the AHAC. The MWC Hockey Tournament would cease after the 1889 season.
1887 to 1898
The five teams (Mtl. Victorias, Montreal HC, Ottawa HC, Quebec HC, Mtl. Shamrocks) of the Senior Division of the AHAC forms the CAHL, a new seperate league. They refuse to allow a team from the AHAC’s Intermediate Division to join them. The AHAC would cease after the 1898 season.
1899 to 1903


Team: Montreal Wanderers (1884)



Montreal Wanderers (1884)


In the 1880s there was a few teams called the Wanderers hailing from Montreal. The team that forfeited two of their three games in 1884 is not the same organization that played such an important role in Hockey in the early 1900s. This team shared the Wanderers name, but that is all.




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Team: Montreal Football Club


Montreal Football Club


Back in the day when athletic clubs kept in shape by playing in different sports, the Montreal Football Club played hockey in the winter months. Besides lending a critical hand in helping establish Ice Hockey, the Montreal Football Club played only a single game in a single season in 1885 at the premier hockey level. They went on to play a critical role in Canadian Football.



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Team: McGill University Hockey Club


McGill University H.C. was an elite hockey club that was formed by students who played at Montreal’s McGill University. This team helped establish Ice Hockey by playing in the earliest games and played to a high enough level to win the first ever Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament in 1883. By the end of the 1880s it had stopped playing in the top leagues and instead switched over to recreational and college competitions.


McGill University


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McGill University H.C. has the distinction of being the first ever team to win a premier league championship after seven seasons of play in two different leagues. McGill had two of its Montreal Winter Carnival seasons cancelled and when it played in its first and only full round-robin season in 1888 it was painfully evident that it could no longer compete at the premier league level.


Team: Montreal Crystals



Montreal Crystals

The Montreal Crystals was a hockey club that played for the first decade of premier league hockey. In 1887 they were the first team to win the AHAC championship but had the unfortunate distinction of winning it despite having a poor record by virtue of winning the final challenge game. This created enough controversy that the AHAC instituted in 1888 a round-robin season.

The Crystals went on a identity crisis during the later years, adopting the monikers (Domions and Crescents) before returning back to the Crystals. The club and team then folded and the best pieces would be picked up by the Montreal Shamrocks in 1895.



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