Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1898

In 1898, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada returned for premier hockey league play. The AHAC got started by teams from the Montreal Winter Carnival, eventually becoming the successor to the popular winter hockey tournament as the teams decided to focus on their own league play. The Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Shamrocks, Montreal Victorias, Quebec Hockey Club, and the Ottawa Hockey Club participated in a balanced, round-robin league schedule.

The twelfth season played in 1898 (played from January 4 to March 5) saw The Montreal Victorias win the Championship. 1898 was the sixth year that the Dominion Challenge Cup was awarded. The Montreal Victorias also was awarded the Cup by winning a playoff game against the Ottawa Capitals of the Central Canada Hockey Association (CCHA). Premier-League Championship Points span to 1883-98
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 9 (1885-86, 88-94) 30
Montreal Victorias 5 (1884, 95-98) 20 (+4)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The AHAC was the first ever organized Ice Hockey league formed by four Montreal-based teams plus Ottawa. These five teams all played in the MWC Tournament so that tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes. From this humble beginning ice hockey and its leagues established their beginning.


Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, 1898

Edited from Wikipedia entry:

Lord Stanley of Preston as Governor General of Canada became highly enthusiastic about ice hockey. Stanley was first exposed to the game at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival, where he saw the Montreal Victorias play the Montreal Hockey Club.

Stanley’s entire family became active in ice hockey. Two of his sons, Arthur and Algernon, formed a new team called the Ottawa Rideau Hall Rebels. Arthur also played a key role in the formation of what later became known as the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), and would go on to be the founder of ice hockey in Great Britain.

Arthur and Algernon persuaded their father to donate a trophy to be “an outward and visible sign of the hockey championship”. Stanley sent the following message to the victory celebration for the three-time OHA champion Ottawa Hockey Club:

“I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion [of Canada].

There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.

I am not quite certain that the present regulations governing the arrangement of matches give entire satisfaction, and it would be worth considering whether they could not be arranged so that each team would play once at home and once at the place where their opponents hail from.”

As regular season champions of the AHAC in 1898, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup (known today as the Stanley Cup) was to awarded to Montreal Victorias. There was no cup challenges against the Victorias during the 1898 calendar year.


Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup to December 31, 1898
Team Start End Challengers # of days total days
Montreal Victorias (AHAC) January 1, 1898 December 31, 1898 AHAC win 365 1,074
Montreal Hockey Club (AHAC) 720
Winnipeg Victorias (MHA) 320

There are actually three Stanley Cups in existence:
1) Stanley’s original Cup from 1892, known as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” was awarded until 1970, and is now on display in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
2) In 1963, NHL president Clarence Campbell believed that the original Cup had become too brittle to give to championship teams, so the “Presentation Cup” was created and is the well-known trophy awarded today.
3) The final Cup is a “Replica Presentation Cup”, which was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques and is used as a stand-in at the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup isn’t available.

Unlike other major league sports trophies, a new Cup isn’t made every year. Instead, after each championship, the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are added to the Cup. The first team to have its roster engraved was the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers, whose names were etched within the inner bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The only other team names engraved on the inner bowl are the 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires.

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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