NHL History: Remembering the Seattle Metropolitans

SEATTLE, WA - 1917: The Seattle Metropolitans Stanley Cup winning team in 1917. (Top Row) Harry Holmes, Bobby Rowe, Ed Carpenter and Jack Walker. (Middle Row) Frank Foyston and manager Pete Muldoon. (Bottom Row) Bernie Morris, Cully Wilson, Roy Rickey and Jim Riley. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - 1917: The Seattle Metropolitans Stanley Cup winning team in 1917. (Top Row) Harry Holmes, Bobby Rowe, Ed Carpenter and Jack Walker. (Middle Row) Frank Foyston and manager Pete Muldoon. (Bottom Row) Bernie Morris, Cully Wilson, Roy Rickey and Jim Riley. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images) /

Although Seattle is not set to become the NHL’s 32nd team until the 2021-22 season, their history at the highest level of play goes back over a century. Let’s look back at NHL History and remember America’s first Stanley Cup champion, the Seattle Metropolitans.

It’s official – Seattle is getting an NHL team. However, this is not the first time they’ve had an NHL team. In fact, Seattle holds an important place in NHL history, as the first American team to win a Stanley Cup was none other than the Seattle Metropolitans.

Once upon a time, there was a league called the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. It was formed by the Patrick Family in 1911. Two brothers within this family used to play in what was the precursor to today’s NHL, the NHA.

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Because talent doesn’t grow on trees, the Patrick brothers decided on an unbeatable business model. This isn’t dissimilar from the structure of the WHA decades later – steal all of the best players from the bigger league.

After doing this, the PCHA dangled their new gems right in the face of Art Ross, when their all-star team crushed the NHA’s all-star team in an exhibition series, with the players who played in the NHA not one season ago. Fairly similar is the story of the Metropolitans.

Although the league started off in British Columbia only, early success led to expansions to Portland in 1914 and Seattle in 1915. After these frankly dreadful showings against the PCHA, an agreement was reached in which they would sort of act as the American and National Leagues do in baseball.

The victor of each league would face the other for the Stanley Cup. Although Portland beat Seattle to the Finals, the Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Cup.

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All in 9 years

So, how did this team get good enough to win a Stanley Cup? Well, the PCHA had their winning formula and they stuck to it. Instead of handing their teams off to owners, the family personally financed the league. They paid for everybody and distributed players across teams, creating maximum possible competition.

Keep in mind, these players didn’t even necessarily know what team they would play for. The league would distribute them however they pleased. These players were simply given very lucrative contracts.

The 1914 Stanley Cup champions were the Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA. From them, Seattle swooped in and stole Eddie Carpenter, Frank Foyston, goalie Harry Holmes, Jack Walker and Cully Wilson. These 5 would instantly become members of their corps.

The equivalent would be if an expansion KHL team went to Pittsburgh after 2016-17, and signed Malkin, Guentzel and Letang to ridiculous contracts. With a group of Stanley Cup winners on their side, it didn’t take the Metropolitans too long to be competitive.

They went 9-9 in their first season, as the Portland Rosebuds got to be the first American team in a Final. Finally ceasing to embarrass themselves, the NHA’s Montreal Canadiens beat them in the best of 5 series. Fun fact, this was Montreal’s first Cup.

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After a difficult first season, Seattle became the league’s dominant team, going 16-8 over the season. Another notable event was the temporary move of the Victoria Aristocrats to, no joke, Spokane, Washington. They were called “The Canaries.”

As the PCHA champions, they faced the NHA champion Montreal Canadians in the Finals. After Montreal won a decisive 8-4 game 1, the Metros would win the next 3. They became the first American Stanley Cup champion. Ironically, everyone on the team was Canadian.

The next American team to win the Stanley Cup were the New York Rangers in 1928. The first actual American citizen with their name on the trophy was John Sherf in 1937.

After this, Seattle would never again see such success. Although they had the best record next season, they lost to the Vancouver Millionaires in the first ever playoffs in a hockey league.

Next season, they returned to the finals once again as league champions, but the series between them and the Montreal Canadiens was halted due to an Influenza outbreak. Things were weird back then.

The Metros went to their last Finals in 1919-20. In a competitive series, the Ottawa Senators (the old ones) defeated them 3 games to 2. After the final PCHA season in 1924, the entire league folded.

The Vancouver Maroons and Victoria Cougars both got accepted into the newly formed Canadian Western Hockey League, but the Metropolitans refused to renew their arena lease. This ended their short yet important existence.

For a team that existed for under a decade, they really left a mark. Five Metropolitans: Frank Foyston, Harry Holmes, Gordon Roberts, Lester Patrick and Jack Walker are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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The Metropolitans’ story is brief, but obviously crucial to hockey in the United States. Hopefully, when Seattle’s team starts up, there will be some reference to America’s first Stanley Cup champion.