When the U.S. finally joined the NHL in 1924, the first American team came in holding hands with a second team from Montreal, Canada. The NHL had begun in Montreal in 1917 with two Montreal teams, but after their rink burned down in 1919, the Montreal Wanderers folded. In 1924, the NHL expanded its franchises for the first time. Boston and Montreal, for $15,000 each, were granted franchises on October 11, which was made official on November 1. A month later, on December 1, 1924, the two teams played each other for their first game – the first professional hockey game by a U.S. team and at Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena and home to the Northeastern University Huskies).
For the Boston franchise, the first in the U.S., Charles Adams, head of the First National Stores grocery chain, made it through the controversies and lawsuits entangling the sale. Adams hired Art Ross to manage and coach the new team, and Ross stayed for the next 30 years. The two chose the name Bruins because the uniforms would be brown and yellow, the colors of the grocery chain. In describing this, the Boston Globe reported, “The Boston uniforms will be brown with gold stripes around the chest, sleeves and stockings. The figure of a bear will be worn below the name Boston on the chest.”
In preparation for their first season, Ross gathered his players (“well equipped in every position”) to take the train to Boston in mid-November. He put them through “vigorous workouts” and “intensive training” for ten days. Ross informed the Boston Globe that he “had the squad working out each day at the Arena. He demands that players be in the best physical condition, and believes Bostonians will be surprised at the speed his boys will show on their first appearance.” The Bruins played a Thanksgiving Day exhibition game against the Saskatoon Sheiks, which they lost 2-1. According to the Globe, “The crowd with all the players practically strangers, was most interested in becoming familiar with the men.”As for the new Montreal franchise, most of the entrance fee went to the Montreal Canadiens, and they also spent a lot on attaining top players. According to John J. Hallahan of the Boston Globe, the new team was “ recruited for the purpose of upholding the English speaking race against the Canadiens, the Stanley Cup title holders, who are of French extraction.” The team, though headed by James F. Strachan, could not use the name Wanderers, so at first they simply were called the Montreal Professional Hockey Club. Their sweaters were maroon, so by the start of 1925, the press had taken to calling them the Maroons.
As Montreal had two professional teams, they had some issues deciding who would play in the Mount Royal Arena versus the new Forum. Throughout November, the Montreal Gazette noted, “rapid progress has been made in the work of finishing up the Forum and putting it in shape for the opening of the professional hockey season.” The Maroons began practicing there around November 25. When season tickets went on sale for the Forum, the “many queries for boxes and reserved seats” showed an uptick in interest. Though the two Montreal teams would be competing against each other for fans as well as in the standings, they began practicing together with a public scrimmage.
Both the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Professional Club (Maroons) seemed ready to start their season on December 1, 1924. For the paper that day, Hallahan advertised, “An idea of real professional hockey will be given tonight when Boston makes its start in the National Hockey League series at the Arena.” After the game, he judged that “every one of the fairly good sized crowd was pleased” but that it was too soon to judge “just how well professional hockey will go in Boston.” Although Charles Dinsmore scored the first goal for Montreal, that was followed by Boston’s first two goals as a franchise (scored by Smokey Harris then Carson Cooper). According to Hallahan’s report, “Many penalties were dealt out by referee Mike Rodden, of Toronto, and no rough stuff was permitted to go unpenalized.” With the win, he felt that “Boston looks to have the making of a team that later will be battling with the other clubs for supremacy.” Finally, he summarized, “There was plenty of action last night, and if all that has been heard and said of professional hockey is to be believed – and there is no reason for doubting it – the sport should be made a success.”
The rest of their first season was not so auspicious for the Bruins. Though they had a tie record (of 3-3) versus the Maroons, the Bruins finished in last with 12 points (6-24-0). The Maroons came in just ahead of them with 20 points (9-19-2). At the time, as the Boston Globe listed, “St. Patrick’s, Ottawa, Hamilton Tigers, Canadiens, Montreal Pros and Boston make up the league that hopes later to keep the world’s title in the East against the attempts of the Northwest to lift the Stanley Cup now held by the Canadiens.” The Maroons won their first Stanley Cup in 1926, and the Bruins earned their first in 1929. Due to the Depression of the 1930s and having to compete with the Canadiens for ticket sales, the Maroons halted play after the 1937-38 season and officially folded in 1947. The Boston Bruins, on the other hand, are still going strong having won their most recent Stanley Cup in 2011.
- Stephen Laroche, Changing the Game: A History of NHL Expansion (Toronto: ECW Press, 2014), 7-22, and 412.
- “Canadiens to Open at Home; New Club Starts At Boston,” Montreal Gazette, 3 Nov. 1924, p. 16.
- “Boston Pro Team To Be The Bruins,” Boston Globe, 14 Nov. 1924, p. 19.
- “Hockey Starts Thursday Night,” Boston Globe, 24 Nov. 1924, p. 8.
- “Bruins Ready for Campaign,” Boston Globe, 24 Nov. 1924, p. 17.
- “Practices Start at Forum Today,” Montreal Gazette, 25 Nov. 1924, p. 16.
- “Good Impression Created by Local Pro Hockey Squads,” Montreal Gazette, 27 Nov. 1924, p. 16.
- “Boston Bruins Lose in Opener,” Boston Globe, 28 Nov. 1924, p. 14.
- John J. Hallahan, “League Hockey Start Tonight,” Boston Globe, 1 Dec. 1924, p. 8.
- John J. Hallahan, “Bruins Win in League Opener,” Boston Globe, 2 Dec. 1924, p. 12.
- John J. Hallahan, “It’s Hard to Say Just How Well Professional Hockey Will Go in This City,” Boston Globe, 2 Dec. 1924, p. 22.
- “Montreal Beaten in Opening Game at Boston, 2 to 1,” Montreal Gazette, 2 Dec. 1924, p. 16.
- “Boston Here Tomorrow,” Montreal Gazette, 2 Jan. 1925, p. 12.