MONTRÉAL - Exactly 100 years ago next Wednesday, five men representing four hockey clubs gathered in a restaurant inside the Windsor Hotel here to “perpetuate the game of hockey,” the hand-written meeting minutes noted.
The date was Nov. 22, 1917.
After Frank Calder elected president and secretary-treasurer at a salary of $800, Ottawa Senators owner Tommy Gorman moved “that the Canadien, Wanderer, Ottawa and Quebec Hockey Clubs unite to comprise the National Hockey League.”
The motion, seconded by Canadiens owner George Kennedy, carried. A league was born.
“A great day for hockey,” Gorman, also sports editor of the Ottawa Citizen at the time, was quoted as saying.
One hundred years later, 31 men managing franchises that have become international brands will gather inside the same Windsor Hotel on Friday to conduct business for a $4.5 billion behemoth that was only designed to be a temporary stopgap. Those four owners only formed the NHL to remove a rogue Toronto member from the National Hockey Association of Canada (NHA).
Instead, the enduring NHL will unveil a plaque at Le Windsor on Friday commemorating the historic site to kick off the league’s 100th birthday weekend.
Oh, how times have changed.
The Quebec Bulldogs agreed to suspend operations that day for the original 1917-18 season in exchange for $700 ¬– allowing a team later known as the Toronto Arenas, the forefather of the Maple Leafs, to join. The NHL agreed to welcome the expansion Vegas Golden Knights for the centennial season in exchange for $500 million.
Hockey as we know it has evolved significantly that meeting – from seven men on the ice to six, to the legalization of forward passing and the mandate that ice be flooded – and the Windsor Hotel has probably seen a renovation or two.
A few constants remain. Hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, continues to be chased. And managers representing the NHL’s franchises continue to shape the direction of the sport.
At the table on Friday will be David Poile, the longest-serving GM in NHL history, who in his 36th year has outworked some of the famous names that now reside on trophies (Jack Adams - 31 years, Conn Smythe - 30 years, Art Ross - 30 years).
Friday’s historic GM meeting will have more pomp and circumstance than the usual annual November get together, but the three-hour meeting will have plenty of hockey talk on the agenda:
- At least one GM insisted the NHL offer insight and explanation to the group on the independent medical examinations the league administered for Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul and Chicago forward Marian Hossa which deemed them unfit to play this season. That ruling allowed both the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks relief from those players’ significant salaries in the form of the long-term injury list. Multiple GMs were seeking clarity on the situation that some viewed as a loophole or competitive advantage.
Lupul, 34, has not suited up since Feb. 6, 2016 with the belief that the independent physician ruled his back was unfit to play. Hossa, 38, has sat out with a progressive skin disorder, but the timing of his medical issue drew criticism since this is the first season that his back-diving 12-year deal drops down to $1 million in salary after already pocketing 94 per cent of the $63.3 million due.
- The NHL will seek feedback from managers on the more stringent application of both the slashing rule and faceoff violations. Through 277 games so far this season, there have been 432 slashing penalties. There were only 147 slashing penalties at the same juncture last season, an increase of nearly 193 per cent year-over-year. The GMs recommended these changes at last summer’s June meeting in Chicago, which were then implemented by officials.
- While it may not end up being an official agenda item, there is plenty of chatter league-wide about the application of the NHL’s concussion protocol with regards to goaltenders. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, for instance, was mandatorily removed from an Oct. 23 game in Toronto after a knee to the head drew a recommendation from a concussion spotter. Quick was uninjured and allowed to re-enter after one shift – but you can see why that would be problematic from a team perspective if forced to insert a cold backup after routine contact in the crease. On the flip side, Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was not removed or examined after a knee to his head, even after he uncharacteristically allowed five goals in relatively short order following the collision – a surprise given his previously flawless start. Fleury, 32, has missed more than a month.
As part of the NHL’s 100th Birthday Weekend, Hockey Hall of Famers representing each of the Original Six clubs – Ray Bourque, Yvan Cournoyer, Rod Gilbert, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, and Denis Savard – will participate in a luncheon on Friday and drop the puck for Saturday night’s matchup between the Habs and Maple Leafs.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli