Toronto Arenas win Stanley Cup
The 1918 Stanley Cup Final was contested by the National Hockey League (NHL) champion Toronto and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) champion Vancouver Millionaires.
In a series held entirely in Toronto, the Toronto team won the series by three games to two in the best-of-five game series to win the Stanley Cup. It was the first series contested by the new NHL and subsequently the first Stanley Cup win by the Toronto NHL franchise team.
As with the three previous NHA-PCHA Cup Final series, the series alternated between the NHL champion and the PCHA champion each year, while the differing rules for the leagues alternated each game. This meant that all of the games for the 1918 championship series were played at Toronto's Arena Gardens.
Two of the major differences between the two leagues' rules proved to be a major factor in the series. The PCHA did not allow forward passing and played with seven players per side; the NHL did not adopt forward passing until the following season, and only played with six players. In every game, the winner was the one playing under its league's rules. The Torontos won Games 1 and 3 with victories of 5–3 and 6–3, and the Millionaires recorded 6–4 and 8–1 wins in Games 2 and 4. Because game five was played under NHL rules, it helped Toronto's Corbett Denneny to score the series winning goal in a 2–1 victory. The Torontos outscored the Millionaires by a combined total of 13–7 in the three games played under NHL rules. Conversely, Vancouver recorded a 14–5 margin in the games under PCHA rules.
Toronto goaltender Hap Holmes recorded a 4.20 goals-against average during the series, while Alf Skinner led Toronto with eight goals. Cyclone Taylor scored nine goals for Vancouver.
Just before the start of the 1917-18 season, the National Hockey Association dissolved, and the National Hockey League was formed. The NHL started out as a four-team league, but after their arena burnt down, the Montreal Wanderers withdrew from the new league. The Toronto Arenas captured the NHL title and went on to face Vancouver in a best of five challenge for the Stanley Cup. But the rival leagues used different rules, so a compromise was found. In odd games, the teams played NHL rules, using six players per side. In even games, the two played PCHA rules, with both teams employing a seventh player. It probably was no surprise that Vancouver won games two and four using their familiar seventh player style, while Toronto won games one, three and five, which employed the NHL's six player style. In the deciding game, Toronto beat Vancouver 2-1. Alf Skinner scored eight goals in the five games for the Arenas. Cyclone Taylor scored nine for Vancouver.
Prior to the 1917 season, the NHA, through a majority vote of its board of directors, suspended operations. At the same time, those same teams (Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs), minus the Toronto Blueshirts, formed the NHL.
Since Quebec would not operate, a solution with a Toronto club was needed to make it a four-team 'even numbered' league. So, by order of NHA/NHL President Frank Calder all players of the NHA Blueshirts were assigned to a 'temporary' Toronto franchise to be operated by Arena Co., who also owned Montreal Arena. Mr. Calder had given Eddie Livingstone, the owner of the Blueshirts, an order to sell the team, although the owner did not want to sell and did not agree to various offers made. Toronto Arena Co. was to 'solve' the situation with Mr. Livingstone or lose the franchise. The Arena Co. did agree to compensate Livingstone for the use of the players for the season, although no suitable figure was ever reached, and the league itself disputed any claims that Livingstone had on the players.
As the Arena was the only suitable place to play at the time, the players had little choice but to play, if they wanted to play in the NHL. The NHL had also publicly announced that there was an agreement to buy out Livingstone, though this never took place. Many of the players signed contracts with both Livingstone and the Arena, and often were paid in cash or personal cheques on a week-by-week basis. Despite this uncertainty, the team was successful from the start. The team won the second half of the 1917–18 NHL season, leading to a playoff against the Montreal Canadiens. The Torontos won the playoff and would then face off against the Vancouver Millionaires for the Stanley Cup. Toronto then won the best-of-five series 3-2.
After the Cup win, the team did not engrave its name on the Stanley Cup. The NHL would later engrave "Toronto Arenas 1918" in 1947. In many books, the name Toronto Arena is listed as the Stanley Cup champion for 1918, but this is technically incorrect because the Toronto Arena Hockey Club was formed after the season.