13 April 1927
The Ottawa Senators’ Cy Denneny, the “Cornwall Colt,” streaks down the left wing side, with Frank “Finny” Finnegan keeping pace along the right-hand boards. Swinging towards centre ice, Denneny fakes a pass to Finnegan. Lionel Hitchman, the Boston defenceman, moves out of position to make the interception. Putting on the breaks, Denneny drills the puck at the Bruin goaltender, Hal Winkler. The puck bounces off his chest but deflects into the net. The fans go wild. It’s Denneny’s second mark of the night. The time is 11:25 of the third period of the fourth and what turns out to be deciding game of the series. While a late goal helps to keep Boston in the game, it’s too little, too late. In front of a jubulent home crowd, the Ottawa Senators win 3-1 over the visiting Boston Bruins, and take 1926-27 edition of the Stanley Cup. This is the fourth time in seven years that the Ottawa Senators have hoisted the Stanley Cup, and the last…so far.
Winning the Stanley Cup capped a stupendous year for the Ottawa Senators. The team, under manager Dave Gill and Captain “Buck” Boucher, started the season at a blistering pace, losing only one match of their first fifteen of the 44-game regular season. When the season ended, the team had racked up a 30-10-4 record, with a division leading 64 points, six up on the second place Montreal Canadiens. The Sens took on the Habs for the Canadian Division crown in a two-game, total-goal, playoff series. Ottawa downed Montreal 4-1 in the first game. In the second, Montreal could only manage a 1-1 tie, leaving the Senators the divisional champions, five goals to one.
The NHL champion series between Ottawa and the Boston Bruins, the American Division champions, opened on 7 April 1927 at the Boston Arena. Although the “Beantowners” had the edge in play in Game 1, they failed to get past Senator goalie, Alec Connell. But neither could Ottawa find the Boston net. After twenty minutes of overtime, the game ended in a scoreless draw when the referees called the game owing to deteriorating ice conditions. Earlier in the first period, it had appeared that Ottawa had gone in front on a goal by Cy Denneny. But the goal was disallowed as Denneny had received the puck on a forward pass from teammate Frank Nighbor; forward passes were not allowed in the NHL until 1929. In overtime, Boston’s Percy Galbraith managed to get past Connell, but that goal too was disallowed.
Game two, held on 9 April at the Boston Arena, was a distinctly different affair. Both teams abandoned the defensive style of the previous game. The Sens quickly jumped to a two-goal lead in the early minutes of the opening period, on power-play marks from “King” Clancy and Finnegan. Boston narrowed the lead to one goal in the second period when Harry Oliver scored in a scramble in front of the Ottawa net. At the end of a thrilling third period which saw Boston battling desperately to tie the game, Cy Denneny struck again five seconds before the final buzzer, bringing the final score to 3-1 for the visiting Senators.
With the series moving to Ottawa, Game 3 was held on 11 April in the Auditorium, located on the corner of Argyle and O’Connor Streets, today’s site of Ottawa’s YMCA. The arena, built in 1923 as the home of the Ottawa Senators, had a seating capacity of 7,500, with standing room for another 1,500. Like the first game in Boston, Game 3 ended in tie; this time 1-1in another goaltenders’ duel in front of a boisterous capacity crowd of 9,000. Boston took an early first period lead when Jimmy Herberts, the “Collingwood Sailor,” picked up a pass from Harry Oliver in front of the Ottawa goal and batted it past Sens’ goalie, Alec Connell. The Sens got the equalizer late in the second period. In a brilliant play that got the crowd cheering on their feet, defenceman King Clancy picked up the puck close to his own net, raced to centre ice, eluding the Boston defencemen in the process, before making a brilliant pass to Cy Denneny on left wing who drilled the puck past Hal Winkler. During overtime, Ottawa’s goalie saved the game by coming out of his net to smother the puck, robbing Frank Frederickson, the Boston centre, of an all but certain goal.
Game 4, played on 13 April in the Auditorium, was a hard-fought match in front of a crowd of more than 8,000. With no scoring in the first period, Ottawa struck at the five minute mark of the second period when Finnegan picked up the puck “like a hawk after a hen” and fired it at close range into the upper corner of the Boston net. Less than three minutes later, Denneny scored his first of the night on a blistering shot from the Boston blue line. Denneny’s second goal midway in third period effectively put the game out of Boston’s reach. Connell lost his bid for a third shutout of the series when Harry Oliver, the Boston right winger, got past him in the dying minutes of the game.
The game turned ugly late in the third period. A feud between Boston’s Lionel Hitchman, an Ottawa native, and Hooley Smith, Ottawa’s centreman, led to a fight five minutes before the end of the game. The two slashed at each other near the left-side boards close to the Ottawa net before dropping their gloves. Ottawa Captain “Buck” Boucher raced in, and he and Hitchman came to blows. Both were sent off of the ice, Hitchman bleeding from the mouth. Seconds later, Hooley Smith jabbed Boston’s Harry Oliver in the head, knocking him out. Coming to his team mate’s rescue, Eddie Shore took on Hooley Smith; both were sent off for the rest of the game. Worse was yet to come. As referees Jerry Laflamme and Billy Bell made their way to the dressing room at the conclusion of the game, Laflamme was assaulted by Boston relief defenceman, Billy Coutu. Fortunately, Laflamme was unhurt in the altercation. The next day, NHL President, Frank Calder, fined Coutu $100 and expelled him from the league. Several other Ottawa and Boston players were also fined or suspended for their roles in the third period fights.
With the victory over the Bruins, the Senators won the O’Brien Cup as NHL champions, as well as the Stanley Cup, still at that time a “challenge cup.” The victory meant a bonus of $1,200 for each Ottawa player, equivalent to about $16,500 in today’s money. The Senators Hockey Club also eked out a small profit owing to the revenues from the playoff series. With the smallest catchment area of any NHL franchise, the team’s revenue stream, shaky even in good times, shrank drastically during the Great Depression. After the team’s management sold off the best players in a bid to survive, the franchise was moved to Saint Louis in 1934 where it lingered as the St. Louis Eagles for another year. Revived in 1990, the Ottawa Senators made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 but fell short, losing to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in five games.
Lewiston Evening Journal, “Bruins Licked, 3-1 Victory to Senators,” 11 April 1927.
The Globe,” Brilliant Attack Wins for Ottawa,” 11 April, 1927.
The Ottawa Evening Citizen, “Third Game of N.H.L. Titular Series Ends a Tie,” 12 April 1927.
————————, “Senators Score Decisive Win for Championship,” 14 April, 1927.
———————–, “Pres. Calder Takes Action Against Five Players,” 15 April, 1927.
The Saskatoon Phoenix, “Boston Bruins Battle To Tie With Ottawans,” 8 April, 1927.
Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ottawa_Hockey_Club_Champions_1927.jpg, Pitway Studios, Ottawa.