The Seattle Metropolitans were the city's first professional hockey team and the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, hockey's biggest prize, a feat accomplished in their second season when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the 1917 Stanley Cup final. The Metropolitans began play in the 1915-1916 season as one of four members of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, and coach Pete Muldoon's team was a hit, attracting capacity crowds at the Seattle Ice Arena in downtown Seattle. In nine seasons, the "Mets" made seven postseason appearances and played for the Stanley Cup three times, winning in 1917, tying in 1919, and losing in 1920. Though the franchise was successful on the ice and popular with fans, it was announced in February 1924 that the Arena would be converted into a parking garage for the Olympic Hotel across the street. Efforts to raise money to construct a new arena fell through, and the franchise disbanded in the summer of '24, its players scattering to rival teams.
Hockey Comes West
In 1892, Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada, paid $48.67 for the making of a new trophy, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup -- soon known as the Stanley Cup -- to be given to the top amateur hockey team in Canada. Teams from eastern Canada dominated the sport until 1906, when Stanley Cup trustees allowed professionals to compete for the Cup for the first time. While amateur and semipro squads dotted the western U.S. and Canada, there "was no hockey of major or minor classification" in the west until brothers Lester Patrick (1883-1960) and Frank Patrick (1885-1960) founded the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911.
Stars in eastern hockey, the Patrick brothers were forced to give up their hockey dreams when their father Joseph, a timber magnate, purchased a swath of pristine forest in Nelson, British Columbia, and moved the family west in 1907. Four years later, Joseph Patrick sold the thriving business for $400,000, allowing his boys to once again pursue their dreams of professional hockey, this time not merely as star players, but also as league owners. Frank served as PCHA president, as well as head coach and star defenseman of the Vancouver Millionaires. Older brother Lester coached the Victoria Aristocrats and likewise starred on defense, regarded by most as one of the brightest stars in hockey.
The PCHA operated for 15 years, disbanding following the 1925-1926 season with Vancouver the only franchise to remain intact for the duration. Teams played seven men to a side, with a rover, center, two wingers, two defensemen, and a goalie on the ice. Many NHL rules still in place, such as the forward pass, blue line, and allowing goalies to leave their feet to stop the puck, originated from the PCHA.
The league began with three franchises in British Columbia, competing in Vancouver (Millionaires), Victoria (Aristocrats/Cougars), and New Westminster (Royals). Initial plans called for expansion to Seattle for the second PCHA season, with a 5,000-seat arena to be constructed at Broadway and Madison, but plans fell through early in the project after the death of a primary investor. The Patricks continued to work on an arena in Seattle without success, instead locating a group of investors in Oregon to finance and build an arena farther south. The New Westminster franchise moved to Portland (Rosebuds) in the summer of 1914 and became the first American major league hockey franchise.
After three attempts, the Patricks successfully assembled an investor group in Seattle following the 1915 season and built an arena. That November, the PCHA expanded to four teams (Vancouver, Victoria, Portland and Seattle) with the addition of the Metropolitans, and "an ideal circuit is rounded out" (Seattle Arena souvenir). According to the 1915 souvenir program announcing the Seattle Arena, "it is probable that these four cities will comprise the circuit for years to come" (Seattle Arena souvenir). In fact, 1915-1916 would be the apex of the league's stability.
Due to World War I, Victoria moved to Spokane (Canaries) for the 1916-1917 season, ceased operations for 1917-1918 and returned in 1918-1919. Portland disbanded in 1919, later returning in 1925 for the final PCHA season. With the league's demise in 1926, the Portland franchise moved to Chicago, becoming the Blackhawks, while the Victoria franchise moved to Detroit, first as the Detroit Cougars, and later rebranding as the Redwings.
Packing 'Em In
When the Metropolitans opened play in late 1915, Seattle residents were ecstatic. Deep into its first boom period, the city's population had exploded from 80,000 at the turn of the century to more than 330,000 by November 1915. With the Mets, Seattle could now add professional sports to its budding quill, though few in the city understood the rules of hockey. That didn't stop fans from filling the stands to watch preseason practices. The Mets played at the Seattle Ice Arena, located on 5th Avenue between University and Seneca streets. The 2,500-seat arena was considered state-of-the-art. The ice surface was 80 feet wide by 200 feet long, with the ceiling 60 feet overhead. One of the first to feature artificial ice, the facility used eight miles of pipe running a "brine many degrees below freezing point" to maintain a fast surface in Seattle's temperate climate. Workers would gradually spray water over the pipes to create a base of ice, allowing frequent water additions to maintain "a perfectly smooth and level surface" (Seattle Arena souvenir).
The Arena had seating on three sides "unobstructed by post or pillar" because of 120-foot roof trusses spanning the surface. It featured a "pitch in the seating plan so sharp that every spectator has a perfect view of all that is happening" (Seattle Arena souvenir).
In his preview of opening night, Royal Brougham (1894-1978) of the Seattle Post-Intelligener wrote, "That wintry pastime, ice hockey, played by the cream of the world's stars on Seattle's new ice rink, will make its bow to Seattle tonight at the Arena. ... As usual, the management predicts a well-played game, but Seattle will not be able to tell whether the game is well-played or not, for when Mayor H. C. Gill faces the puck tonight ninety-nine out of a hundred persons at the Arena will see the opening of their first hockey game" ("Hockey Will Make ...").
The Mets won that opening game on a last-minute goal by Bernie Morris (1890-1963), instantly captivating the city. The next day's headlines read, "Ice Game Wins Place in Seattle Sportdom" and "Hockey Makes Hit With Seattle Fans." The Seattle Times recap opened with "Seattle got an eye full of professional hockey and it was very pleasant to take. A lot of local folks had never seen the game before, but the game had not been in progress long before they were calling the Seattle players by their first names and shouting advice to them as they rushed and swerved and slammed and kicked and bucked and blocked with the equally active and strong Victoria men" ("Ice Game Wins ...").
Throughout their nine seasons, the Metropolitans were one of the most stable franchises in hockey. The Mets were led by head coach Pete Muldoon (1887-1929), Hockey Hall of Famers Frank Foyston (1891-1966), Jack Walker (1888-1950), and Harry "Hap" Holmes (1888-1941), leading scorer Bernie Morris, and stalwarts Bobby Rowe (1886-1947), Cully Wilson (1892-1962), Jim Riley (1895-1969), and Roy Rickey (1893-1959). With a typical PCHA roster of nine players, seven skaters wore the Metropolitans green, red, and white barber-pole sweaters seven or more seasons.
Seattle excelled on both ends of the ice, leading the league in defense five times with three runner-up finishes, and was second offensively eight of its nine seasons. The Metropolitans' style was fast, athletic, and in an era of rampant penalties, the Metropolitans played a disciplined brand of hockey. Vancouver had the league's top talent, often starting seven future Hockey Hall of Famers, but Seattle boasted the PCHA's best record over the franchises' lifespan; its 112-96 overall record bested second-place Vancouver's 109-97.
Muldoon Builds a Powerhouse
Pete Muldoon, born Colonel Linton Treacy in St. Mary's, Ontario, was the charismatic leader of the Metropolitans. Muldoon first moved to Seattle around 1908 and quickly became a champion amateur boxer and ice dancer before moving to Vancouver as that team's trainer for the 1911-1912 season, additionally training a championship lacrosse squad. First hired as a head coach with the new Portland Rosebuds for the 1914-1915 season, he jumped at the opportunity to return to Seattle with the expansion Metropolitans in 1915.
In total, Muldoon spent 11 years as a PCHA head coach, eight with Seattle and three with Portland, additionally coaching the Rosebuds in 1917-1918 and their final year in 1925-1926. When the PCHA folded, Muldoon moved with the Portland franchise to Chicago and became the Blackhawks' first head coach. After one year in the Windy City, he returned to Seattle with the hopes of bringing professional hockey back to the Pacific Northwest. He quickly established a group of investors to build Civic Ice Arena and founded a minor league hockey team, the Eskimos.
In the fall of 1915, a player war raged between the east's NHA and the PCHA. Muldoon and PCHA President Frank Patrick raided the 1914 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Blueshirts roster to form the nucleus of the new Seattle franchise. They signed Frank Foyston, Jack Walker, Cully Wilson, Hap Holmes, and defenseman Eddie Carpenter (1890-1963). Muldoon added two players released by Victoria, aging forward Bobby Rowe and unproven center Bernie Morris. In December, Vancouver released reserve defenseman Roy Rickey, who was quickly signed by Muldoon, completing Seattle's expansion roster. In November 1916, after searching for more than a year, Muldoon signed young forward Jim Riley, recently released by Victoria. With the addition of Riley, the Metropolitans had a full complement of nine players. Muldoon's coaching style meshed well with stars and castaways alike, and these nine men would come to dominate the Mets' record books.
Foyston, Walker, and Rowe played all nine Metropolitans seasons. Foyston was considered among the greatest players of his generation, won the PCHA Most Valuable Player award in 1917, and is the Mets career record holder for games played, goals, and points. Walker, inventor of a defensive technique called the hook check, was one of hockey's best all-around players, dominant on both ends of the ice. Muldoon moved Rowe, who had been a reserve forward for Victoria, to defense, where he quickly became one of the top defensemen in hockey. Rowe shared the captaincy with Foyston over the years and finished second in games played.
Morris, Holmes, and Rickey played eight seasons in Seattle. Morris and Rickey missed the Mets' final campaign when Morris was traded to Calgary and Rickey sat out over a contract dispute. Morris, the single-season PCHA record holder for points and the Mets' single-season record holder for goals, assists, and points, as well as career record holder for assists, did not play the 1919-1920 regular season after being incarcerated during the 1919 playoffs, though he remained on the Mets roster. Holmes, one of the greatest goalies of his generation, missed the 1917-1918 season to remain in Toronto due to uncertainty over the war. He led the PCHA in goals-against average in 1916-1917, and then for four consecutive seasons upon his return to the league from 1918-1919 to 1921-1922, also leading the league in shutouts four times.
Riley played seven years for the Metropolitans after joining the Mets for their second season, additionally missing the 1918-1919 season fighting in World War I. A reserve his first seasons, he grew into a four-time PCHA all-star, ranking third all-time on the Mets career goals list behind Foyston and Morris. In addition to his prowess on the ice, Riley played baseball for the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators, making him the only athlete to play in both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
The emotional heart of the Metropolitans, Cully Wilson "had a body built of scrap iron and never-give-up spirit" ("Royal Brougham Remembers ..."). The popular Wilson spent four seasons in Seattle before his banishment from the PCHA for a vicious hit on Vancouver's Mickey MacKay, later one of Wilson's closest friends. He played five seasons in the NHL after his expulsion, including his last with Pete Muldoon's Blackhawks.
The team's official scorer was Royal Brougham, whose 68-year career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer saw him cover the Metropolitans, Sonics, Seahawks, and Mariners.
The Stanley Cup Seasons
In 1916-1917, Seattle held off the Vancouver Millionaires to win the PCHA's closest race in history and earn the right to host the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens. For a bourgeoning city, playing the famous Stanley Cup series for the first time on American soil thrilled the ambitious Seattle populace. The Sunday before, the Post-Intelligencer headline read "City's Biggest Sporting Event Ready to Start," while Royal Brougham exuberantly penned, "Seattle will shake the dust of small-town sport from her feet and bust into big league company this coming week, when a championship of the world will be fought and decided right in our own backyard" ("City's Biggest ...")
Buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, the upstart Mets trounced the defending champion Canadiens 3-1 in a best-of-five series. Bernie Morris scored an astounding 14 goals, three more than the Canadiens team. But just six days after the Metropolitans' victory, the U.S. formally entered World War I, severely impacting the 1917-1918 season. With its arena commandeered as a weapons depot by the Canadian military, the Victoria franchise disbanded for the season. Pete Muldoon was sent to coach Portland for the year while hockey legend Lester Patrick, the future New York Rangers head coach, managed the Metropolitans. In addition to losing their head coach, the Mets roster was in flux with Hap Holmes in Toronto, Frank Foyston and Jack Walker missing large portions of the season due to military service, and Vancouver Millionaires star forward and Hall of Famer Gordon "Doc" Roberts (1891-1966) playing in Seattle. The Mets managed to repeat as PCHA champions but fell to second-place Vancouver in the newly instituted league championship series. Vancouver subsequently lost the Stanley Cup Final to Hap Holmes' expansion Toronto Arenas.
In 1918-1919, with Muldoon back at the helm and the 1917 roster mostly intact, Seattle again hosted Montreal for the Cup in a series many historians consider one of the greatest ever played. On the day the playoffs began, Bernie Morris was arrested and incarcerated for draft evasion. Despite missing their leading scorer, the Metropolitans dominated the Millionaires in the PCHA playoffs and the Canadiens through the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, outscoring Montreal 16-6 to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
When Game 4 began, Seattle fans were hoping to see the Metropolitans' second Cup victory in three years. Instead, they witnessed perhaps the best championship contest ever played, a 0-0 tie following two overtime periods with players collapsing on the ice at the final whistle. In Game 5, the Mets jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Down one player the entire series due to Morris' incarceration, Seattle uncharacteristically ran out of gas and let the Canadiens score a trio of third-period goals to tie the contest and force a second consecutive overtime game. Fourteen minutes into the extra period, an exhausted Mets team allowed the game winner as Montreal tied the series 2-2-1.
The following morning, the Spanish Flu pandemic plaguing the world struck Seattle, hospitalizing five Canadiens and killing Montreal's Joe Hall (1881-1919). Without enough skaters to field a team, the Canadiens offered to forfeit the final game and with it, the Stanley Cup. Pete Muldoon and Frank Patrick declined the offer, canceling the final game and declaring the series a tie -- the only year a champion was not crowned. One week later, Morris' sensational trial ended with his conviction and sentence of two years hard labor at the U.S. Military Prison -- Alcatraz.
In 1920, the Metropolitans played their third Stanley Cup Final in four years, traveling east to face the Ottawa Senators. Just before the series began, Morris' conviction was overturned. Released from prison, he was granted an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army and sent straight to Ottawa to play. The Senators won the first two games, while the Mets stormed back to win Game 3. With the weather warming in Ottawa, the arena's natural ice had deteriorated to an unplayable state and the remaining games were moved to Toronto. The Mets won Game 4 to set up a decisive fifth game. With the score tied 1-1 heading into the third period, Ottawa took advantage of the home crowd and scored five goals to win, 6-1. It would be the last time the Metropolitans played for the Stanley Cup.
Gone Too Soon
Though the franchise was still successful on the ice and popular with fans, it was announced in February 1924 that the Seattle Ice Arena would be converted into a parking garage for the newly constructed Olympic Hotel across the street. Efforts to raise enough capital to construct a new arena fell through and the Metropolitans franchise disbanded late that summer with players scattering to rival teams.
Five years later, Pete Muldoon died from a heart attack at the age of 41. His death was heavily mourned. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the story ran on the front page, center column above the fold, a place never reserved for sports in 1929. Sportswriter Marty Burke's headline in the sport section read simply, "A Friend Passes." Stories ran for three consecutive days in both Seattle papers, with the Post-Intelligencer's column the day after his funeral saying, "Men wearing the earmarks of fistiana, lithe-limbed hockey players and sport lovers from every walk of life joined in a remarkable tribute to Pete Muldoon, champion of square sports and clean living. Men of wealth arrived in limousines and humble admirers of the popular leader of the Eskimos arrived on foot or by streetcar. Policeman, politicians, fistic fans, football stars of the present and past, and many expensively furred women made up the funeral throng that filled the chapel to overflowing" ("Sport Fans Pay Tribute").
After the team's demise, seven Metropolitans graced rosters of the NHL's original six. Bernie Morris and Bobby Rowe played for the expansion Boston Bruins in 1924-1925, while Foyston, Walker, and Holmes played on the inaugural Detroit Cougars teams in 1926-1927 and 1927-1928. Cully Wilson spent five seasons in the NHL, including his final season in Chicago, playing alongside Jim Riley for Muldoon's first Blackhawks team.
Hall of Fame Heroes
Frank Foyston, Jack Walker, and Hap Holmes won the Stanley Cup three times (1914, 1917, and 1926) with Holmes winning a fourth in 1918. The trio spent most of their 16-year careers as teammates, playing together in Toronto, Seattle, Victoria, and their final two campaigns with the NHL's Detroit Cougars. Foyston became the first Seattle athlete enshrined in his sport's hall of fame, inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. He was joined by Walker in 1960 and Holmes in 1972.
Foyston played in 359 career major league games, scoring 242 goals and amassing 319 points. He played for the Stanley Cup six times, scoring 25 goals in 29 Stanley Cup Final games, including a remarkable 21 goals in 14 Final games as a Metropolitan. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Foyston "was a supreme natural talent who earned accolades and fame wherever he played" (Hall of Fame website). He twice led the PCHA in goals, and when the final league stats were tallied, Foyston's 186 goals were third all-time while his 247 points were fourth. In total, he played 64 games in the NHL, scoring 17 goals.
Walker appeared in 364 career major league games, scoring 135 goals with 103 assists and played for the Stanley Cup seven times, also playing for the Cup in 1911 with his hometown team, Port Arthur Lake City, during the Cup's challenge period. In 26 career Stanley Cup Final games, Walker scored 11 goals with 7 assists. Walker was the consummate team player. His unselfish, team-first nature served as the backbone to the Mets success. Walker finished second in Mets history in assists, third in points, fourth in goals, and fourth in games played.
According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Hap Holmes was "one of the preeminent netminders of his era" (Hall of Fame website). His 2.80 career goals-against average is the best in PCHA history by a wide margin. Holmes' 22 shutouts bested Vancouver's Hugh Lehman by three, despite playing 54 fewer games. Holmes' 132-112-6 record also topped the PCHA, percentage points higher than Lehman's 160-140-4 record. In 40 career playoff games with the Metropolitans, Holmes' 2.30 goals-against average topped the PCHA records, while his five shutouts stand second. He was the first goalie to win the Stanley Cup four times with four different franchises, though he spent the majority of his career in Seattle.
At the conclusion of their hockey careers, Pete Muldoon, Frank Foyston, Jack Walker, Bernie Morris, Roy Rickey, and Cully Wilson returned to the Seattle area to live and raise families, while Bobby Rowe resided in Portland. All of the Metropolitans remained active in the hockey community and remained lifelong friends. After Muldoon's death, Foyston stepped in to coach the Eskimos, soon renamed the Seahawks, coaching such Seattle greats as Emmett Venne, Harold Tabor, Jack Arbor, and John Houbregs.
In 1963, the old Arena building was torn down to make way for the IBM building. The Post-Intelligencer's Bill Knight wrote, "The violent hammering of demolition workers in downtown Seattle has stirred old memories of an almost forgotten era in sports. Wrecking crews are tearing down the old ice arena at Fifth and University, used as a hotel garage for longer than most residents can remember. But, for nine golden years it was the scene of some the greatest conquests by any team ever to represent the city by the Sound.
"'Seattle was a real great hockey town in those days,' mused Frank Foyston as he watched the building's destruction, 'and, it still is for that matter'" ("Arena Demolished ...").