On This Date in Sports March 11, 1918: The NHL's First Postseason

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The first NHL Playoff Game takes place between the Toronto Arenas and the Montreal Canadiens at Mutual Street Arena in Toronto. Toronto takes advantage of home ice in a two-game aggregate goal series, winning 7-3. The Canadiens would win Game 2 two days later, 4-3, but the Arenas won the O’Brien Cup 10-7. Toronto would beat the Vancouver Millionaires in fives to win the Stanley Cup.

To say the inaugural season of the National Hockey League was tumultuous would be an understatement. The Quebec Bulldogs, expected to join the league, were forced to suspend operations as they could not meet financial obligations, leaving four teams at the start of the season in December. Things got even worse for the new hockey league a few later as the Montreal Wanderers folded after a fire destroyed their arena six games into the season. The NHL played a split season in their first season, with the Montreal Canadiens leading at the end of the first half with a record of 10-4, while the Toronto franchise, often called the Toronto Arenas because their arena owned them, won the second half with a record of 5-3.

The championship of the inaugural NHL season would be decided with a two-game home-and-home series between Toronto and Montreal, with the team with the highest goal total winning the O’Brien Cup and challenging the PCHA Champion for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 will be played in Toronto at The Mutual Street Arena. The Arenas, coached by Dick Carroll, got off to a quick start as Harry Meeking and Ken Randall scored in the first period. Meeking added a second goal in the second period as the Canadiens got on the board with a goal from their coach and captain, Newsy Lalonde. Meeking would complete the hat trick with a goal in the third period, as Toronto scored four more times on Georges Vezina on goals by Jack Adams, Harry Cameron, and Harry Mummery. The Canadiens meanwhile got goals from Bert Corbeau and Lalonde as they lost the opener 7-3. Game 2 was played two nights later at the Montreal Arena. The Canadiens again got a pair of goals by Newsy Lalonde, but Toronto kept battling back all night and lost 4-3, which allowed them to win the Total Goal series 10-7 as Hap Holmes outplayed Georges Vezina in the series.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, the Vancouver Millionaires beat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Seattle Metropolitans 3-2 in their two-game total goal series. The Stanley Cup Finals would be a best-of-five series played in Toronto, with games alternating between NHL and PCHA rules. Among the rules difference was the NHL at the time did not allow forward passing, while the PCHA altered with six skaters and a goalie. Toronto would win all three games under NHL rules, winning the series and the Stanley Cup three games to two.