Monthly Archives: April 2020

Another Story of the Spanish Flu

Since moving to Owen Sound in the fall of 2006, I’ve done most of my work from home. And when I haven’t had a ton of actual paying work (freelancing can be pretty boom or bust), I often manage to keep myself busy reading and noodling away on my computer. So, I guess I’ve been better equipped than many to handle what’s become day-to-day life these days.

This story may read like the efforts of someone who’s got too much time on his hands (which I do right now), but, really, it’s not very different from what my “real” life was like before. It’s also a pretty good example of why I always try my best to help anyone who contacts me with a question as quickly as possible … because I often have to rely on similar help myself. And when I do, I like to get my answers NOW!

In my Spanish Flu story last week, I said that I was limiting myself to how the pandemic affected pro hockey players. Still, the story of one amateur player that popped up in my research stuck in my mind. His name was Frank Montgomery.

The Globe, Toronto. November 2, 1918.

Montgomery was not someone I’d heard of before, so I started doing a little digging. I began with the web site of the Society for International Hockey Research. No one by the name of Frank Montgomery showed up in the statistical database. However, there were eight players with the last name Montgomery and no first name. Only two of them had stats ranges that made sense, and only one of those two had an entry showing that he’d played in Sarnia in 1917–18. There was no other information. No first name; no date of birth or death; no statistics; no other seasons.

Montgomery’s death was apparently national news. This item is from the Victoria Daily Times. I also found stories in newspapers from Vancouver and Edmonton.

A little more searching through old issues of the Globe online determined that a Montgomery did play in Sarnia in 1917–18, and that he was a defenseman. Better than the nothing that was there for him before, so I sent along what I’d found to my friend and fellow SIHR member Aubrey Ferguson.

Sarnia’s Junior team played only three games in the OHA in January of 1918. Montgomery (no first name) was highlighted as a star in two of them.

The short obituary in the Globe had already told us that Frank Montgomery was from Peterborough, Ontario, so Aubrey passed along the information to a Peterborough SIHR colleague, Peter Pearson:

Hi Peter
Thought you would find this interesting, if only to put a Ptbo hockey twist on the Spanish Flu. Also thought you might have something from local sources on him.
Cheers, Aubrey

Following the email chain that would soon make its way back to me, Peter contacted Sylvia Best, who found a much more detailed obituary from the Peterborough Evening Examiner on October 28, 1918. There was plenty more information on Frank Montgomery in there, as well as the sad fact that not only had the family suffered his death from the Spanish Flu, but they had also learned at almost the exact same time that another family member had been seriously wounded fighting in World War I:

Frank Montgomery Died This Morning
- The Deceased Was Well Known in Local Athletic Circles -
Word was received late this after noon that Mr. Frank Montgomery had succumbed to pneumonia in Oshawa this morning. Mr. Montgomery had been ill with pneumonia for 12 days which succeeded Spanish influenza. Mr. Montgomery played on the Peterboro Junior O.H.A hockey team for Peterboro in the season of 1916-17. Last winter he played for the Sarnia team. He left for Oshawa in the latter part of July where he intended playing hockey this winter. The deceased also played for the Matthews-Blackwell team in the Twilight league.

The body will be brought to the city and the funeral will take place from the residence of his sister, Mrs. Thomas H. Skinner, 354 Stewart Street to Little Lake Cemetery. Rev. Mr. MacKenzie of Knox Presbyterian Church will officiate.

Mrs. Skinner received word on Saturday night that her husband Pte. Thomas Skinner of the 21st Canadians, had been badly wounded.

A big thank you to Peter and to Sylvia (neither of whom I know) and to Aubrey for their efforts … but I was still curious.

A Google street image of 354 Stewart Street. (Left half of the semi seen here.)

For one thing, I went to Trent University in Peterborough from 1982 to 1985. In my last year there, I shared a house with a few friends. It was on Stewart Street in the same part of town! What were the chances that I’d actually lived in that house? (Turns out, I didn’t. We were about two blocks away, at 264 Stewart.)

The house on the right is 264 Stewart Street. The balconies have
been enlarged since I lived there, and the ramp has been added.

Really, what I hoped to find was a birth date for Frank Montgomery. The Spanish Flu was notorious for killing men and women in the prime of life, with a huge percentage of deaths occurring in people between the ages of 20 and 40. As a junior hockey player, Montgomery was likely to be under 21. So — though I know they can be notoriously unreliable — I turned to the records of the Canadian census for 1901 and 1911.

In 1901, I found a Montgomery family from Peterborough. (A later search through city directories showed the family lived at 33 Louis Street then … not too far from Stewart Street.) There was a father named John and a mother named Jane, plus four daughters … and then another daughter named Francis J.

The area of Peterborough where the Montgomery/Skinner familes (and I) lived.

Francis J. would actually turn out to be our guy Frank. (The J. stands for John.) The birth date in 1901 is listed as January 7, 1899. By the 1911 Census, father John is no longer there. (I would later discover that he’d driven a team of horses for the fire department, and that he passed away around 1907. NOTE: Daniel Doyon found the death certificate confirming that John Montgomery died of pneumonia on Jan. 19, 1907.) Jane is now the head of the household and youngest daughter Geraldine is still at home. (The much smaller family by then was living at 262 Dalhousie, in the same neighbourhood.) Frank is now a boy, at least, but his birth is listed as July of 1899, not January.

As I said, those old Censuses can be unreliable

However, in both 1901 and 1911, the family also has boarders in their home. In 1911, two of those boarders are T.H. Skinner and Edith Skinner. I assumed that Edith (there had been an Edith Montgomery in 1901) must be the sister from the obituary who was married to Thomas Skinner, and he must be the T.H. from the Census.

I knew I’d be able to confirm all this if I still had a membership to Ancestry.com but I’d cancelled that a while back. So, friends to the rescue once again! I called on Lynda Chiotti to ask if she could hunt down a birth record for Frank Montgomery, his death certificate, and anything on the marriage of Thomas and Edith when she had some time.

The official record of the birth of Frank Montgomery. (See the last line.)

Meanwhile, as I waited to hear back from Lynda, I was also curious as to whether or not Thomas Skinner had survived the war wounds mentioned in Frank’s obituary. I was able to find his complete military record through Library and Archives Canada. Turns out, Thomas Skinner suffered gun shot wounds in his arms and legs on October 24, 1918, but survived and returned safely to Canada in 1919. (Thomas and Edith were still living with Jane Montgomery, and Frank, at 262 Dalhousie Street when Thomas enlisted in 1915, but both Thomas’s war records and the Peterborough city directory show their address as 354 Stewart by 1917.)

Lynda did find the marriage record for me. Skinner, Thomas Henry, was a carpenter who married Edith Maud Montgomery, daughter of John and Jane, on November 9, 1909. She also found a family tree showing that Thomas lived until September 19, 1960 and that Edith died on March 5, 1974, when she would have been nearing 100 years old. (City directories help to confirm this.)

As for Frank Montgomery, the birth records show that he was actually born on January 5, 1899, in Peterborough, to John and Martha Jane Montgomery. The death certificate confirms that he was only 19 years of age when he died in Oshawa on October 28, 1918. The cause of death is listed as “Pneumonia following flu.” The body was turned over to Mrs. Jane Montgomery, 354 Stewart, Peterborough.

The official death record for Frank Montgomery. (Middle column.)

All the pieces of this sad story fit. Still, it was satisfying to put them all together.

Well, maybe not all the pieces. The family tree that Lynda found actually shows Frank Montgomery listed as the son of his sister Edith! Edith Montgomery would have been about 22 (and unmarried) when Frank was born, while Jane would have been about 42. So, it’s certainly possible that grandmother Jane raised Frank as her own … but it might just have been an error in the listing. As of now, there’s been no way to know for sure. Family histories can certainly be mysteries.

Hockey in the Time of the Spanish Flu

One hundred and one years ago yesterday, on April 5, 1919, Joe Hall passed away at the Columbus Sanitarium in Seattle, Washington. Hall died of pneumonia, as did so many victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic around the world between 1918 and 1920. (Sources used to put the death toll around 20 million worldwide, but more recent estimates have moved that number to more like 100 million.)

Last year on April 5, I visited Joe Hall’s gravesite in Vancouver on the 100th anniversary of his death. Hall’s illness, along with several other of his Montreal Canadiens teammates, is the reason that the deciding game of the 1919 Stanley Cup Final was never played. The fact that Hall died just four days after the series was cancelled makes him the most famous hockey victim of the Spanish Flu … but he wasn’t the only one.

George Kennedy owned and operated the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until his death on October 19, 1921. Kennedy also contracted the Spanish Flu while the team was in Seattle for the Stanley Cup in 1919. Although he lived for another 2 1/2 years, it was said that Kennedy never really recovered.

Three years before George Kennedy died, Hamby Shore of the Ottawa Senators had been the first member of the hockey community to fall to the Spanish Flu. Shore caught the disease while nursing his wife, who made a complete recovery. Sadly, he died on October 13, 1918.

On the day of Hamby Shore’s funeral in Ottawa on October 16, 1918, the hockey world suffered another loss when the son of Jack Marshall (who had starred at the game’s highest level from 1900 to 1917) died of the flu. Bob Marshall was just 12 years old.

Having been called on a few times of late to share my knowledge of the Spanish Flu and the 1919 Stanley Cup, I was asked recently if I knew how many hockey players had been sick during the epidemic. I spent an hour or two last week trying to put together a list. This may not be a complete compilation, but it’s certainly a start. Everyone listed here seems to have made a complete recovery. (Most of the pictures accompanying the newspaper stories are courtesy of the Society for International Hockey Research.)

I decided to limit myself to professional hockey players, but I did come across a few other big names from other sports. Babe Ruth’s case was said to be a mild one, but imagine how different the history of baseball would be if Ruth had died in the fall of 1918!

Jim Jeffries was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1899 to 1904, and famously came out of retirement in 1910 to fight Jack Johnson as the “Great White Hope.” Jeffries recovered from the Spanish Flu, as his doctors believed he would.

Former Canadian heavyweight champ Tommy Burns (who lost the title to Jack Johnson in 1908) also came down with the flu in 1918 while in training with the army in Vancouver. Though his case sounds bad, it was soon reported that Burns was improving.

As for other hockey players, while Hamby Shore was dying in the fall of 1918, his Ottawa teammate Eddie Gerard was recovering from his own bout of Spanish Flu.

And at least two club executives in Ottawa were reported to be down with the flu as well. Still, the NHL meeting went on as scheduled on October 19 … although only three delegates were in attendance.

Frank Foyston of the Seattle Metropolitans was also sick in October of 1918. He was training with the Royal Air Force in Toronto during World War I at the time. Toronto newspapers mention that he was sick, some articles noting he had the Spanish Flu, which was confirmed by his former teammate Norm Fowler in a letter to Pacific Coast Hockey Association President Frank Patrick in Vancouver. (The War ended before Foyston was ever sent overseas.)

Fowler, who was in the army and training in Victoria, British Columbia, late in 1918 before serving in the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force to bolster the Allied presence during the Russian Revolution, would also become a sufferer of the Spanish Flu. Fowler recovered, and after missing the 1918–19 season due to his military service, he signed on with the Victoria Aristocrats hockey team in 1919–20.

The British Columbia capital seemed to be a particularly difficult place for hockey players during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Dubbie Kerr, who hadn’t played hockey at all in 1917–18 and would play just one game for Victoria during the 1918–19 season was reported sick with Spanish Flu in the fall of 1918.

Aristocrats captain Eddie Oatman came down with a case in late December of 1918 and missed the team’s first game of the PCHA season before returning to action in January.

After Oatman recovered, team owner, coach and star player Lester Patrick came down with the disease.

Though it’s said that Lester was extremely diligent in insisting that other players be sent home if they experienced any symptoms, Moose Johnson, Clem Loughlin, Bob Genge and Alf Barbour of the Aristocrats all got sick too. Every Victoria player recovered.

Given that many sporting events were cancelled in Victoria in the fall of 1918 (as they were all across North America, where – like today – meetings, schools, theaters and the like had all been shut down) it’s amazing to me that the PCHA never closed the rinks during the 1918–19 season. Of course, the league only had three teams, as did the NHL, but whereas the Spanish Flu epidemic was considered essentially over in November on the East Coast – well before the the NHL season began in late December — life didn’t really get back to normal on the West Coast until January. And, of course the disease would flare up again later.

It’s long been said that the Montreal players who got sick at the end of March during the 1919 Stanley Cup Final contracted the disease while in Victoria. I don’t believe that to be true. (In my research, the team was never in Victoria en route from Montreal to Seattle.) I think it was just an easy story for lazy writers who knew that so many Victoria hockey players had been sick. I also doubt they picked up the virus in Vancouver, which is another theory. The Canadiens were in Vancouver for barely 24 hours nearly two weeks before anyone got sick, and unlike COVID-19, the Spanish flu presented symptoms almost immediately.

Although there were no deaths associated with the flu in Seattle during March of 1919, I think the Canadiens contracted the disease while they were there. In addition to Joe Hall and George Kennedy, Canadiens who got sick in Seattle include Jack McDonald, Newsy Lalonde, Billy Coutu, Louis Berlinguette, and Odie Cleghorn. Roy Rickey, Muzz Murray and manager Pete Muldoon of the Seattle Metropolitans were also stricken with influenza. All would recover fairly quickly.

For more on this topic, you can see the story I wrote here in March of 2017, or search out several interesting stories by others writers about Joe Hall, Hamby Shore, and the 1919 Stanley Cup that have been written since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.

April First (No Fooling!)

From anything I’ve read (and I’m just talking newspapers and web sites; I don’t have any inside information) the NHL is really hoping the COVID-19 crisis clears up in time to complete the season and then have a full playoff for the Stanley Cup. Apparently, arenas across the NHL have guaranteed that ice will be available into July and August.

Understandably, there has never been a Stanley Cup game played in July or August before. But it might surprise you to learn that if championship games are played this summer, it would mean that over the years since 1893, Stanley Cup games will have been played in nine of the 12 months on the calendar. If there is a series in July and August, only September, October and November would never have seen a Stanley Cup game.

In the earliest years of its competition, the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy available to championship teams in any major senior provincial hockey league anywhere in Canada. With travel limited to trains, leagues were small in those days (anywhere from just two to seven teams) and, with arenas requiring cold temperatures to keep natural ice surfaces frozen, seasons were short. Schedules generally began in late December or early January and extended only to the beginning of March.

The Ottawa Senators won their first Stanley Cup as an NHL team on April 1, 1920.

As championship teams from more and more leagues wished to challenge for the Stanley Cup, the trustees in charge of the trophy often had to arrange title games at any time during the hockey schedule. Sometimes the Stanley Cup was contested before the regular season started; sometimes right smack dab in the middle. For that reason, from 1893 to 1910, Stanley Cup games were played in December, January, February and March. Although no formal announcement seems to have been made, all Stanley Cup games since 1911 have always been played at the end of the hockey season.

Beginning in 1914, Stanley Cup play was limited to the National Hockey Association (forerunner of the NHL) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, whose championship teams would meet at the end of the season in a Stanley Cup Final often referred to as the World Series of Hockey. During this World Series era, all the games in a best-of-five series were scheduled for just one city. It could take six or seven days to travel across the continent by train, so the entire series was played in the eastern winner’s city one year and the western winner’s city the next.

If not for the Spanish Flu epidemic, the Stanley Cup Final of 1919 in Seattle would have stretched into April, but since the last game of that series wasn’t played, the first Stanley Cup game ever played in April took place one year later – 100 years ago today – on April 1, 1920. The teams that year were the NHL champion Ottawa Senators and the PCHA champion Seattle Metropolitans … yet the first Stanley Cup game to be played in April actually took place in Toronto.

As these Ottawa Citizen articles of March 10 and 11, indicate, whether or not the Senators would be able to host the 1920 Stanley Cup Final wasn’t entirely clear.

With the NHL newly expanded to four teams, and with the schedule extended to 24 games, the 1919–20 NHL season began on December 23, 1919, which was slightly later than the start of the first two seasons in league history and didn’t end until March 13, 1920 – which was also the latest date yet. In this era, the NHL used a split schedule, with a first-half champion and a second-half champion. The playoffs then pitted the first-half winner against the second-half winner to determine the league championship.

In 1920, Ottawa won the first half of the schedule in a tight race with the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators also won the second half, clinching it with a win over the Toronto St. Pats on March 3 with 10 days (and three games for each team) still left in the season. This meant there was no need for an NHL playoff and thoughts turned immediately to the Stanley Cup Final with the PCHA.

Would the 1920 Stanley Cup Final be moved to Toronto?
The Globe newspaper said yes on March 5, but no on March 9.

Out west, the PCHA had three teams in 1919–20: the Vancouver Millionaires, the Victoria Aristocrats, and Seattle. The PCHA played a full schedule, which was expanded to 22 games this season (each team played its two opponents 11 times at home and 11 times away) and ran from December 26 to March 10. Back in 1917-18, the PCHA had created what many consider to be the first modern-style playoff system in which the first-place team and second-place team would meet in a two-game, total-goal postseason series. In 1920, the second-place Millionaires won the first playoff game 3–1 on the road in Seattle on March 12, but the first-place Metropolitans stormed back for a 6–0 win in Vancouver three days later and took the series 7–3. The Mets left for Ottawa on March 16 and arrived in the Canadian capital on Sunday, March 21. The first game of the Stanley Cup Final was played the following evening.

Since clinching the NHL title nearly three weeks earlier, the Senators, their fans, and team executives (as well as NHL president Frank Calder, who would be in charge of the Stanley Cup series) had been keeping a nervous eye on the Ottawa weather. It had been unseasonably warm since the start of March, and was only getting warmer. There had been good, natural, ice available in Ottawa at the Arena on Laurier Avenue into the first week of April in 1919, but there were serious doubts the surface would hold up that long this time.

An ad from the Ottawa Journal on March 20 showing the
original dates of the first three games of the 1920 Stanley Cup Final.

There had been some talk in the newspapers about moving the 1920 Stanley Cup Final out West, where all three PCHA teams had artificial ice rinks. It’s unclear how serious those reports were. As early as March 5, there were stories about the NHL seeking to move the series to the Arena Gardens in Toronto — which also had artificial ice — but the finals of the Memorial Cup (junior hockey championship) and the Allan Cup (senior amateur championship) were already scheduled there in March. Since no firms plans could be made to move the Stanley Cup Final, it began in Ottawa despite the poor ice conditions.

The Senators hoped to play the entire series in front of their home fans, but the weather kept getting warmer … and the ice kept getting softer. With Seattle clearly hampered by the bad ice, the Senators won the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. Game three was originally set for Friday night, March 26, but it was postponed until Saturday the 27th when the forecast called for slightly cooler temperatures. The delay would also allow Arena staff an extra day to remove the top layer of slush and – hopefully! – get down to a firmer surface below. However, if Seattle managed to stay alive (which they did, with a 3–1 victory that surprised most experts) it had already been announced that any remaining games in the series would be moved to Toronto.

Ottawa Journal weather headlines. (Top: March 27. Bottom: March 25.)

Playing on the hard, fast, artificial ice in Toronto, the Metropolitans scored a 5–2 victory in game four on March 30 to stay alive once again and extend the series into April. A Canadian Press report prior to the deciding contest on April 1 stated that, “the result of this important and soon-to-be-historic game is as uncertain as any game ever was in advance.” As further proof, the report noted that, “no line could be obtained tonight on the probable betting odds.”

The game certainly start out close, with the score tied 1–1 after two periods. Defenseman Bobby Rowe starred for Seattle, scoring the first goal midway through the first period and helping to keep Ottawa’s offense bottled up. But during the second period, Rowe delivered a check on Eddie Gerard and was accidentally cut just below the left eye by the blade of the Ottawa captain’s stick. Rowe went down, semi-conscious, in a pool of blood. He had to be helped off the ice and was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital, where it took several stitches to close the wound.

Even 100 years ago, the Stanley Cup was national news. The article on the left is
from the Edmonton Journal. The one on the right appeared in the Calgary Herald.

In an era when teams only carried a few substitute players, Seattle had to scramble. Winger Jim Riley was dropped back to take Rowe’s spot, leaving the team’s two other spares to fill in on the forward line. Five minutes into the third period, Jack Darragh went around Riley for a goal that put Ottawa up 2–1. Five minutes later, Eddie Gerard scored for the Senators. Ottawa went into a defensive shell after that, and Seattle cracked. The Mets were rarely able to get past center. Darragh scored again a few minutes later, and then he and Frank Nighbor added two quick goals late in the game as Ottawa pulled away for a 6–1 victory.

“I thought we had them until Rowe was hurt,” said Seattle star Frank Foyston, discussing the final game with local reporters after the team arrived home later in April, “but the Ottawas had saved themselves and skated us off our feet in the third period…. We were all sorry to lose, but we were beaten by a wonderful team. They’re a credit to the game.”

Ottawa Journal headlines on April 2 marking the Senator’s victory the night before.

“I noticed that you didn’t get the cold spell until the month of April,” wrote Mets coach Pete Muldoon in a letter to Ottawa hockey executives from his Seattle office. “Why don’t you get on better terms with the weather man. He’s about the chap you fellows didn’t have pulling with you.” But even Muldoon had admitted on April 1 that, “the better team won tonight. It was a great series and we have no kick to make.” Still, the Seattle players believed their chances to win would have been better if the entire series had been played on better ice.

By 1927, the NHL was the only league left in competition for the Stanley Cup … and all its teams by then had artificial ice rinks. As the league – and its schedule – grew larger over the years, the first Stanley Cup game in May was played in 1965. The first game in June was played in 1992. Will this year mark the first time that Stanley Cup games are played in July and August? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…