February 21, 2011
Tigers set early tone
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Calgary and Montreal meeting in the Stanley Cup finals was a big part of the fabric of the NHL in the later half of the 1980s.
A couple of showdowns for hockey’s holy grail made it possible.
However, you need go much further back in history to find the first time teams from those cities met each other for hockey supremacy.
That would be at the end of the 1923-24 season, when the Calgary Tigers lost to Howie Morenz, Georges Vezina and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens in the final series.
Which is why the Flames wore uniforms honouring the Tigers during Sunday’s Heritage Classic outdoor game at McMahon Stadium against the Canadiens.
With the love of hockey growing throughout the country from the start of the century, it was just a matter of time before professional leagues would be up and running.
Although, that wasn’t the origin of the Tigers.
Originally, the Tigers were part the Alberta’s Big-4 League, an amateur loop to vie for the Allan Cup, along with the Calgary Canadians, Edmonton Eskimos and Edmonton Dominions.
However, after just one season — 1920-21 — the league was disbanded amidst allegations of teams paying players.
Out of the ashes came the professional Western Canada Hockey League, with the Tigers, Eskimos, Regina Capitals and Saskatoon Sheiks vying to win the league title, advance to face the champion of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and then face their Eastern counterparts.
The Tigers played at Victoria Arena and, led by four future Hockey Hall of Fame inductees — Harry Oliver, Red Dutton, Herb Gardiner and Rusty Crawford — claimed the league championship in 1923-24 and advanced to face the PCHA champion Vancouver Maroons in a best-of-three final for the right to play for the Stanley Cup.
The Tigers beat the Maroons and went on to play the Canadiens, but were swept in the final series.
The next season, the Tigers again were the top team in the WCHL during the regular season but lost to the Victoria Cougars in the final. The Cougars went on to beat Montreal for the Stanley Cup, the last non-NHL team to claim the title.
In the summer of 1926, the six clubs of the Western league were purchased by the NHL.
The Tigers lived on one more season, as a charter member of the Prairie Hockey League, but the club ceased operations in the spring of 1927.
The Tigers were revived in 1932 with the new minor-professional Western Canada Hockey League and later the North Western Hockey League.
Again, the Tigers were successful on the ice, claiming the league title in 1934, but the cost of players’ salaries combined with the worsening Great Depression eventually forced their demise in 1936.