Monday, December 31, 2012

1910 NHA Constitution

In the course of researching the history of the NHL's sponsorship system I came upon an interesting little bit of legal lore that may interest a few people out there.

You may or may not know that the National Hockey League was borne out of a legal dispute between the owners of a preceding hockey league named the National Hockey Association (NHA). The NHA was founded in 1909 by J. Ambrose O'Brien as an amalgam of teams he owned in Northern Ontario and the Montreal Wanderers, winners of the Stanley Cup in 1906, 1907 and 1908. The league quickly added teams in Montreal (Shamrocks, two-time winners of the Stanley Cup, and Canadiens, created to capture the attention of the city's francophone population), Ottawa (Senators, then five-time and defending Stanley Cup champions), Quebec City (Quebec HC, a.k.a. "Bulldogs") and Toronto (including Toronto HC, known as the "Blueshirts", from which the modern-day Maple Leafs are descended).

It was due to disputes between eventual Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone and the rest of the NHA owners that the rest formed another league, the NHL, in order to carry on their hockey business while excluding Livingstone. I won't get into the details—a cursory internet search will provide you with a breadth of information on the subject.

When the NHL was formed it carried over the rules (notably six-man hockey; most other leagues still played seven-man rules which included the now-deprecated rover), officials (including president and secretary-treasurer Frank Calder, who would remain in those positions with the NHL until he had a heart attack at a board meeting in 1943, dying 10 days later) and constitution of the NHA.

The NHA originally used the constitution of the Eastern Canada Hockey Association (ECHA, formerly known as the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association [ECAHA]). After the NHA's first season of operation the Shamrocks left, rejoining 'amateur' ranks with the likes of the Montreal Victorias (Stanley Cup champions in the late 1890s) and Montreal HC (the hockey wing of the Amateur Athletic Association, inaugural Stanley Cup champions in 1893). Ambrose O'Brien chose to return his clubs in Northern Ontario (Cobalt & Haileybury) back to the Timiskaming Professional Hockey League from whence they came and sold the Montreal Canadiens to George Kennedy; he couldn't afford the salaries commanded by the top players in the country. Seeking to stabilize the league and to clarify the league's business rules a three-man committee comprised of league president Emmett Quinn, former secretary-treasurer Eddie McCafferty and Wanderers manager Dickie Boon wrote a new constitution, adopted at the annual board meeting held in November of 1910.

A draft version of the constitution was published November 9, 1910 in the Montreal Gazette. At the bottom of this post you will find a link to the Google News archive version of the page in The Gazette. I also took it upon myself to transcribe the articles of the constitution as presented in The Gazette and create a PDF for your viewing ease (and also to save me the trouble of html coding in order to reproduce it in an acceptable format to suit the blog's theme).

Click here to view the PDF at

Note that Section 21 set a salary cap of $5,000 per team. This was very contentious with the players of course. The Ottawa Senators players even contemplated starting their own league as many had their salaries halved. They ended up not being able to secure ice time in any of the big rinks and backed down from the threat. Interesting, considering the state of player relations as they relate to the salary cap today...

Also note that the number of teams in Section 12 was left blank. It appears blank on the newspaper page; it may have been a misprint or omission on their part. Given the context of the article and the talks between the clubs about admitting the Quebec Hockey Club and a club from Toronto I believe the number was meant to be six (Renfrew, Canadiens, Wanderers, Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto). Six sounds right given the context of the rest of the constitution too—see Section 16 regarding the expulsion of a member club. It calls for a vote by all of the clubs except the club facing expulsion and four votes are required to pass the motion. That means that there would be at least five clubs, and since it calls for four votes and not 'unanimous' I believe they left a margin of one dissenting vote (four assenting, one dissenting, one club facing expulsion; six total). In any case for the sake of accuracy I have left the space blank, as I do not wish to misrepresent what was printed at the time.


"To Place Hockey on Better Basis; Draft of New Constitution for National Association Was Completed Yesterday; Salary Limit of $5,000; Severe Penalties Will Be Exacted for Violations of Rules by Players or Clubs." Montreal Gazette 9 Nov 1910, 10. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

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