The New York Americans began their hockey team NHL career as the Hamilton Tigers in 1920.
In 1924, the league added the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons and extended the game schedule from 24 to 30 games. This action would trigger a players strike near the end of the season.
Hamilton Tigers goal-scorer Reg Green was at the centre of the problem. Hamilton won the regular season and under a new playoff system was to meet the winner of a series between the second and third place teams.
On behalf of the Hamilton team, Green protested saying that everyone had signed a contract for a 24 game schedule. Having already played six games beyond the contract, Green and his team mates demanded $200 (!) more to play the winner of the Toronto-Montreal series.
NHL president Frank Calder refused the demands of the strikers and declared that the winner of the Toronto- Montreal series would represent the NHL in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Hamilton players were suspended on April 17th 1925 and fined $200.00. In 1925 the Hamilton Tigers were sold to investors in New York for $75,000.00. New York bootlegger 'Big Bill Dwyer' moved the team to Manhattan. The New York Americans were named the Star Spangled Skaters.
The New York Americans opened the 1925-26 season at Manhattan's Madison Square Gardens to an unheard crowd of 17,000 fans. The Americans had such stars as Billy Burch, Roy Worters, Ching Johnson, Red Dutton, Eddie Shore and many other NHL stars. The Americans had their best season ever in 1937-38 losing the semi-finals to the cup winning Chicago Black Hawks.
In 1941-42 the Americans changed their name to the Brooklyn Americans while still playing it's home games at M.S.G. Huge debts left by Dwyer and player enlistments in WW2, forced Red Dutton to fold the Americans in 1942, thus closing the book on the New York Americans.
New York Americans’ History
by Daniel Helmer
My grandfather, Rosie Helmer, was bench coach of the Americans in 1936 and or 1937. He was a close personal friend of Red Dutton, and Lloyd Turner, Hall of Famers who stocked the team with a lot of Western Canadian talent, in fact my grandfather developed Sweeney Schriner, an amazing scorer in his day. My grandfather was in New York a year and a half, then he went back to Calgary. Anyways, my family has a game jersey worn by Red Dutton from the 1936 season. He wore number two, which is on the back of the jersey. My grandfather spent his life developing and training hockey talent out west, and had looked after several teams in various capacities as owner, manager, coach, and trainer. He even strapped on the pads on occasion. A team he trained and played on the Montreal Canadiens in 1924 was defeated for the Cup. That is the only other time Calgary got its name on the Cup, in the early years the losers name was also displayed.
Ever heard of the Calgary Tigers? The Canadians sported players like Vezina, Joliet, and Morenz. Red Dutton played for Calgary in the losing cause.
It seems to me that the team has a legendary, almost mythical, mystique about it.
My grandmother's house was brimming with sports memorabilia when I was a child. There were a lot of old Amerks living in and around Calgary; Lorne Carr was a neighbour of my mothers, in fact he once was in the snooker business with my grandfather once his hockey playing days were over.
My original impression was that MSG was erected by promoter Tex Rickert, and the New York Americans were his team, in his building. The Americans were renters in the Garden, and when Tex Rickert sold the Garden with the Amerks, the team then became also-rans and the Rangers grew in stature. It wasn't until the war that the Rangers became sole tenants of the Gardens, when the Americans folded due to a small talent pool and hard times. Tex Rickert was really the first P.T. Barnum of sports, promoting boxing, Jack Johnson was the biggest star of his era.
Dan’s e-mail is email@example.com
The New York Times
85 Years Ago, Pro Hockey Roared Into the Garden
By Jeff Z. Klein
On Dec. 15, 1925, professional hockey made its debut in New York before a capacity crowd of 17,000 at the grand opening of Madison Square Garden.
Regimental bands and the Montreal Canadiens were on the ice for the first
N.H.L. game in the city, and hundreds of New York’s society elite in tuxedos and gowns filled the most expensive seats.
But the bootlegger who owned the New York team was absent, out on bail from his arrest 11 days before.
The Rangers are celebrating 85 seasons in the N.H.L., but before they
arrived, there was another team at the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth
Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets: the New York Americans. They were a team mixed up with Runyonesque gangsters in an age of flappers and
Prohibition, a team that did not win often but often partied very hard.
“Join the Americans and laugh yourself to death,” was the players’ slogan, according to a later American, Red Dutton.
The New York Americans or Amerks, as tabloid headline writers called them lasted from 1925 to 1942. They preceded the Rangers by a year, and their box-office success as the old Garden’s marquee tenant gave the Garden Corporation the idea for having a profitable team of its own.
Even before their Garden debut 85 years ago Wednesday, the Americans were inextricably mixed up with rum runners. They came to New York, becoming the N.H.L.’s second franchise based in the United States, because of a labor dispute in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Hamilton Tigers were a cellar-dwelling team from 1920 through 1924, but in 1925, they finished first in the N.H.L. and seemed headed to their first
Stanley Cup. They were led by two local former amateur stars, the brothers
Wilfred and Redvers Green, known as Shorty and Red.
So popular was Shorty Green that Hamiltonians took to calling their green
municipal drinking fountains “shorty greens” still the nickname today, although most Hamiltonians are unaware of the term’s origin.
As the 30 game season drew to a close, Shorty Green told team management that the players would strike because they were being paid for only 24 games, the number played the previous season. The N.H.L. president, Frank Calder, responded by suspending every Tigers player and excluding the team from the playoffs.
Soon after, a New York bootlegger, Big Bill Dwyer, decided to buy the Tigers. Working with organized crime figures based in Hamilton, Dwyer used armored speedboats to import illegal liquor across Lake Ontario. A small portion of those profits covered the $80,000 price tag for the franchise.Dwyer renamed the team the Americans, and with the help of W. J. Macbeth, a Canadian-born sportswriter for The New York Herald-Tribune, persuaded Tex
Rickard to install cooling pipes for an ice rink in the floor of the new
Madison Square Garden that Rickard was building. They wanted hockey to join boxing and the circus as the Garden’s main attractions.
Calder allowed the Green brothers and the rest of the suspended players to
attend the Americans’ training camp in Niagara Falls, Ontario, but only after receiving a written apology from each one. They wore colorful star-spangled uniforms based on the American flag, but some bore an extra “HT,” for Hamilton Tigers.
The Garden took just 249 days to build, but it was not ready for the start
of the season, so the Amerks played their first four games on the road, going 2-2. Arriving in New York, they took up residence around the corner at
the Forrest Hotel, where Dwyer, Damon Runyon and a number of gangsters
lived. The parties started there and did not stop.
“We knew what Bill was, but we loved him,” Dutton said many years later.
“Bill Dwyer was a very personable, likable guy, but he was associated with
murderers,” said Steven M. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who became fascinated with the Americans through old records he saw as the head of the violent gangs unit for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.
“One of his associates was Owney Madden, a homicidal murderer whose nickname was the Killer.”
Dwyer was arrested Dec. 4 as part of a liquor racketeering bust, so his name was absent from the long sports section and society page accounts of the Americans’ Garden debut.
“Garden Is Opened in a Blaze of Color” was the headline in The New York
Times. The New York Sun called it “the night of nights.”
The evening started at 8:30, with the Canadiens and the Americans skating to center ice, accompanied by the 44 piece Governor General’s Foot Guard
regimental band from Ottawa and the 35 piece drum and bugle corps from West Point. They played “God Save the King” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”Mayor John F. Hylan dropped the ceremonial first puck, and the mayor-elect, Jimmy Walker, declared via megaphone that a new prize, the Prince of Wales Trophy, would go to the winner of the game. The N.H.L. still awards the trophy to the Eastern Conference champion.
The game was a benefit for the Neurological Institute and would be followed
by a ball at the Biltmore Hotel given by the Canadian Club of New York. The Times published two full columns of nothing but society names in attendance: Astors, Tiffanys, Paynes, Whitneys, Twomblys, Biddles, Tweeds and “Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Calder was there, too.
Shorty Green scored the first N.H.L. goal in New York at 11 minutes 55
seconds of the first period, after he “coaxed the puck down along the field”
and “climaxed his performance with a true shot,” as The New York Evening
Post put it. But the Canadiens replied with goals from Battleship Leduc, Billy Boucher and Howie Morenz and won, 3-1.
The Amerks’ goalie, Jakie Forbes, was judged the hero of the game. The next day, he was defiantly upbeat, speaking in the cadences of the era.
“Forget about that game last night. I figured we’d lose that first one and we did,” he told his teammates, according to The Sun. “But that’s over, and now we’re going to shoot right up to the top of the league. We’ve got a great team, don’t forget that, and when everybody hits the proper stride,
why there won’t be anybody able to stop us.”
Meanwhile, the Americans’ managing director, Tom Duggan, obliquely referred to questions surrounding the team’s entanglements with the underworld.
“People who saw the intensity of the battle can surely have no doubt that
professional hockey is on the level,” he said, “and the fact that the
Canadiens won the game should strengthen this impression.”
Hockey proved to be popular with New Yorkers. It was the Garden’s biggest draw despite the Americans’ modest 12-20-4 record. The next year, Rickard brought in his own team, Tex’s Rangers, which did not have to pay rent as the Americans did. The Rangers won Stanley Cups in 1927 and 1933, and the Amerks generally languished in the lower reaches.
But they had fun, and tales of their high jinks fill books like Trent Frayne’s
“The Mad Men of Hockey” and Stan Fischler and Tom Sarro’s “Metro Ice.”
Hitmen hunted Ottawa goalie Alec Connell through Times Square after he
argued with a Garden goal judge who was also a Dwyer crony. Legs Diamond and Dutch Schultz mingled with players at the Forrest. The future Hall of Famer Lionel Conacher joined the Americans, and in the words of his brother Charlie, became “bent on a literal interpretation of the soft drink slogan Drink Canada Dry.’
Over the next decade, Dwyer moved in and out of jail and in and out of debt. Dutton, a former player, was put in charge of the Americans, who could not make their rent. The league took over.
For 1941-42 Dutton changed the name to the Brooklyn Americans and hoped to move the club to the borough, but the Rangers led a move to have the team folded. The Amerks passed out of existence at the end of the season. Their last surviving member, Murray Armstrong, died last week at 94.
When the league was in the process of taking control of the Amerks away from Dwyer, he told Dutton: “Please don’t foreclose on the Amerks, Red. It’s the only legitimate thing I ever owned in my life.”