Seattle Metropolitans

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© Jeff Obermeyer 2000-2009

The Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) was the brainchild of the Patrick family – brothers Frank and Lester, both former professional hockey players who moved west to assist in the family lumber business. With the financial support of their father Joe they financed the new league, which began play in British Columbia in 1912. The circuit quickly grew in prestige as the Patricks offered lucrative contracts to entice many of the best players from the National Hockey Association to come out west.

Seattle joined the league for the 1915-16 season with the construction of a new indoor artificial ice rink, the Seattle Arena, and a new team – the Metropolitans. The Mets, as they were known, rounded out the circuit at four teams, with other clubs in Vancouver, Victoria, and Portland.

1915-16 – The Mets earned a 3-2 win at home against Victoria in their inaugural contest. Coach and manager Pete Muldoon (left) led an excellent squad that included three future Hall-of-Famers – forwards Frank Foyston and Jack Walker, and goaltender Harry Holmes.

Seattle finished with a respectable 9-9 record, tied with Vancouver in second place. Bernie Morris paced the team and the league in goals with 23, though overall the Mets lacked a balanced offensive threat. Injuries were hard on the team from beginning to end, and with the small rosters of the PCHA missing games wasn’t an option, so many skaters played with injuries on a regular basis.

On a positive note, the Mets finished with a 7-3 record at home (one “road” game against Victoria was actually played in Seattle) and drew good crowds all year. The people of Seattle had taken to hockey.

1916-17 – With a win on the road in Portland in the final game of the season, the Mets clinched the league championship on the strength of a 16-8 record. Bernie Morris led the league in scoring (37-17-54) while Frank Foyston, coming back from a disappointing 1915-16 campaign, finished third (36-12-48). The championship gave the Mets the right to host the winner of the NHA for the Stanley Cup, and by March the Montreal Canadiens were headed west for the series.

Courtesy of Dave Eskenzai

The Canadiens surprised the Mets with a decisive 8-4 win in the opening contest on March 17. Montreal showed no signs of wear from the long trip west, and the Mets appeared to have their hands full. However, the Mets rebounded with two wins of their own, 6-1 and 4-1, and now held a lead in the best-of-five series.

The fourth game was played on March 26 in front of a standing room crowd at the Arena. The Mets got on the board early and never looked back, crushing the Canadiens 9-1 to become the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately the Canadiens didn’t bring the Cup out west with them, and it would be months before the players got to see the trophy.

The Mets outscored Montreal 23-10 in the series, with Morris and Foyston leading the Seattle attack with 14 and seven goals respectively. Six of Morris’ goals came in the fourth and final game. After all the costs were deducted, the winners share of the receipts split by the Mets players amounted to a paltry $180 per man.

1917-18 – The Mets started the season without some of their most important contributors. Manager Pete Muldoon took the coaching job in Oregon, while goaltender Harry Holmes spent the season in Toronto. Foyston was still with the club, but he sat out the first five games while the Canadian armed forces decided about his draft status.

Despite the challenges, the Mets again finished atop the PCHA with a 11-7 record. However, the now three-team league instituted a playoff system for the championship, so the Mets had to face Vancouver in a two game, total goals playoff series. The first game, in Vancouver, ended a 2-2 tie. The second game was an upset, with Vancouver coming away with a 1-0 win and the series, handing the Mets only their second home loss of the season.

1918-19 – Muldoon and Holmes returned to the fold, but though the club got out to a quick start a five game losing streak put them at 5-6. A strong second half got them to 11-9 by year end, good enough for second behind Vancouver. Another two-game playoff ensued, with the Mets winning the opener 6-1 and, despite losing 4-1 in the second game, earning a series win on total goals, 7-5. Once again the Mets earned the right to play for the Stanley Cup, and once again it was the Montreal Canadiens who had to make the long trek west (the series alternated hosts each season – since the NHA champs hosted the series in 1917-18, the PCHA hosted in 1918-19).

The Mets held a two games to one lead in the series going into the fourth game which, despite a 20-minute overtime, ended in a 0-0 tie. Montreal won the fifth game, bringing the series to a 2-2-1 stalemate and forcing a decisive and previously unscheduled sixth game. What happened next is part of hockey lore. The Spanish Flu epidemic that was sweeping the globe in the wake of World War I finally reached Seattle, and a number of players from both teams became ill. The Canadiens were hit particularly hard, and the Seattle health department stepped in and cancelled the game citing a fear of spreading the flu in such a crowded environment. One of the Canadiens, Joe Hall, succumbed to the illness and died in a Seattle hospital on April 5. The series was called off, and the Stanley Cup was not awarded in 1919.

1919-20 – The Metropolitans finished the season at 12-10 and for the third straight year faced Vancouver in the PCHA playoff. Vancouver took the first game of the series 3-1 in Seattle, but fell at home in the rematch 6-0, losing the series to the Mets on goals by a margin of 7-3.

This time the Mets had to travel to play for the Stanley Cup, taking the long train ride east to face the NHA champion Ottawa Senators. The Senators played on an outdoor, natural rink, and unseasonably warm weather turned the rink into a slush pit as the teams split the first four games. Conditions became so bad that the fifth and final game was moved to the indoor artificial rink in Toronto. The Mets kept it close at 1-1 through the first two periods, but an injury to defenseman Bobby Rowe left the team shorthanded and the Senators picked up five unanswered goals in the third to win the series. It was the last time a Seattle team competed for the Stanley Cup.

1920-21 – The Mets played in six overtime games over the course of the season, including a marathon 120-minute 4-4 tie against Victoria. A 12-11-1 record was good enough for another trip to the playoffs, yet again facing Vancouver. This time the Millionaires would not be denied, crushing the Mets 7-0 and 6-2 to win the series. Frank Foyston (26) and Jim Riley (23) finished in the top two spots in league goal scoring.

1921-22 – For the fifth straight year Seattle and Vancouver met in the PCHA playoff, and for the second straight season the Millionaires got the best of the Mets, this time with a pair of 1-0 wins.

1922-23 – The Mets survived an early season scare when forward Bernie Morris accidentally poisoned himself, keeping him out of the lineup for over two weeks. Fortunately Morris recovered, and due to a lull in the schedule he only missed on league game.

The Mets went into the last game of the season tied with Victoria, and the winner would earn the right to face Vancouver in the playoff. Seattle took a beating, falling behind early 5-0 and eventually losing by a score of 9-2. It was the first time the Mets did not make the playoff since the system was introduced during the 1918-19 season.

1923-24 – The Mets finished the season with a 14-16 record, but ironically this was good enough for a tie with Vancouver for the top spot due to the new interlocking schedule with the WCHL. For the sixth and final time the two teams met for the PCHA crown. After a 2-2 tie in the opening game in Seattle, the teams finished regulation in the second game deadlocked at 1-1. Frank Boucher got the winner in overtime to dash the Mets hopes of one last shot at the Cup.

Following the 1923-24 season the team was disbanded and the vaunted Arena converted into a parking garage. In nine seasons the Mets had been impressive, with a 112-96-2 regular season record, a 73-30 home record, and three trips to the Stanley Cup finals. Despite the loss of the team and the disappearance of hockey from Seattle for the next four years, a number of former Mets were important figures in Seattle’s hockey future. Pete Muldoon helped bring the game back to Seattle in 1928, Jack Walker returned as a player and a referee, and Frank Foyston spent time behind the bench and brought the city another championship.

Courtesy Dave Eskenazi