Hockey History: 1919 Stanley Cup Series Cut Short Due to the Spanish Flu

By Peter Fish on March 16, 2020 at 2:27 pm
Oct 4, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; A view of the Opening Night puck on the ice prior to the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When the NHL made the decision to suspend operations due to COVID-19, it seemed like an unprecedented decision – but it was not the first time that hockey has been interrupted due to a pandemic.

More than one hundred years ago, the Spanish flu (which was not where the flu originated, as it likely originated in Kansas or China) raced through the human population, infecting over 500 million people and costing about 50 million of them their lives.

However, the 1918-19 NHL and PCHA seasons continued throughout the pandemic, eventually seeing the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans face off in Stanley Cup Final.

After Game 5 of that series – which was tied at two games apiece – it was canceled due to both teams becoming inflicted with the flu. The Canadiens were hit harder than the Metropolitans, with the team only having three players healthy enough to play, while their infected teammates and friends being either bedridden or in the hospital with high fevers.

The flu claimed the lives of Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall (just a few weeks later) and their manager George Kennedy, who never fully recovered from the flu, a couple of years later.

So, while fans may be upset that the Columbus Blue Jackets are not on the ice and that the NHL has suspended play, it could be much worse. If the NHL and the world had known as much about medicine, containing pandemics and preventing the spread, then they may have taken the same actions that the league has in the modern-day.

What the NHL did was make sure there was no repeat of 1919, which included the worst possible outcome of having games during a pandemic.

This is about more than a game, at the end of the day. Let's be smart, vigilant, and look out for ourselves and for each other in the midst of a pandemic outbreak.

Follow 1st Ohio BatteryFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube