St. Louis Eagles
The Senators barely survived the 1933/34 season, as attempts made to have them merge into the equally troubled New York Americans but the NHL board of governors wouldn't allow it. The Senators would go on to finish dead last again with a terrible record of 13-29-6. On March 15th, with all indications it would be the final game in Ottawa 6,500 fans came to watch as Frank Finnigan scored, what would be the final goal as the Senators were beaten by the Americans 3-2.
The city of Ottawa would not see a major professional hockey team for nearly 40 years as they were briefly home to 2 different WHA franchise known as the Nationals in 1972/73 and Civic in 1976. With NHL expansion exploding in the 1990's the NHL decided to make its return to Ottawa, even reviving the old name Senators.
The Senators are generally acknowledged as the greatest team in the early history of hockey, but Ottawa was far and away the smallest market in the league. In its early days, the city could offer good government jobs to players and keep expenses low. However, for reasons that remain unknown to this day, the NHL expansions in the 1920s hurt the Senators as fans were unwilling to come out to see visiting teams from the United States and revenues suffered.
This, along with the Great Depression eventually took its toll on the team's finances. Even sitting out the 1931-32 season didn't relieve the pressure, and the team barely survived the 1933-34 season. The league's other owners, some also in difficulties due to the Great Depression, turned a deaf ear to the Senators requests for financial assistance.
In 1934, after massive financial losses in the previous two seasons in Ottawa, the Ottawa Auditorium, owners of the Senators, decided to relocate the franchise to a larger city to recoup the losses. On May 14, 1934, the NHL approved the transfer of the franchise to St. Louis. Frank Ahearn resigned as president and Redmond Quain became president.
The Ottawa Auditorium transferred the players' contracts and franchise operations to a new company, the "Hockey Association of St. Louis, Inc.", and hired Eddie Gerard to coach the team. The club was named the Eagles, after the logo of Anheuser-Busch. The Senators name and logo would remain in Ottawa and would be used by an Ottawa Senators senior amateur team until 1954. The club would have its training camp in the Auditorium and departed in October to start play in St. Louis.
At the time, St. Louis was the 7th largest city in the United States, and was far larger than Ottawa. A St. Louis group had originally applied for an NHL franchise in 1932, but was turned down due to concerns about travel costs in the midst of the Great Depression. Most teams traveled by train at the time.
It soon became apparent why the league had been skeptical about placing a team in St. Louis. While playing to large crowds in the St. Louis Arena, the team soon buckled under the strain of long train rides to Boston, Montreal and Toronto. The Eagles had to play a large number of games in Montreal and Toronto because they had assumed the Senators' place in the Canadian Division, which resulted in the longest road trips in the NHL, and diluted a natural rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks. Under the circumstances, the results were predictable - a record of 11-31-6, dead last in the league. Gerard began the season as coach, only to be replaced by George Boucher due to illness. Escalating travel costs chewed through what money the team had on hand, and the club sold players Syd Howe and Ralph Bowman to meet expenses.
After the season, the owners asked permission to return the franchise to Ottawa. This plan, though, would require suspending operations for the 1935-36 season. This alternative was turned down by the league. However, the owners had concluded that even though St. Louis had proven it could support an NHL team, the rising travel costs were too high for the Eagles to be a viable venture there. The resulting impasse was ended just before the 1935-36 season when the team owners decided the best course of action was to "get out" and President Quain went to the NHL pre-season meetings to broker the best deal possible.
On October 15, 1935, the NHL bought back the franchise and players contracts for $40,000 and suspended the Eagles' operations again, opting to play as an eight-team league. Under the agreement, the NHL paid for the players, and regained possession of the franchise. If the franchise was resold, the proceeds would go to the Ottawa Hockey Association.
Although rumors of a move to transfer to Cleveland were speculated in the newspapers, the franchise was ultimately canceled. The NHL did not allow the Montreal Maroons to move to St. Louis in 1938, in part because of concerns that the Maroons would be bogged down by the same travel expenses that sank the Eagles. The NHL would not return to St. Louis until the St. Louis Blues joined the league in 1967. A total of 29 different players suited up for the 1934-35 St. Louis Eagles. The last active Eagles player was Bill Cowley, who retired in 1947.
Wearing patriotic red white and blue uniforms the team played in front of solid crowds at the St. Louis Arena. However, it became apparent the team was doomed to failure as they finished dead last with an awful record of 11-31-6.
The Eagles were led offensively by Carl Voss and his team leading 31 points, team captain Syd Howe would lead the club with 14 goals, despite being traded to the Detroit Red Wings late in the season, while Glen Brydson would finish 2nd in team scoring with 29 points. Joe Jerwa, acquired by the Boston Bruins, would lead the defense with 11 points in only 16 games in St. Louis. Bill Beveridge would be the Eagles goaltender, winning 11 games with a 2.89 GAA and 3 shutouts.
The strain of so many long train rides showed early on. Midway through the season, new head coach and former Senators player Eddie Gerard was relieved of his duties after a 2–11–0 start and was replaced by Buck Boucher, who was the head coach of the Senators the previous season. Boucher would post a 9–20–6 record in 35 games.
After the season, the franchise owners asked permission to suspend operations for a year. Instead, the NHL bought the players' contracts for $40,000 and dispersed the players to the other NHL teams. The NHL took back the franchise, on the condition that if it were resold, the original franchisees would share in the proceeds.
St. Louis would be without an NHL team until 1967, when the league expanded from 6 teams to 12, and the St. Louis Blues took the ice. The 1934–35 NHL season was the 18th season of the National Hockey League. Nine teams each played 48 games. The Montreal Maroons were the Stanley Cup winners as they swept the Toronto Maple Leafs in three games in the final series.
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