Martin Nolan (L) scored the first goal in NAHC history; Francis Craft (R) led the league in scoring in its first season

The North American Hockey Confederation (NAHC)'s 1909-10 season actually didn't start until after the new year, so it should more correctly be known as the 1910 season, but that might be nitpicking. Regardless of what you call it, that season was special because it was the first season under the new and unified structure of professional hockey. What had been two competing leagues was now one and any questions about whether the "big city" ACHC or "mining town" OQHC was the better loop were finally able to be answered on the ice.

The NAHC was certainly not the only pro hockey league in operation that year. Two other "professional" circuits: the Ontario Industrial League (OIL) and the Maritime Hockey Conference (MHC) both considered themselves the equals of the NAHC. Neither of these two circuits could compete with Jack Connolly's mining fortune (for that matter, none of the other NAHC clubs could, either). So all the best players were in the NAHC - and many of them were hoarded by Connolly.

The first game in NAHC was played in Ottawa on January 15, 1910 between the home Athletic Club of Ottawa and the visiting Long Lake club (dubbed, not surprisingly, as the "Lakers") - fittingly a matchup between "big city" and "mining town" clubs. The mining town's squad won by a surprising 5-0 margin - surely bringing a grin to the face of Jack Connolly (whose New Leiskard club defeated the Nationals 6-5 in overtime that same day). The first goal was potted by in league history was scored by Long Lake's Max Thibodeaux. 

The season was not long, in terms of games, especially when compared to the modern era. The seven-club circuit had a simple schedule formula: every team played each of the other teams twice, once at home and once away. This made for a twelve-game regular season which mainly served as an elimination tournament for the right to compete for the Challenge Cup. The New Leiskard club was dubbed the "Silver Skates" by media wags for Jack Connolly's use of his silver fortune to buy players for his "expensive hobby" and was expected to win the Challenge Cup.

Connolly's high-priced talent did pay dividends, going 11-1 in that initial season, scoring 98 goals and allowing 50. Unfortunately for Connolly, the Montreal Nationals also went 11-1 and were declared champions by virtue of both scoring the most goals (108) in the league and allowing the fewest (an amazing 26). The Nationals' defense was smothering and in Didier Godin they also had an outstanding goaltender. Godin's three shutouts and 2.17 GAA would remain an NAHC record for several seasons. Though Connolly protested - requesting an extra game to "break the tie" the league by-laws clearly stated that goal differential was the tiebreaker, and therefore the Nationals were awarded the Challenge Cup - and also the Connolly Cup, which the Connolly brothers had donated to be awarded to the NAHC champions. The Challenge Cup's trustees required that the Nationals defend the Cup against a club from either the OIL or MHC - and they did so, facing the Sherbrooke Industrials and easily dispatching them by a 7-3 margin.

Aside from the Nationals & Silver Skates who were clearly the class of the league, the Ottawa Athletic Club and Cobalt Miners were the only other competitive clubs as the Locomotives, Champlains and Lakers all struggled mightily. 

The list of top individual performers was headed up by Simon Lamoureaux, the 26-year-old center of the National Club (by way of the defunct Montreal Royals) who was a master puckhandler and, as his league-leading 38 goals attested, an adept scorer as well. The second-leading scorer was Gevis Murphy - arguably the best player of the day - who started out with the Champlains where he netted 13 goals in six games before being purchased by Connolly's New Leiskard club where he added 23 more in just five games - giving him 36 for the season. Other top scorers included Harry Jackson (27) of the Cobalt Miners, Francis Craft (24) of the Nationals, defenseman Bill Yeadon (24) of New Leiskard and his team mate Gevis Murphy (23) and Ty Crain (20) of Cobalt. Assists were not recorded that season but it was generally acknowledged that Martin Nolan of Ottawa was probably the league's best passer.

On the goaltending side, the best of the bunch was the aforementioned Didier Godin of Montreal. No one else was really even close with New Leiskard's John Tomlinson's 4.17 the next-best GAA in the league.

  Team          GP W   L T Pt  GF  GA
1 Nationals 12 11 1 0 22 108 26
2 Silver Skates 12 11 1 0 22 98 50
3 Athletic Club 12 8 4 0 16 84 56
4 Miners 12 6 6 0 12 80 97
5 Locomotives 12 3 9 0 6 44 77
6 Champlains 12 2 10 0 4 49 98
7 Lakers 12 1 11 0 2 41 100

The 1909-10 season was, in retrospect, a resounding success because it proved that truly professional hockey could succeed. But it was also not without its blemishes. For one thing, it was extremely costly for the owners. Even Jack Connolly, with his seemingly bottomless supply of silver and excellent team lost money (mostly because he paid a lot - for the time - for his players).