The 1911-12 season was a landmark one because it marked the debut of the Yeadon brothers' Transcontinental Hockey Association (TCHA) a West Coast-based league which from the day it began would go toe-to-toe with the NAHC for hockey supremacy. "This means war!" trumpeted Jack Connolly; this was quite possibly the only printable remark he made upon first hearing of the TCHA's designs on the NAHC's player pool.

The Yeadons cemented themselves a place in history with not only their "pirate" league (as dubbed by Connolly, who was himself hockey's original buccaneer), but also for building state-of-the-art arenas for their league, complete with ice plants that would ultimately allow the season to be lengthened and the sport to be played in cities where natural ice was rare or (eventually) non-existent.

The NAHC's reaction to the new circuit was two-fold: initially they ridiculed it, and then when their players started heading west to play in it, they "banned for life" any player who went to the TCHA. Those lifetime bans ultimately didn't amount to anything, but in that first year there were clear lines drawn. Speaking of which, that was another Yeadon innovation - striping the ice surface to create "zones" - an offensive zone for each team and a "neutral" zone in the center. While the Yeadons and the TCHA would be good for hockey in the long term, that first season put a severe financial strain on all involved on both sides of the "hockey war."

There were some big defections in 1911 - Francis Craft, the stellar right wing of the Montreal Nationals, headed west to play for the Surrey Seals. Paul Guimond, the do-everything forward for the Valiants, went to Victoria to play for Bill Yeadon's Capitals. Ottawa lost Chief Casserly, one of the game's best goaltenders, to George Yeadon and the Vancouver Pacifics. Casserly was intrigued by the TCHA's rule that allowed goalies to drop down on the ice to stop shots (the NAHC still used the traditional rule requiring goalies to remain standing at all times). A slew of others also headed west, including many future stars who had until that point been playing in the Maritime or Ontario leagues, considered "minor" by the NAHC, but full of talent regardless.

The Surrey Seals ended up being the class of the TCHA's trio of clubs, edging out the Pacifics by two points over the course of the 16 game season. The Seals boasted Craft, who led the league in scoring with 24 goals and 51 points alongside Sam Cooper (13-28-41) a center who last played in the NAHC two seasons earlier for Lethbridge and Craft's National Club linemate, LW Mickey Warrener (16-19-35). Clee Vaillancourt manned the net for Surrey who finished with a 9-4-2 record under coach Leo Gariepy. 

A very youthful Vancouver squad was second with a 9-6-1 record under player-coach George Yeadon who paired with 22-year-old rookie Patrick Downey to give the Pacifics' the TCHA's best defense pairing. A pair of 21-year-old forwards: C Ralph Pettipas and LW Mack Watson along with 24-year-old NAHC veteran RW Gevis Murphy provided the scoring punch (Pettipas led the way with 23 goals and 23 assists). Casserly's 4.70 GAA was the league's best.

Victoria finished last, something that surely rankled Bill Yeadon. A 4-10-2 ledger was not something of which to be proud, and Bill was a fiercely competitive player and coach. Still, there were some bright spots for Victoria: Paul Guimond, the versatile forward from the Valiants, provided 22 goals and 21 assists alongside center Max Thibodeau who scored 14 goals and handed out 28 assists. The Caps' weakness was a lack of a complimentary winger for Guimond & Thibodeau (Percy Stephens was a hard-hitting LW, but lacked puck handling and passing skill). Yeadon himself provided good defense, but the Capitals were simply not a good club in 1911-12.

Back east, the NAHC had a new champion in Quebec. The Champlains posted a solid 12-6-0 mark despite being outscored 92-91 on the season. Much of the success could be attributed to Nap Bertrand, the stellar left wing who led the league with 29 goals (and added 24 assists). With solid linemates Paddy O'Donoghue (13-18-31) at center and Pete Boutet (13-15-28) at right wing and Francis Craft out west, Bertrand was the best player in the NAHC. Ironically Boutet and O'Donoghue had been traded for each other two seasons earlier - now O'Donoghue was back in Quebec due to Connolly's financial issues.

The Montreal Nationals were second with a 10-7-1 record. LW Tip McLeod potted 25 goals and had a league-best 36 assists as well to finish as the NAHC scoring leader. C Simon Lamoureaux (17-19-36) and RW Dolph Vandenburg (13-10-23) gave the Nats a top-notch forward line while the incomparable Max Dewar (3-22-25) anchored the defense alongside the other Vandenburg, Dolph's brother Pete (1-9-10). Ottawa finished third (8-10-0). C George Dupree (25-26-51) was solid, and four other players scored at least 10 goals, but the Athletics were outscored by ten goals overall and goalie William Thibault was frequently bombarded (he finished with a 5.28 GAA).

The last-place Valiants were functioning under financial constraints imposed by owner Jack Connolly and it impeded any progress the club may have made - the club finished 6-10-2. They had lost several players to the TCHA and sold O'Donoghue back to the Champlains, leaving the offensively talented but defensively challened LW Albert Miville as the club's best player. Miville scored 23 goals and added 23 assists but was a defensive liability. The Valiants were the league's most heavily-penalized club and those frequently turned into opponent goals.

As the NAHC champions, the Champlains laid claim to the Challenger Cup and actually accepted a challenge from Surrey to play for the Cup. However, the TCHA's schedule ended in late March, too late for a series to take place as the eastern clubs were still operating on natural ice and spring was in the air.

The fallout of the 1911-12 season included a sea of red ink on both sides. The Yeadons, though wealthy, cringed at the losses they took. In the East, Jack Connolly privately confided to Wee Tommy Jenkins that he was considering selling both the Valiants and his Toronto rights due to the financial losses he'd been enduring. The other NAHC clubs fared little better - even the champions in Quebec City finished in the red. 

It was obvious to all the owners that some kind of accommodation would need to be made.

NAHC Standings GP W L T PTS GF GA   TCHA Standings GP W L T PTS GF GA
Quebec Champlains 18 12 6 0 24 91 92   Surrey Seals 16 9 4 3 21 97 86
Montreal Nationals 18 10 7 1 21 105 91   Vancouver Pacifics 16 9 6 1 19 83 79
Ottawa Athletic Club 18 8 10 0 16 89 99   Victoria Capitals 16 4 10 2 10 77 92
Montreal Valiants 18 6 12 2 14 100 103                  

 

 

NAHC SCORING LEADERS
Player Goals   Player Assists   Player Points  
Nap Bertrand, QUE 29   Tip McLeod, NAT 36    Tip McLeod, NAT 61  
Tip McLeod, NAT 25   George Dupree, OTT  26   Nap Bertrand, QUE  53   
George Dupree, OTT 25   Tom Pond, OTT  25    George Dupree, OTT  51   
Albert Miville, VAL 23   Nap Bertrand, QUE  24    Albert Miville, VAL  46   
Simon Lamoureaux, NAT 23   Albert Miville, VAL 23    Huey Payette, VAL  38   

NAHC TOP GOALIE

Ned Coughlin, QUE: 12-5-1, 4.81

  

TCHA SCORING LEADERS
Player Goals   Player Assists   Player Points  
Francis Craft, SUR 24   Max Thibodeau, VIC 28    Francis Craft, SUR 51  
Ralph Pettipas, VAN 23   Sam Cooper, SUR 28   Ralph Pettipas, VAN 46   
Paul Guimond, VIC 22   Francis Craft, SUR 27   Paul Guimond, VIC 43  
Mickey Warrener, SUR 16   Patrick Downey, VAN 26    Max Thibodeau, VIC 42   
Max Thibodeau, VIC 14   Leo Boisvert, SUR 25    Sam Cooper, SUR 41   

TCHA TOP GOALIE

Chief Casserly, VAN: 9-5-1, 4.70