1910-11 was the last hurrah for the Silver Skates. Here's a photo of their legendary '09 Cup winners: From L-to-R: Vital LeBlanc, Wee Tommy Jenkins, Hump Mayfield, Gevis Murphy, Al Fleming, George Yeadon, Alan Hemmings, Bill Yeadon

All the drama and machinations that took place at the league meetings had resulted in a vastly different North American Hockey Confederation as the first games of the 1910-11 season approached:

  • League President (and Jack Connolly rubber-stamp) Daniel Connolly was gone (he was now managing the Connolly Brothers Mining Company full-time, leaving Jack to devote his attention to his hockey clubs). The new league president, was ironically, the former treasurer-secretary for the Amateur Alliance of Canadian Hockey Clubs, a fellow by the name of Percy Hopkins. He would go on to lead the NAHC for the next decade-plus and turn out to be a fine administrator and someone able to handle a wild and raucous group of club owners. 
  • The NAHC was down from seven clubs to five. Two clubs folded: Latchford and Long Lake. The Cobalt franchise (without equipment or players) was sold and moved. A fourth, Quebec, was technically saved by a last-minute sale, but had no players and was essentially starting over from ground zero.
  • Cobalt's franchise was relocated to Montreal and rechristened the Valiants. Like Quebec, the club had no players and was starting from scratch.
  • The folded and relocated clubs, plus the folding of the Maritime Hockey Association, resulted in a lot of old (and some new) faces in new places.
  • Jack Connolly owned New Leiskard (the lone remaining "mining" club), Quebec and the Montreal Valiants, but sold the Quebec Champlains on the eve of the season opener.
  • Toronto hotelier and baseball club owner Albert "Bert" Thomas was constructing a brand-new state-of-the-art arena in downtown Toronto, but had no team to play in it.

The season began with a New Year's Eve tilt between the Montreal Nationals and the New Leiskard Silver Skates in the Connolly Arena. The Nationals won by an 8-4 margin. That would be the first of only two losses the Silver Skates would suffer in 1910-11. Connolly had done his best to build his Silver Skates into a powerhouse for the new season, and succeeded in a big way. He spent the six weeks between the end of the league meetings and the sale of the Quebec Champlains crafting the rosters of 60% of the NAHC club membership. New Leiskard was his priority, but he did not (surprisingly) skimp on the Champlains. For the Valiants, he focused on good Francophone players - Connolly was an adept reader of customer markets (surprisingly for a man whose background was in mining) and knew that if the Valiants represented Montreal's Francophone community, that community would support his club. 

Everett Arena in Buffalo was used as a ploy by Jack Connolly to ensure he was able to place a team in Montreal.

Despite what most observers would have called a rousing success in its first season, the North American Hockey Confederation had a series of seismic upheavals in the aftermath of that first campaign. 

First, and not very long after the season had ended, the stellar brother pair of Bill and George Yeadon walked into Jack Connolly's office in New Leiskard and demanded substantial raises for the 1910-11 season. Naturally, Connolly all but laughed them out of his office. Undeterred, the brothers flatly stated that they would not play for the Silver Skates without those raises. Connolly called their bluff and discovered it was no bluff: the Yeadons walked out on the Silver Skates, and the NAHC. The Yeadons headed west to work in the family import/export business in Vancouver, noting that they could make more money there than playing for Connolly. 

Jack Connolly had another setback, and this one much closer to home, when his brother informed him that he would cease to operate the Cobalt club. Jack offered to purchase the club, and Dan agreed, but informed him that he had already sold off most of his players to other clubs. Enraged, Jack nearly came to blows with his brother (a group of miners had gathered outside the office door, eavesdropping on the argument), but eventually Jack calmed down enough to simply purchase the Cobalt franchise rights. He had plans for the club, even if it had no players.

Things got worse in the fall when the NAHC annual meeting took place for the first time. On November 11, the six remaining owners met, again at the Global Grand Hotel in Toronto, to discuss the upcoming season. Dan Connolly, still in place as League President, opened the meeting and would preside until his successor was elected. Jack Connolly - and several other club owners - were stunned upon learning that both the Latchford and Long Lake clubs would be disbanding as well. "We're just miners at heart, Jack," explained Ed Tanner, who owned the Latchford Locomotives. With Cobalt inactive - for now - that would leave Connolly alone with three other owners who all despised him.

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. It's highly doubtful that any of those clubs could have competed with the NAHC outfits, but we'll never know. What we do know is that both those outfits operated on their own terms and there were quality players in both of these leagues. 

The first game in NAHC was played in Ottawa on January 15, 1910 between the home Athletic Club of Ottawa and the visiting Locomotives of Latchford - fittingly a matchup between "big city" and "mining town" clubs. The mining town's squad won by a 7-5 margin. The first goal was potted by Ottawa's Martin Nolan five minutes and 13 seconds into the game. Nolan would finish with a pair of goals while Latchford got a pair of goals from Sam Loverock and a hat trick from Joe McMahan. The high scoring affair was typical of the time period - with little in the way of protective gear, it wasn't a great time to be a goalie.

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, dubbed the "Silver Skates" by media wags for Jack Connolly's use of his silver fortune to buy players for his "expensive hobby" as the newly-created Canadian Hockey Weekly dubbed it.