Seattle once had a hockey team and it changed the game forever

In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. {Image: Public Domain)

When city leaders originally announced in 2017 that the NHL would consider an expansion application for Seattle, a poster hung from the podium reading "Seattle World Hockey Championships 1917."

It's true that not only did Seattle previously had a hockey team, but some credit that team for changing hockey forever. The Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917.

On the 100th anniversary of the team's win in March, The New York Times published a story remembering the team's nine years in existence.

"This first U.S. Stanley Cup was potentially a turning point for American hockey," said Ralph Morton, the executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, told The Times. "It showed the Pacific Northwest — and the nation — that hockey belonged in America."

Two blocks from the Washington Athletic Club is the long-gone arena that the Seattle Metropolitans called home for about a decade. It's where they clinched the best-of-five Stanley Cup series on March 26, 1917.

"The location of the arena was on 6th and University, which later became a parking garage, and then later the IBM Building," researcher Jeff Obermeyer told KIRO Radio earlier this year. "It's a spot right there almost in the heart of downtown."

Development and construction on the downtown property was carried out by the Metropolitan Building Company, predecessor of current operator Unico Properties.

They were called the Metropolitans, named for the Metropolitan Building Company,” said Obermeyer. “[They] built the arena where the Mets played.”

Without that rink, Obermeyer said, it would’ve been hard for hockey to catch on in Seattle’s mild climate any earlier than 1915, when the team was formed.

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“There was no organized hockey around here until 1915, because you had to have an artificial rink,” Obermeyer said. “It’s too warm here most winters to play outdoors like they do in other cities where hockey has been played longer.”

The story of the Seattle Metropolitans’ Stanley Cup victory is almost something of an urban myth. It happened so long ago, of course, and there are no audio recordings or even silent newsreels of the action. Any eyewitnesses to the game passed away decades ago.

And 1917 was a different era in Seattle. In less than a month, the U.S. would formally enter World War I, and troops would begin arriving at what was then called Camp Lewis. It was a simpler time for many things, including professional hockey.

"The Mets team in 1917 only had nine players, which is pretty impressive when you consider that seven of them were on the ice at any given time," Obermeyer said. "Three of them actually went on to be Hockey Hall of Famers. You had Harry Holmes in goal, Jack Walker as the rover and Frank Foyston as forward."

Obermeyer said that regardless of what may or may not happen on the ice for Seattle hockey teams in the future, the Metropolitans of 100 years ago will always have a place in history. In addition to winning the Stanley Cup, the team played in the finals in 1919 and again in 1920.

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