On December 19, 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) held its inaugural games, with the Montreal Wanderers defeating the Toronto Hockey Club (later known as the Arenas) 10-9 and the Montreal Canadiens defeating the Ottawa Senators 7-4.
The Wanderers’ Dave Ritchie scored the first goal in NHL history, as well as the first game-winning goal. Ted Lindsay’s father, Bert Lindsay, was the Wanderers’ goaltender and earned the first win in NHL history. Reg Noble scored four goals for Toronto, while Harry Hyland scored five for the Wanderers. Art Ross, who played for the Wanderers, scored his first and only NHL goal during the game.
The Canadiens’ Joe Malone scored five of Montreal’s seven goals, while Ottawa’s Cy Denneny had a hat-trick. Georges Vezina was the Canadiens’ goaltender, while Clint Benedict tended the net for Ottawa. Both would go on to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some Ottawa players refused to play until their contracts were reworked.
The Wanderers’ game in Montreal only drew 700 fans, while the game in Ottawa drew around 6,000 fans. Ticket prices for the games ranged from 50 cents to $1.55. The Wanderers’ game started at around 8:15 pm, while the Canadiens’ game started at around 8:30 pm.
Unfortunately, the Wanderers’ success was short-lived as their arena burned down on January 2, 1918, and the team was forced to fold. However, the NHL continued to thrive and grow, becoming one of the most popular professional sports leagues in North America.