To people outside of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is a two-sport city with a lot of support for their NFL and MLB franchises. You could throw the now-relocated SuperSonics into that mix if you’re of a certain age. That’s certainly what I knew of the market growing up in the much larger, albeit far more fairweather, markets of Southern California. I moved to the Seattle area in 2014 and learned how wrong I was. Seattle is a robust sports city that supports its own. The Sounders of the MLS, the Storm of the WNBA, not to mention the college teams of Eastern Washington University and University of Washington. But one they had that I was fairly unfamiliar with was Major Junior Hockey, specifically the WHL.
I knew hockey, and I grew up being a fan of it. However, as an American in a large and overly saturated market, my knowledge of it was relegated to tidbits of info in draft summaries. I knew the AHL teams as the minor league to the NHL, and I knew about the ECHL as a development league, but nothing much of the WHL or CHL. When I first moved into the then-small town of Lake Stevens, casual conversations would come up about sports, and eventually, they would all end up with me being told about the Everett Silvertips. Eventually, that turned into going to Silvertips games, which turned into a meeting and learning about billet families and the wealth of players who spent their formative years in the Seattle area as kids working to get drafted, Radko Gudas, Patrick Marleau. This led me to see games in person. I’ve been able to see Shea Theodore, Carter Hart, and Olen Zellweger play before they were drafted. And in that process, I discovered how many people don’t just love it, but live it. This led me to the question, why do they not have a Professional Team, which led to an even stranger answer – they did. As a matter of fact, they had the first Stanley Cup win south of the border to Canada.
The Pacific Coast Hockey Association
The Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) was a hockey league based in the North American Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1911 by the legendary Patrick family of Quebec, it was a rival to the then National Hockey Association (NHA), which would later change its name to the National Hockey League (NHL). Around the time of the founding of the PCHA, the NHA had implemented a salary cap to control player wages and make their own league more competitive. Unlike the NHA, the PCHA paid the players directly and distributed the players amongst the teams. That lack of a salary cap drove a lot of marquee players at the time out of the East and into the PCHA—names such as Cyclone Taylor, Eddie Oatman, and Goldie Prodgers. The inaugural season would take place with just three teams, all of which were in British Columbia. They are also responsible for implementing some rule changes that innovated the sport, such as Blue Lines, Forward Passing, Penalty Shots, and allowing Goalies to play from their knees. The success and talent of the upstart league not only got them recognized by the Stanley Cup Trustees as being worthy of the competition, but it also proved the viability of expansion, putting two teams South of the Border in Portland (Rosebuds) and Seattle (Metropolitans).
The Metropolitans were founded in 1915 as an expansion team along with their rivals, the Portland Rosebuds. To say they were the most successful team in the history of the PCHA would be an understatement. Holding an all-time regular season record of 112-96-2, they would go on to win the PCHA Championship 5 out of their 9 years of existence and finish in second 3 more times. The team would go on to have 5 future Hockey Hall Of Fame members, Frank C. Foyston, Harry (Cap) Holmes, Lester Patrick(yes, that Lester Patrick), John Philip (Jack) Walker, and Gordon (Doc) Roberts. But probably the most surprising thing I and many other people have learned about this legendary team is that they were the first American Hockey team to win a Stanley Cup. They would go to the Stanley Cup Finals 3 times, winning the cup in 1917, tying for it in 1919 (canceled due to the Spanish Flu pandemic), and losing to the Ottawa Senators in 1920.
A Parking Garage And An End to An Era
After the 1923-24 season, the now Seattle landmark known as the Olympic Hotel decided they needed a parking garage and asked the University of Washington for the Seattle Ice Arena so they could build one. With just a year left on the lease, the University bought out the last year, and while the team tried to find another solution, it became clear that there was no way forward. The team folded a short while later. The PCHA as a whole would shutter later that year, with the remaining teams and players being absorbed into the Western Canada Hockey League, whose team, the Victoria Cougars, would be the last Pacific Coast team to win the Stanley Cup until the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. Players from the Metropolitans would go on to win more Stanley Cups and impact Hockey as a whole, most notably for the Detroit Redwings.
Gone But Never Forgotten
While the Metropolitan’s existence was brief, it was memorable. And those memories were never forgotten. In my first few years in the Seattle area, it became clear that this was a traditional hockey market. My first game in the area was in Everett, where the Silvertips faced off against their rival the Seattle Thunderbirds, and the atmosphere was that of an NHL game. The seats were packed, the crowd was loud, and seemingly everyone I talked to was a season ticket holder. In conversations during intermissions, I would hear the same thing over and over again; they wanted their own NHL team. The halls of the arena were littered with tables set up to drive awareness of the Metropolitans, the history of hockey in Seattle. They sold merch like jerseys, stickers, and books and would take donations, all of the profits of which went to the cause of bringing the NHL back to Seattle. The Thunderbirds and Jr. Totems celebrated the century mark of the team by having history nights, wearing the Metropolitan colors and homage jerseys. And in 2018, 101 years after the Metropolitans were founded, Seattle fans got their wish by being awarded the 32nd NHL franchise.
The Future Remembers The Past
The Kraken, much like their fans, know the history. The Kraken “S” was designed with the intention of honoring that original team, and in their second home game, the Kraken played the Montreal Canadiens – the team the Metropolitans defeated to win that Stanley Cup. They unfurled a banner in the rafters; in the colors of the Metropolitans and their “S” logo with the name of the city snaking through it, the banner reads “Stanley Cup Champions 1917”. The team wasn’t nebulous about it the way some formerly defunct markets have been, like the Winnipeg Jets or Ottawa Senators. This isn’t their Cup, and it isn’t their history. The banner is to honor that original team and, more importantly, the memories of the fans who never let it be forgotten. By steadfast support of the WHL teams and vigilant sharing of the history of the sport in the city, they manifested this NHL franchise. That banner is a tribute to them. It’s there to act as a beacon and a reminder. For all the new generations of fans to look up and remember why this is all here and where it came from.