Leaving St. Louis, our journey down the list of deceased NHL clubs takes us to the bright lights of Broadway. The Rangers weren’t the NHL’s first team in the city that never sleeps. They were beaten to the punch by the New York Americans, who hit the ice one season earlier. Is it just my imagination or are we going to take a Rolling Stones – Some Girls album inspired trip back in time to the Big Apple to meet the Amerks? Don’t mind the maggots after the jump…
In April 1925, Thomas Duggan and the notorious Bill Dwyer were awarded an expansion franchise that would begin playing out of Madison Square Garden in time for the 1925-26 NHL season. The New York Americans entered the league alongside another expansion team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Earlier that year, the NHL's whip had come down on the Hamilton Tigers, whose players had decided to strike instead of participating in the playoffs. The NHL fined and suspended the players while revoking the Hamilton franchise. Instead of building a team from scratch, GM/Coach Tommy Gorman negotiated a deal with Tigers GM Percy Thompson that resulted in Dwyer paying $75,000 for Hamilton's roster, showing he had so much money that he could spend it so fast. The matter of the fines and suspensions was quietly swept under the rug. The Americans also purchased three players from the Edmonton Eskimos but only one, Joe Simpson, would suit up for the team. Dwyer was arrested eleven days before the start of the season, for bootlegging, so Duggan assumed the role of chairman of the board. In addition, MSG's John Hammond was named club president while Dwyer quietly slipped into the background.
The Americans opened their inaugural season by beating the Pirates 2-1 in overtime leading to a 2-2 record on a four game road trip. Their first home tilt was a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on December 15, 1925. The game drew a big crowd to Madison Square Garden including some people dressed in plastic bags directing traffic. A road win by a 2-1 count over the Canadiens on January 9th left the Amerks with a 6-6-1 record but the season would soon spin out of control. Over the next five weeks the Americans went on an awful 0-11-3 run which put an end to any hope of making the playoffs. The team rebounded by going 6-3 to complete the season but it was too little, too late, proving that you have to walk before they make you run. Despite playing with a roster comprised largely of ex-Hamilton players who finished in first place the previous season, the Americans would end up in fifth place overall, with a disappointing record of 12-20-4. A big reason for the team's poor play was that many of the former Hamilton players had taken up residence in Dwyer's headquarters, the Forrest Hotel, where they mixed laughter, joy and loneliness with much drinking. There were also some Puerto Rican girls coming around that were dyin' to meet the old Tigers. Billy Burch led the team with 22 goals and Shorty Green added 13 more but the rest of the team struggled to score, wasting some good goaltending from Jake Forbes.
The Americans became a secondary tenant for the 1926-27 season as the New York Rangers (owned by MSG owner Tex Rickard) were added to the NHL along with new teams in Chicago and Detroit. The NHL decided to split its ten teams into two divisions and expand the regular season to 44 games. Oddly enough, the Americans were placed in the Canadian Division with Ottawa, Toronto and the two Montreal teams. With GM Tommy Gorman handing off the coaching duties to Newsy Lalonde, the Americans again opened the season in Pittsburgh, this time winning by a 1-0 margin. Following the victory they would drop three in a row before defeating the Maroons in Montreal. After a loss in Detroit and a tie in Chicago, the Americans would go on an 8-2 tear to boost their record to a respectable, so respectable, 10-7-1. Their play cooled a bit but they appeared to be ready to make at playoff bid after 30 regular season games. A two and twelve swoon to close the season ended that notion as the team finished fourth in the division with a 17-25-2. Billy Burch again led the offense while Jake Forbes started all 44 games in goal. During the season, Shorty Green was forced to retire after suffering a kidney injury from a hard check by Taffy Abel of the Rangers. While the Amerks showed improvement during the season it was somewhat negated by the rival Rangers taking first place in the American Division and making the playoffs.
A little bleary, worse for wear and tear, the Americans started their third season off with a three game losing streak. The team rebounded and evened their record at 6-6, only to see a 0-5-3 run doom yet another regular season. After shuffling their feet through the rest of the campaign, they dropped the final eight games on the schedule to finish in the division cellar for the first time with an 11-27-6 record, leaving fans downright disgusted. Normie Hines was the team scoring leader with a meager 19 points and Lionel Conacher contributed 11 goals. The duo of Joe Miller and Jake Forbes wasn't able to provide the quality goaltending needed to overcome the team's offensive shortcomings. The Rangers put the cherry on top of the Americans miserable season by winning the Stanley Cup.
With the Rangers haunting their sleep and the Stanley Cup starring in their dreams, the Americans began the 1928-29 season hungry for success, success, success. An early season trade with Pittsburgh added goaltender Roy Worters to the lineup. The team opened the season with a five game unbeaten streak before dropping three in a row on the road. Worters then led the Amerks to five straight wins, posting three shutouts during that span. With the team now pointed in the right direction, the Americans stayed on target, picking up enough points to finish with a 19-13-12 record, good for second place in the Canadian Division. Worters finished with 13 shutouts and an astonishing 1.15 GAA . He would become the first goaltender to win the Hart Trophy after the season. Worters' stingy play in goal and stellar defensive work from the likes of Lionel Conacher and "Bullet" Joe Simpson helped the team overcome a lackluster offense led by Billy Burch's 11 goals. The Americans would meet the Rangers in a two game - total goals affair in the first round of the playoffs. The first game was a 0-0 tie while game two would go into double overtime scoreless before Butch Keeling scored the only goal of the series to give the Rangers the win, leaving the Amerks brains battered.
The tough, tough, tough, tough, tough playoff loss to the Rangers spilled over into the 1929-30 season. The Americans got off to an awful 2-12 start and the team was out of the playoff chase by Christmas. The highlight to the season was a three game winning streak in early March but that was followed by losses to Ottawa and the Montreal Canadiens which appropriately ended the campaign on a sour note. The Americans finished the season with a 14-25-5 record and in last place in the Canadian Division. The offense was much improved with Normie Hines picking up a team leading 50 points while Johnny Sheppard, Charley McVeigh and George Patterson all provided double digit goal scoring, The defense completely collapsed and Roy Worters followed up his Hart Trophy winning season with a 3.57 GAA and only two shutouts.
Prior to the 1930-21 season the Amerks picked up four players from the Montreal Maroons for cash, including Red Dutton who, like a fellow with one track mind, would remain with the franchise until its final days. After signing three more depth players, the club subtracted defenseman Lionel Conacher by dealing him to the Maroons right before the season started. Eddie Gerard was hired to coach the team and the revamped Americans opened the season with 1-0 loss in Boston. Worters had a bounce back season and the defense improved but once again the offense struggled to provide goals. Normie Hines slumped to 15 goals and 24 points while Billy Burch was the only other player to break the ten goal barrier, scoring 14 on the year. A 4-1-1 spurt to close the season allowed the Amerks to finish fourth in the division with a winning record of 18-16-10 but they would fail to make the playoffs.
The 1931-32 campaign got off to good start with a 5-2 win over the Falcons in Detroit. The Americans scored just enough to build a 5-1-3 record after nine games. However, the goals would again dry up and the defense would buckle under the strain, leading to an eleven game winless streak. The Amerks would somehow rebound to win seven of their next ten games before dropping six more in a row to end any playoff hopes. They would finish the season with a record of 16-24-8 and in last place. Normie Hines led the team in scoring for the third straight season and Worters finished with five shutouts and a 2.68 GAA.
The 1932-33 season would see the Americans miss the playoffs for the fourth straight time. Joe Simpson took over for Gerard as coach but could squeeze no more from the roster. A 4-0-4 stretch in the middle of the schedule was the highlight but the team was doomed by a poor start that saw them win only 4 times in their first 16 outings. Consecutive wins over the Maple Leafs and Maroons ended the season on a positive note. Hines again led the team in scoring, Johnny Sheppard contributed 26 points and Worters lowered his GAA down to 2.34 but a 15-22-11 record meant another fourth place finish.
The Americans would debut new sweaters but a disastrous 2-11-4 start to open the 1933-34 campaign set the stage for another playoff miss. The team rebounded with some decent play in the middle of the season but the damage had already been done. Losing five of their final six games, including a season ending 9-5 loss to the Bruins, sent the Amerks to yet another fourth place finish in the Canadian Division with a record of 15-23-10. Eddie Burke was the team's top scorer with 20 goals and 30 points while Charley McVeigh added 15 goals. Worters continued his fine play in goal posting a 2.01 GAA and four shutouts. With financial concerns mounting, the Americans tried to merge with the Ottawa Senators after the season but the request was denied by the NHL's Board of Governors.
The Americans finished the 1934-35 season with a dreadful 12-27-9 record. The only thing that kept them out of the Canadian Division basement was the woeful St. Louis Eagles. The brightest spot of the season was the addition of Sweeney Schriner to the roster. Schriner would win Rookie of the Year honors for his 18 goal, 40 point campaign. Schriner placed second on the team in scoring to Art Chapman who totaled 43 points. Roy Worters was a beast of burden in goal, playing all 3000 minutes of the season.
Under enormous financial pressure, mainly due to the ending of prohibition, Bill Dwyer decided to put the Americans up for sale during the 1935-36 season. Ignoring the off-ice distractions, the Amerks would make the playoffs for only second time in their history, in spite of a 16-25-7 record. The reduction of the NHL to eight teams helped facilitate the playoff berth as the Americans only needed to finish better than one team in the Canadian Division to qualify. Sweeney Schriner would lead the NHL in scoring with 45 points while Art Chapman, Nels Stewart and Eddie Wiseman contributed solid offensive seasons. The Americans won their first ever playoff series by defeating Chicago 7-5 on total goals. In the semifinals, the Americans would fall 2-1 in a best of three series to the Toronto Maple Leafs. With debts mounting like an east river trucker's trash and Dwyer losing something like half of everything he owned, Bootlegger Bill made the decision to abandon the franchise after finding no takers even failing to give the team away on seventh avenue.
With the NHL in temporary control while legal issues with Dwyer were being sorted out, the Americans opened the 1936-37 season looking to capitalize on their successful playoff run. With former player Red Dutton now managing and coaching the team, they got off to a solid 5-3-3 start before losing twelve of their next thirteen games. With losses piling high on the platter, the team finished the season in last place with a 15-29-4 record. Sweeney Schriner amassed a career high 46 points while Roy Worters shared starts in goal with Alfie Moore during his final season with the Americans.
Bill Dwyer's abandonment of the club became permanent and with the NHL now fully in control, the Americans began the 1937-38 season bolstered by new signings Ching Johnson, Hap Day and Earl Robertson. A run of good play resulted in a 6-3-1 start to the campaign. Despite a nine game winless streak in the middle of the season, the Americans picked up enough points to finish in second place in the Canadian Division with a 19-18-11 record. A season ending 4-2 win over Toronto pushed them past the .500 mark and into the playoffs for the third time in franchise history. Sweeney Schriner, Nels Stewart and Eddie Wiseman each broke the 30 point plateau while new goaltender Robertson started all 48 games and posted a 2.22 GAA. Stewart picked up the 300th goal of his career on March 17, 1938 against New York. The Americans faced off against the Rangers in a best of three series to open the playoffs. Rangers fans were left with their hearts splattered all over Manhattan after Lorne Carr scored the series winner in overtime of game three for the Amerks. After the Americans beat Chicago 3-1 in game one of the semifinals, the Black Hawks responded with a game two win in overtime on a Cully Dahlstrom goal. Nels Stewart had a goal disallowed with seconds left in regulation time, due to a man in the crease violation, costing the Amerks a berth in the Stanley Cup finals. The series decider was played in New York and Chicago's Alex Levinsky left the town in tatters, scoring the go-ahead goal that lifted the Black Hawks into the finals.
Following the heartbreaking playoff loss to Chicago the Americans opened the next season with far away eyes. The Black Hawks took advantage on opening night, romping to a 6-1 win. The Americans shook off the loss and climbed to 12-8-4 at the midway point of the regular season after beating the Rangers 1-0 in overtime. The team would once again collapse during the second half, winning only five games to finish fourth in the now single division NHL. Sweeney Schriner would lead the team with 44 points while former Red Wing Tom Anderson added 40 points in his first season with the Amerks but the retirements of defensemen Ching Johnson and Hap Day ended up hurting the club . Earl Robertson turned in another fine season in goal earning second team NHL honors. The fourth place finish qualified the Americans for a spot in the playoffs but they were quickly swept aside in a best of three series, 2-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Prior to the 1939-40 season and in serious trouble financially, the Americans decided to trade to their star player Sweeney Schriner to the Maple Leafs for Busher Jackson, Buzz Boll, Murray Armstrong and minor-leaguer Jimmy Fowler. They also obtained forward Charlie Conacher from Detroit and used him as a defenseman, where he responded by contributing 28 points. The Americans continued their losing ways, dropping six straight before posting a 2-1 overtime win over Toronto. The team would fall two spots to sixth in the overall standings with a 15-29-4 record but would still make the playoffs as only the seventh place team missed out that year. The Americans faced Detroit and fell in overtime 2-1 in game one. They would bounce back with 5-4 victory before the Red Wings eliminated them by a 3-1 score in game three. This would be the last playoff appearance for the Americans. Armstrong would lead the team in scoring with 36 points and Eddie Shore, a late season acquisition, played the final ten regular season games of his illustrious career with the Americans, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists.
The Americans began the 1940-41 season on borrowed time. The club was still burdened by lies and debt from the Dwyer era and was now facing widespread player shortages due to World War II. A thirteen game winless streak to finish the schedule resulted in a horrific 8-29-11 last place finish. Longtime Amerk Lorne Carr stepped up to lead the team in scoring and the players acquired for Schriner the year before also had good seasons but it just wasn't enough to overcome the club's shoddy defense and lack of depth.
In a final attempt to escape the large shadow cast by the Rangers, a frustrated Dutton changed the name of the team to the Brooklyn Americans for the 1941-42 season. Dutton planned to relocate the team to Brooklyn, where they had moved their practices, but there was no suitable arena in the borough yet so they were forced to keep renting MSG for regular season games. The Americans started the season off well enough, going 3-3-1, but a ten game losing streak quickly put them back in the league cellar. The team finished its last season with a 16-29-3 record. A 6-3 decision on home ice over the Maple Leafs on March 15, 1942 was the final win in Amerks history, while their last ever game was an 8-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston two days later. Tom Anderson would lead the team in scoring with 41 points while Chuck Rayner posted 13 of the team's wins in goal. At the conclusion of the season, the team decided to suspend operations for the remainder of the war, leaving its fans shadoobie shattered.
A toxic brew of debt, placement in the Canadian Division, financial strains from the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II deep-sixed the Big Apple's first NHL team. In addition to all that, playing second fiddle on and off the ice to Rangers while paying rent to their owner certainly didn't help matters either. Despite the emergence of a group willing to erect a new arena to house the team in postwar Brooklyn, the NHL reneged on its promise to reinstate the Americans after WWII and "retired" the franchise instead. The demise of the Americans ended the league's formative years and ushered in the golden days of the "Original Six" era. So goodbye to the New York Americans, we certainly do miss you.
NHL Seasons: Seventeen
Stanley Cups: None
Notable Players: Roy Worters, Sweeney Schriner, Normie Hines, Billy Burch, Earl Robertson