In honour of hockey season making a return, we take a look at the Detroit Cougars (the Red Wing nickname didn’t come into use until 1932) inaugural season in 1926, played right here at the Border Cities Arena.
The first team in 1926-27.
At the April 18, 1926 NHL meetings to discuss expansion of the NHL, five applications were received from Detroit along with three from Chicago, one from Cleveland, one from New Jersey, one from Hamilton and one from New York. The New York application, to become the New York Rangers was approved. The NHL decided to investigate all applicants before deciding at their next meeting. At the time, it was known that the Western Canada Hockey League was folding. Other than the Rangers, there was opposition to adding any other teams to the NHL. The NHL constitution required unanimous approval on adding new teams and the New York Americans were opposed to the plan to add one team in Detroit and one in Chicago, as the Americans favoured two teams in Chicago. This was overcome at the May 2, 1926 NHL meeting by amending the NHL constitution, which required only a 2/3 approval, to allow a simple majority vote for the approval of new teams and it became expected that Chicago and Detroit would receive franchises. At the meeting, what were now two competing syndicates vying for the Detroit franchise, one from Townsend and McCreath, and one from Bierer, were ordered to amalgamate by the NHL.
The next day, May 3, it was announced by Detroit promoters Morris Caplan and Morris Friedberg that they had purchased the 1925 Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars in expectation of a NHL franchise being awarded to them at NHL meetings later that month. Similarly, the Portland Rosebuds were also purchased that day by Chicago interests. On May 15, 1926, Detroit was tentatively awarded a NHL expansion team to a group of investors led by Townsend, Seyburn and McCreath, not Caplan and Friedberg, on condition of the arena being ready for the upcoming season. At the time, the arena was expected to be ready for December 1. The Victoria Club was sold by Lester and Frank Patrick to the Townsend group for $100,000, of which $25,000 went to Caplan and Friedberg. Although the arena was not ready, the franchise was permanently approved by the NHL on September 25, 1926. The franchise was established as the Detroit Cougars, retaining the Victoria name. However, the NHL does not consider the Red Wings to be a continuation of the Victoria team.
Without a Detroit arena, the new Cougars played their first season in Windsor, Ontario at the Border Cities Arena. Frank Patrick of Victoria did not come east to manage Detroit. The Cougars signed former Calgary Tigers player Art Duncan to play and coach the team, but the NHL, in its distribution of WHL players ordered Detroit to send players Art Gagne and Fraser to the Chicago Black Hawks for Duncan. The Cougars finished their first season with a record of 12 wins, 28 losses and 4 ties for 28 points, the worst record in the American division and NHL.
They lost the first game which was played Thursday, November 18, 1926, to the Boston Bruins 2-0. Oddly enough the Border Cities Star which reported on the game didn’t even see fit to run a photograph of the first game anywhere in the newspaper the following day.
Below is an ad placed by Hudson’s that ran in the Border Cities Star the day of the first game.