Joe Hall was one tough customer on defense, a veritable Terrible Teddy Green of his day. Years prior to joining the Canadiens for their inaugural NHL season late in his career, Hall’s trademark roughhousing on the ice already had earned him the moniker “Bad Joe.’’
But in the end, neither the nickname nor the temerity that led to it, were on Hall’s side during the Stanley Cup Final of March 1919.
Pandemics, cruel and unremitting, can crush even the boldest, the most fit and brazen.
Born in Staffordshire, England, in 1881, Hall was 2 years old when his family emigrated to western Canada. He grew to 5 feet 10 inches, 175 pounds, and learned to play hockey in his hometown of Brandon, Manitoba, which today remains fertile turf for the amateur game, including the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings — decades ago the junior team that delivered defenseman Brad McCrimmon to the Bruins.
Hall was 20 years old when he signed on with the hometown Brandon Regals of the Manitoba Senior Hockey League. In the summers, when not playing the sport he loved, he was a “traveler,” selling tobacco goods across the plains in Canada’s western provinces.
A known terror on the ice, Hall was ever-gracious and well-liked when out of uniform and not wielding a stick or trading punches. He undoubtedly made a top-notch salesman, as smooth as a deep, savory draw from a fine stogie, those costing more than the typical five cents of the day.
When the Spanish Flu tore into Hall in the midst of the 1919 Cup Final, Montreal vs. the Seattle Metropolitans, his Habs teammates knew it was serious. His wife and three children scurried to catch a train in Winnipeg for the long haul across Canada and then down into Washington.
Hall was hospitalized in Seattle, some 1,300 miles west, having collapsed early in Game 5 of the series at the Seattle Ice Arena. Reports of the day noted Hall’s temperature spiked to a dangerous 104 degrees. It was the Spanish Flu, a worldwide terror for more than a year at that point, that triggered his pneumonia. His mother, who lived not far away in Vancouver, British Columbia, arrived at his bedside.
The NHL, founded in 1917, was still some 15 years on the horizon when Hall first entered the game’s amateur ranks in Brandon and then began making his way onto rosters in the initial professional leagues.
He began his career as much more than a backline enforcer. He had legit hands. In his first pro season, 1905-06, Bad Joe suited up as a forward and potted 33 goals in 20 games for Portage Lakes-Houghton, a Michigan-based squad in the International Professional Hockey League. Bad Joe was pretty good at putting the puck in the net.
The earliest pros were typically nomads, dotting around the United States and Canada and signing with whatever teams offered a better buck.
No one in Hall’s era grew rich off the game, something that remained a constant well into the 1960s. The real money didn’t begin to arrive until Bobby Orr signed with the Bruins in the mid-’60s, and then it finally poured in, like grain into an Alberta silo, when the nascent World Hockey Association began to raid NHL rosters at the start of the ’70s.
In the fall of 1910, Bad Joe found a home with the Quebec City Bulldogs, then a member of the National Hockey Association. He twice won the Stanley Cup with the Bulldogs (1912, ‘13), the Cup in those days in its Challenge Cup era in which a number of leagues competed for the prized trophy that was first awarded in 1893.
Hall also won the Cup in the spring of 1907 with the Kenora Thistles, then of the Manitoba Hockey Association. He scored five times in two playoff games, then went on to play for a half-dozen teams over the next three seasons before making a home the next seven years with Quebec City.
It was during his Bulldog run in the NHA when Hall, age 29 upon arriving in Quebec City, entered into a fierce head-to-head rivalry with stellar Canadiens forward Edouard Cyrille “Newsy” Lalonde. By then, Hall was Quebec’s best backliner and Lalonde, a onetime reporter in his younger days (thus: “Newsy”), was the Flying Frenchmen’s perennial top scorer.
Lalonde was only 22 when he first joined the Habs in the 1909-10 season. Bad Joe and Newsy, six years his junior, had their ample share of heated confrontations.
When the NHA folded in the spring of 1917 and gave birth to the NHL, a dispersal draft took place in which Montreal was quick to grab Quebec’s two stars, Joe Malone and Hall. For the next two seasons, Hall and Lalonde not only were teammates, but became close pals and roomed together when the Canadiens were on the road. They were together to the end.
Despite the NHL’s emergence as the top pro league in North America, it wasn’t until the 1926-27 season that the Stanley Cup became identified solely with the league, which by then had grown from four founding teams (the Habs, the Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa, and Toronto) to 10, including the five-team American Division (Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago).
In 1918-19, the NHL’s second season, Lalonde and right winger Odie Cleghorn each led the Habs with 23 goals. Hall was Montreal’s top scorer on the backline, collecting 8 points in 17 games, equaling the output of Malone, a center, his former Bulldogs teammate.
The ’19 Cup Final had the Habs headed west for the full slate of games in Seattle, where the Metropolitans were the champs of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Along the long train ride west, in hopes of keeping their legs fresh for a tournament that would last nearly two weeks, the Habs stopped for exhibition games in Regina, Calgary, and Vancouver.
Finally, the best-of-five series began on March 19, but not before Metros star center Bernie Morris was grabbed by cops and hauled off on a charge of deserting the US Army. Morris (later a Bruin) was lost for the series, leaving Seattle with only an eight-man roster, including top goaltender Harry “Hap” Holmes.
The Habs arrived on the coast with a roster of 13, including Hall as one of their four blue liners. They would head home with only 12, along with a GM, George Kennedy, his health seriously impaired after the flu also landed him in the hospital.
By March 1919, the Spanish Flu had been raging for a little more than a year and would last nearly two more years, through 1920. During its three-year scourge, in a world population then of less than two billion, it would infect some 500 million people. Estimates of fatalities range widely, from 17 million to 100 million.
Game 1 of the 1919 Final had the Metros shellacking the Habs, 7-0, with the Montreal net fronted by Georges Vezina. Yep, that Georges Vezina.
The Metros entered Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead, but both goalies proved impenetrable, and the sides agreed to call it a 0-0 deadlock after two OTs failed to produce a goal.
Three days later, on March 29, the Habs and Metros were back at it, only to witness an exhausted Hall collapse on the ice in the first period and exit for the hospital. With such short rosters, players could be seen collapsing on their benches during the Game 4 OTs. Not only was pay low in that era, but so were work standards and player education in regard to rest, nutrition, and hydration.
Habs left winger Jack McDonald finally fired in the Game 5 winner 15 minutes into OT, setting up the decisive Game 6 for April 1. But by then, all but three of the Habs players were down with the flu, many hospitalized, including best pals Lalonde and Hall.
Kennedy, the Habs’ GM, also fighting the flu, was left with little option but to forfeit Game 6. But Seattle GM Pete Muldoon refused the offer, even after Kennedy failed in his attempt to recruit enough players off the nearby Victoria roster to cobble together a lineup for the title-deciding game.
With one team willing to accept defeat and the other side unwilling to claim victory, the series ended there. Now, 101 years later, 1919 stands as the only time the Cup hasn’t been awarded upon the completion of a season. Something similar happened in the spring of 2005, but no NHL games were played in 2004-05, the league and its players unable to agree to a collectively bargained contract after a league-imposed lockout.
Bad Joe Hall, still hospitalized, succumbed to pneumonia at 3 p.m. on April 5, one week after he collapsed on the ice.
According to writer Tom Hawthorn, who last year wrote a superb look-back on events of the series published by TheTyee.ca, Lalonde acted as a pallbearer at funeral services in downtown Vancouver.
Wife Mary, and the couple’s three children, learned of Joseph Harry Hall’s death, according to Hawthorn, while still making their way across Canada by train.
Chara has been mum on future
Zdeno Chara, who earlier this season logged his 1,000th game as a Bruin (all as captain), will turn 43 on Wednesday. His contract, signed this time a year ago (March 23), runs out at the end of this season and there is no telling if he’ll sign again here or anywhere.
There’s the chance Big Z could be outta here.
“Not thinking about it right now,” said his longtime agent, Matt Keator. “Something we’ll all sit down with at the end of the year — Z, me, [Bruins GM] Don Sweeney — and figure out what’s next.”
Politely vague, isn’t it? And it should be concerning if you are a Black and Gold fan.
Chara responded much the same when he was asked about life after 2019-20 around the time he logged his 1,000th game in a Black and Gold sweater. He defaulted to his rote, sincere refrain about how much he loves hockey, cherishes competing, and otherwise lives to inhale and ingest everything about the game.
What a profoundly disappointing, anticlimactic finish it would be here if the NHL is forced to call it quits on the season and scrub the playoffs, and Chara either opts to retire or the Bruins figure it’s time to face life in the post-Z era.
If the NHL has packed up for good this season, and there’s no new deal to extend him, or he opts to call it quits, then Chara’s final skate will have been Tuesday’s 2-0 win in Philadelphia. The 6-9 Trencin Tower of Power logged 23:49 in ice time, second only to partner Charlie McAvoy’s 25:59, and picked up the secondary assist on the final goal of the night by Patrice Bergeron.
Chara’s career line to date: 1,553 games (1,023 with Boston), 205-451—656. Not to mention 182 playoffs games (137 with Boston), including the waltz with the Cup here in 2011.
Chara ranks 15th all time in the NHL for games played. It’s doubtful the Bruins will get to play all, if any, of the dozen games left on their regular-season schedule. If they do, Chara could jump over Jarome Iginla (1,554) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564), which would place him 13th. Next in line at No. 12: Ray Bourque (1,612).
Chara also stands to become only the 56th player in NHL history to reach the 2,000 penalty-minute plateau. He is currently 44 PIMs short of sin bin sanctification. Come on, who wouldn’t want to be there right next to Uncle Harold Snepsts (2,009)?
Despite a vocal minority of detractors, Chara remains a vital member of the backline corps, his long stick and infinite playing intelligence still making him a legit No. 1 pairing D with the emerging McAvoy to his right. Yes, the game looks fast around Chara. It looks fast around everybody now. The key is, his size and strength and smarts still place him among the most difficult backliners to navigate around in the NHL.
Provided the salary cap goes up as projected recently — an assumption that may prove folly with the game now on coronavirus lockdown — Sweeney should have the financial space to bring him back.
The question then will be if Chara wants to give it another go. He politely said a lot of things when last asked about it, but he didn’t say yes.
Even before the NHL’s decision Thursday to shut down business for the foreseeable future, the Bruins were among many franchises to trim back travel for their scouting staff. According to team president Cam Neely, the club instructed its European scouts to birddog only within the borders of their respective countries, and also to travel strictly by car whenever possible … Another of Keator’s clients, Boxford’s Chris Kreider, only stands to benefit with the passing of each day in coronavirus limbo. The Ranger left winger is healing from a foot fracture, suffered just days after he signed his long-term extension (seven years, $45.5 million) on Feb. 24. Original projections had him needing 4-6 weeks to get back in uniform. According to Keator, Kreider was skating again this past week, only two weeks after breaking the bone on a blocked shot. “He’s right there with [Chara] in his training and taking care of himself,” praised Keator. “You’re not going to find two guys more dedicated to their craft.” The Blueshirts entered the unscheduled break only 2 points out of a wild-card spot and could use Kreider’s heft for a playoff push if the Zambonis come marching back … The Bruins were going to get their first look at Danton Heinen and David Backes in Ducks garb with their game in Anaheim Wednesday night. Heinen stood 1-3—4 in his first nine games with the Quacks, and Backes 0-3—3 in six games … If it’s over for Joe Thornton, his career line reads: 1,636 games, 420-1,089—1,509. He has scored the most goals of any player every drafted as a Bruin (No. 1, 1997), and he is second only to Bourque for assists (1,169) and points (1,579). Jumbo will be 41 on July 2. He said he hoped the Sharks would have dealt him to a contender at the deadline, but GM Doug Wilson couldn’t find a landing spot for him … Neely’s trunk of mementos includes this gem: His No. 21 sweater that he wore for 91 games with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, 1982-84. “That’s very cool,” he said. Because, Neely explained, the sweaters in Portland were hand-me-downs from the Chicago Black Hawks, and his 21 came directly from the legendary Stan Mikita. “The year 1971 is inside,” said Neely, “and it’s got the old fight strap with the little hook.” Neely put the strap to the test, piling up 120 PIMs his rookie year in Portland. After 19 games the following year, he was on his way to full-time NHL work with the Vancouver Canucks as an 18-year-old rookie … The aforementioned Bernie Morris suited up for six games with the 1924-25 Bruins, their inaugural NHL season, back when they played their home games at Boston Arena. Babe Ruth, when visiting with the Bombers, was known to stop in for a visit during the Bruins’ Arena days. The hot-dog-loving Bambino loved seeing the biscuit go in the basket.
Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.