The Problem with Amateurs

On our first official episode we discuss the early amateur hockey leagues of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Listen to it here:

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Basically hockey was a different sport in the 19th century; different rules, different positions, different roster sizes, different equipment (no nets sometimes!). What do we do with this information? How do we evaluate these players?

Sample size is terrible: some players played a lot in a given league yet barely played a quarter of a single season in 21st century terms. How can we possibly compare players who played only 20 games to players who played hundreds or a thousand games?

We discuss the major amateur leagues in terms of the following:

  • brief summary of each league and what it was;
  • anyone make it to the HOF?
  • do we know why their players were admitted or not admitted?
  • who were the best skaters?
  • are any of them in the HOF?
  • Plus a brief conclusion as to whether the league mattered or not.

The leagues:

  • Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC); 1886-1898
  • Manitoba Hockey Association (MHA) aka the Manitoba Hockey League (MHL); 1892-1923, including three seasons as a professional league called the MPHL from 1906-1909
  • Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL); 1898-1905
  • Federal Amateur Hockey League (FAHL); 1903-1909
  • Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA); 1905-1909
  • Canadian Hockey Association (CHA); 1909-10


We skipped the following early pro or semi pro leagues:

  • the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (WPHL); 1896-1910
  • International Professional Hockey League (IPHL); 1904-1907
  • Timiskaming Professional Hockey League (TPHL); 1906-1911
  • Ontario Professional Hockey League (OPHL); 1907-1911

If there is enough demand for it, we’ll cover these leagues in our early pro league episode, in addition to the NHA, PCHA and WCHL.

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