During his playing career, Patrick Roy established himself as “St. Patrick” due to his heroics in net. While he was an iconic goalie—Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP three times, among his other accomplishments—he wasn’t the first one in hockey history to sport a holy, Irish nickname. Decades before the goaltender took the ice, the Toronto St. Pats were plying their trade in Ontario.
Since the team eventually became the iconic Toronto Maple Leafs, the St. Pats been consigned to the history books. During their brief existence, however, they did find some success.
Toronto hockey before the St. Patricks
In 1917, the several owners of the National Hockey Association decided to break away and form their own league. While that split created the NHL, there was a problem; due to a dispute, the Toronto Blueshirts weren’t invited to the party. The league wasn’t naive enough to go into its inaugural season without a team in Canada’s biggest city, so Frank Calder stepped in to sort things out.
He assigned the Blueshirts players to a temporary Toronto team run by the Toronto Arena Company; that group would actually win the Stanley Cup that season. The dispute, however, boiled on. The Arena Company eventually formed their own team—unsurprisingly named the Toronto Arenas— and signed most of the previous season’s players to new deals.
The problems still weren’t over, though. Eddie Livingston, the owner of the original Toronto Blueshirts, kept fighting the loss of his team in court; eventually, he was awarded $20,000. The Arena Company declared bankruptcy in order to avoid paying. That gave Charlie Querrie, the hockey team’s general manager, an opportunity.
Becoming the Toronto St. Pats
Charlie Querrie briefly took over control of the hockey team and changed its name to the Tecumseth Hockey Club. Before long, however, he flipped it to the St. Patricks Hockey Club.
The club, which had existed in the city since the early 1900s, appealed to those coming from Ireland; while Toronto was still the heart of the commonwealth, Irish immigrants had been pouring into the city since the 1840s. The NHL team followed the lead of the parent club, donning green and white uniforms and skating at the St. Pats.
The St. Pats found some success, making the NHL Finals in 1920-21 and winning the Stanley Cup in 1921-22; after that, though, they would only make one more playoff appearance. In 1927, the team was sold to Conn Smythe, who promptly renamed them the Maple Leafs.
Gone, but not completely forgotten
Since becoming the Maple Leafs, Toronto hockey has seen plenty of good times and, more recently, plenty of bad times. In recent years, though, a reminder of their time as the St. Pats has resurfaced.
In 2002, the Maple Leafs wore green St. Pats jerseys to commemorate the 75th anniversary of becoming the Maple Leafs. While those uniforms vanished for a little over a decade, they’ve come back with a vengeance; since 2017, the team has worn their green jerseys for a few games each season around St. Patrick’s Day.
While it might seem weird to see the Toronto Maple Leafs wearing green, it’s a reminder of the franchise’s history. Long before Patrick Roy was saving the day, the St. Pats were skating in Ontario.