NHL coronavirus response recalls 1919 Stanley Cup cancellation over Spanish flu
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The NHL has yet to alter its regular season or playoff schedule due to coronavirus. However, a similar virus outbreak once forced the league to cancel its championship event, the Stanley Cup.
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The cancellation occurred more than a century ago when the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association faced off against the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens in the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals. The series unfolded even as the U.S. and countries around the world dealt with the deadly spread of the virus that became known as the Spanish Flu.
The Metropolitans and the Canadiens played a hard-fought series, including a Game 4 in which several players collapsed on the ice. At the time, officials attributed the situation to exhaustion, according to the Seattle Times.
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With the teams locked in a 2-2-1 series tie, hockey officials were forced to cancel Game 6 as well as the rest of the Stanley Cup finals after multiple players and coaches on both teams fell ill with the flu. Within days of the cancellation, Montreal defenseman Joe Hall, an eventual Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, died from complications related to the illness.
The 1919 Stanley Cup was one of just two NHL championships to be canceled. The 2004-05 Stanley Cup was canceled due to a lengthy player lockout.
The 1919 Stanley Cup trophy was eventually engraved with both team names and the phrase “series not completed,” according to the Washington secretary of state blog.