he Hamilton Tigers were a professional ice hockey team based in Hamilton, Ontario. They competed in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1920 to 1925. The Tigers were formed by the sale of the Quebec Bulldogs NHL franchise to Hamilton interests. After years of struggling, the franchise finished first in the league in the 1924–25 NHL season, but a players' strike before the playoffs resulted in the franchise's dissolution. The players' contracts were sold to New York City interests to stock the expansion New York Americans. A namesake amateur team existed prior to and during the NHL team's existence, and a minor league professional team named the Hamilton Tigers existed from 1926 to 1930.
The origins of the team go back to the old Quebec Hockey Club team that started play in 1878. Originally an amateur team, it turned professional in 1909. Quebec was a charter member of the NHL in 1917, however, due to financial difficulties, and the NHA-NHL dispute, the franchise was dormant until the 1919–20 season, when it was operated by the Quebec Athletic Club. That season proved to be a dismal one; despite the presence of Joe Malone the club finished with only four wins in 24 games.
After the 1919–20 season, the NHL took back the Quebec franchise and sold the team to the Abso Pure Ice Company of Hamilton, Ontario. The club was moved to Hamilton for the 1920–21 season and renamed the Hamilton Tigers. This was done to prevent the startup of a rival league that was trying to land a club in Hamilton. (see Eddie Livingstone) At the time, the NHL had no teams in the United States and no teams in Western Canada. Hamilton was the fifth-largest city in the country and third-largest in Central Canada (pop. 114,200) and therefore was considered a vital market. Percy Thompson, a part-owner and manager of the Barton Street Arena, became manager of the team.
The move to Hamilton did not improve the team's record. Despite earning a shutout in their first game, the first team ever to do so, with a 5–0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on December 22, 1920, the Tigers were as noncompetitive as the Bulldogs. As a result, the NHL ordered the other three teams to supply players to the Tigers. Receiving quality players from the other teams was not enough to keep Hamilton out of the league cellar with 6 wins, 18 losses, and no ties in 24 games. Malone was reacquired four games into the season and went on to score 30 goals in 20 games.
The next three seasons were just as dreadful as the first. The Tigers finished dead last every year, making a total of 5 straight last place finishes (counting the one season as the Bulldogs). During these years, the Tigers attempted a rebuilding phase to bring the team up to par. After the 1921–22 NHL season, they hired Art Ross as their new coach and made several player changes, even trading superstar Malone to the Montreal Canadiens for Bert Corbeau and Edmond Bouchard. The fans were outraged at seeing Malone leave, but were vindicated when he scored a single goal in his lone season with the Canadiens.
Prior to the 1922–23 season, the NHL held its governors meeting at the Royal Connaught Hotel on King Street, the same location where visiting teams routinely stayed when playing the Tigers.
After four years of futility, things started to come together in the 1923–24 NHL season, with Percy LeSueur as the new head coach. Four players were acquired from the Sudbury Wolves of the NOHA: brothers Red and Shorty Green, Alex McKinnon, and Charlie Langlois, who all contributed to a team high of nine wins in 24 games.