This Day In History: December 19

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On December 19, 1917, Montreal teams win the first two NHL games played. In a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators, the Canadiens' Joe Malone scores five goals. In his team's 10-9 win over the Toronto Arenas, the Montreal Wanderers' Harry Hyland also scores five goals. 

For nearly a century, it was unknown which of the two games started first. The Senators-Canadiens game was long known to have started at 8:30 p.m.. But nobody knew when the Wanderers-Arenas game began until 2017, when an old newspaper ad was discovered that showed a start time of 8:15 p.m.

A prior hockey league, the National Hockey Association, had been running since 1909. But disagreements among the league's owners were so strong that, in 1917, the league's operations were suspended, and the NHL was formed. All four NHL teams were in Canada.

The first NHL president was Frank Calder, whose league played its first two games only 23 days after its formation.

When the Senators took the ice, they were without defenseman Hamby Shore and winger Jack Darragh, both for financial reasons. Shore wanted back pay, and Darragh was upset because the new league's season was 24 games and his contract called for 20. 

The Wanderers later disbanded after their rink caught on fire.

Ottawa won four Stanley Cups between 1920 and 1927, but the team moved to St. Louis in 1934. Montreal and Toronto have combined to produce 37 Cup winners.