The New York Americans (colloquially known as the Amerks) were a professional ice hockey team based in New York City, New York from 1925 to 1942.
They were the third expansion team in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the second to play in the United States. The team never won the Stanley Cup, but reached the semifinals twice.
While it was the first team in New York City, it was eclipsed by the second, the New York Rangers (which arrived in 1926 under the ownership of the Amerks' landlord, Madison Square Garden).
The team operated as the Brooklyn Americans during the 1941–42 season before suspending operations in 1942 due to the World War II and long-standing financial difficulties.
The demise of the club marked the beginning of the NHL's Original Six era from 1942 to 1967, though the Amerks' franchise was not formally canceled until 1946.
The team's overall regular season record was 255–402–127.
Formation of Team
In 1923, Thomas Duggan received options on three NHL franchises for the United States. After selling one to Boston grocery magnate Charles Adams, Duggan arranged with Tex Rickard to have a team in Madison Square Garden. Rickard agreed, but play was delayed until the new Garden was built in 1925.
In April of that year, Duggan and Bill Dwyer, New York City's most-celebrated prohibition bootlegger, were awarded the franchise for New York. Somewhat fortuitously given the shortage of players, the Hamilton Tigers (who had finished first the season before) had been suspended from the league after they struck for higher pay.
However, the suspensions were quietly lifted in the off-season. Soon afterward, Dwyer duly bought the collective rights to the Tiger players for $75,000. He gave the players healthy raises (in some cases, double their 1924-25 salaries).
Just before the season, Dwyer announced his team would be named the New York Americans. Their original jerseys were covered with stars and stripes, patterned after the American flag. Although he acquired the Tigers' players, Dwyer did not acquire the franchise; it was expelled from the league.
As a result, the NHL does not consider the Americans to be a continuation of the Tigers—(or for that matter of) the Tigers' predecessors, the Quebec Bulldogs.
The Americans entered the league in the 1925–26 season along with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Americans and Pirates became the second and third American-based teams in the NHL, following Adams' Boston Bruins, who began play the previous season.
Success did not come easily for the Americans.
Even though their roster was substantively the same that finished first the previous year, in the Americans' first season they finished fifth overall with a record of 12–22–4. However, they did prove a success at the box office; so much so that the following season Garden management landed a team of its own, the New York Rangers.
A clause in the Amerks' lease with the Garden required them to support any bid for the Garden to acquire an NHL franchise. The Garden had promised Dwyer that it would never exercise that option, and that the Amerks would be the only team in the arena. However, when the Garden opted to seek its own team after all, the Amerks had little choice but to agree. They were thus doomed to a long history as New York City's second team.
The 1926–27 season saw the Americans continue to struggle, finishing 17–25–2. Part of the problem was that they were placed in the Canadian Division in defiance of all geographic reality, resulting in a larger number of train trips to Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
Meanwhile, the Rangers won the American Division title. The next season saw the Americans fall even further from grace by finishing last in their division (ninth overall) with a record of 11–27–6, while the Rangers captured the Stanley Cup in only their second year of existence.
The 1928–29 NHL season saw the Amerks sign star goaltender Roy Worters from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He led the team to a 19–13–12 record in that season]], good enough for second in the Canadian Division (fourth overall). Worters had an incredible 1.21 goals against average (GAA), becoming the first goaltender to win the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the league.
Standing on Worters' shoulders, the Americans made the playoffs for the first time, but were unable to beat the Rangers in a total goals series. The Rangers had extreme difficulty scoring against Worters, but the futile Americans were equally unable to score against the Rangers. The Rangers ended up winning the series in the second game, 1–0 in overtime.
The following season saw the Americans plunge to fifth place in the division (ninth overall) with a 14–25–5 record. Worters followed up his stellar 1928–29 season with an atrocious 3.75 goals against average.
He would rebound for the next season, with a 1.68 goals against average which was good enough to give the Americans a winning record. However, they missed out on a playoff berth since the Montreal Maroons had two more wins; wins are the NHL's first tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
The 1931–32 season saw some developments that would change the way the NHL played the game. In a game against the Bruins, the Americans iced the puck 61 times. At that time, there was no rule against icing.
Adams was so angry that he pressed, to no avail, for the NHL to make a rule against icing. So, the next time the two teams met, the Bruins iced the puck 87 times in a scoreless game. It was not until a few years later that the NHL made a rule prohibiting icing, but those two games were the catalyst for change.
The Americans' lackluster on-ice performance was not the only problem for the franchise. With the end of Prohibition, Dwyer was finding it difficult to make ends meet. After the 1933–34 NHL season, having missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year, the Americans attempted a merger with the equally strapped Senators, only to be turned down by the NHL Board of Governors.
During the 1935–36 season, Dwyer finally decided to sell the team. As fortunes would have it, the Americans made the playoffs for the first time in six years under player-coach Red Dutton, but bowed out in the second round against the Maple Leafs.
Even with this rebound, no buyers came forward, prompting Dwyer to abandon the team. The league announced it would take over the team for the next season. Dwyer sued the NHL, saying it had no authority to seize his team.
A settlement was reached whereby Dwyer could resume control provided he could pay off his debts by the end of the season. However, Dwyer could not do so, and the NHL took full control of the franchise.
Despite the presence of Dutton (who had retired as a player to become coach and general manager), the team fared no better under the league's operation than before, finishing last with a record of 15–29–4. The only bright spot was Sweeney Schriner, who led the league in scoring that year.
The league asked Dutton to become operating head of the franchise for the 1937–38 season. The Americans signed veterans Ching Johnson and Hap Day and acquired goalie Earl Robertson. These new acquisitions greatly helped the team as they finished the season with a 19–18–11 record and made the playoffs. In the playoffs, they beat the Rangers in three games, but went on to lose against the Chicago Black Hawks in three.
The Americans made the playoffs again in 1938–39 and 1939–40 seasons, but were bounced in the first round each time.
Canada entered World War II in September 1939 and some of the team's Canadian players left for military service. However, an even large number of players entered the military in 1940–41. With a decimated roster, the Americans missed the playoffs with a horrible record of 8–29–11, which was the worst in franchise history.
While the league's other teams were similarly hard-hit, Dutton was still bogged down by lingering debt from the Dwyer era.
This debt (combined with the depletion of talent and wartime travel restrictions) forced him to sell off his best players for cash. The Amerks were clearly living on borrowed time; it was only a matter of when (not if) they would fold.
At wit's end, Dutton changed the team's name for the 1941–42 NHL season to the Brooklyn Americans. He had every intent to move the team to Brooklyn, but there was no arena in that borough suitable enough even for temporary use.
As result, they continued to play their home games in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden while practicing in Brooklyn. They barely survived the season, finishing with a record of 16–29–3.
After the season, the Amerks suspended operations for the war's duration. In 1945, a group emerged willing to build a new arena in Brooklyn.
However, in 1946, the NHL reneged on previous promises to reinstate the Amerks and canceled the franchise. Although Dutton had every intention of returning the Amerks to the ice after World War II, NHL records list the Amerks as having "retired" from the league in 1942.
The NHL would not expand beyond its remaining six teams until the 1967–68 season. However, Dutton blamed the owners of Madison Square Garden (who also owned the Rangers) for pressuring the NHL to not reinstate the Americans.
Dutton was so bitter that he purportedly swore the Rangers would never win a Stanley Cup again in his lifetime. This "curse" became reality; the Rangers would not win another Cup until 1994 (seven years after Dutton's death).
The last active New York Americans player was Pat Egan, who retired in 1951. The last active Brooklyn Americans player was Ken Mosdell, who retired in 1959.
The New York Metropolitan Area would not have a second NHL team again until the establishment of the New York Islanders in nearby Uniondale on Long Island in the 1972–73 season.
While the Americans attempted to do so in their final years, the Islanders actually did relocate to Brooklyn, playing at the Barclays Center starting in the 2015–16 season; unlike the Americans, the Islanders continue to be known as the New York Islanders.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1925–26||36||12||20||4||28||68||89||361||5th in NHL||Missed playoffs|
|1926–27||44||17||25||2||36||82||91||349||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1927–28||44||11||27||6||28||63||128||563||5th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1928–29||44||19||13||12||50||53||53||486||2nd in Canadian||Lost in Quarter-finals, 0–1 (Rangers)|
|1929–30||44||14||25||5||33||113||161||372||5th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1930–31||44||18||16||10||46||76||74||495||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1931–32||48||16||24||8||40||95||142||596||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1932–33||48||15||22||11||41||91||118||460||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1933–34||48||15||23||10||40||104||132||365||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1934–35||48||12||27||9||33||100||142||250||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1935–36||48||16||25||7||39||109||122||392||3rd in Canadian||Won in Quarter-finals, 7–5 (Black Hawks)|
|1936–37||48||15||29||4||34||122||161||481||4th in Canadian||Missed playoffs|
|1937–38||48||19||18||11||49||110||111||327||2nd in Canadian||Won in Quarter-finals, 2–1 (Rangers)|
Lost in Semi-finals, 1–2 (Black Hawks)
|1938–39||48||17||21||10||44||119||157||276||4th in NHL||Lost in Quarter-finals, 0–2 (Maple Leafs)|
|1939–40||48||15||29||4||34||106||140||236||6th in NHL||Lost in Quarter-finals, 1–2 (Red Wings)|
|1940–41||48||8||29||11||27||99||186||231||7th in NHL||Missed playoffs|
|1941–42||48||16||29||3||35||133||175||425||7th in NHL||Missed playoffs|
Hall of Famers
- Billy Burch
- Charlie Conacher
- Lionel Conacher
- Red Dutton
- Busher Jackson
- Harry Oliver
- Chuck Rayner
- Sweeney Schriner
- Eddie Shore
- Bullet Joe Simpson
- Hooley Smith
- Nels Stewart
- Roy Worters
- Billy Burch, 1925–1932
- Red Dutton, 1932–1936
- Sweeney Schriner, 1936–1939
- Charlie Conacher, 1939–1941
- Tommy Anderson, 1941–1942
- Tommy Gorman, 1925–1926
- Newsy Lalonde, 1926–1927
- Shorty Green, 1927–1928
- Tommy Gorman, 1928–1929
- Lionel Conacher, 1929–1930
- Eddie Gerard, 1930–1932
- Bullet Joe Simpson, 1932–1935
- Red Dutton, 1935–1940
- Art Chapman, 1940–1942