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The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is an incorporated not-for-profit organization created to organize the now 26 member clubs across the North American Continent. Founded in Toronto, Canada in 1909 to organize six teams through Canada and the North-Eastern United States. Despite suspension of play during both of the World Wars, the league managed to grow and prosper, eventually accepting teams from Assiniboia in 1918 and Alyseka in 1921. The 25th and 26th teams were created and accepted in 2006.
Founding, Scandal and War
The NAHL was founded on September 7, 1906 when the "First Six" clubs (the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Blueshirts, the Boston Buccaneers, the Halifax Cruisers, the Detroit Flying Wings and the Buffalo Lakers) met in Toronto to discuss the formation of an association to organize games between the six clubs, which had been a rather unorganized mess before, with teams playing against each other when the managers negotiating with the the other clubs agreed to certain times, which conflicted with other teams. Under Toronto Blueshirts' owner Eddie Livingstone, the Continental Hockey Association was founded to organize the first few seasons. However, the 1909-1910 season was mired in scandal when Livingstone was discovered to have bribed referees to get his team the championship. He was fired, and Halifax Cruisers coach and General Manager Vince Coleman was tapped to lead the renamed American Hockey Association, and to ensure his impartiality, he resigned from the Buccaneers and sold his share of the team.
The Second Global War nearly killed the AHA, when the league was put on hold for the duration when Coleman, a Canadian Army Captain, was killed in 1913, while many of the best players were drafted and some were killed or seriously wounded. The 1916-17 season could not be organized because of animosity between the Canadian and American people. However, young US businessman Alphonse Capone bought into the AHA and named Commissioner, which featured a new name change in 1917 to the North American Hockey League, and he was instrumental in both reorganizing the original six teams to play a season in 1917-18, as well as establishing the "Coleman Cup" as the award for the winner of the championships.
Interwar Expansion and the Third Global War
The first six teams welcomed the first addition to the league in 1919, when the Winnipeg Red Bombers joined, much to Capone's pleasure. In the next ten years, five more teams joined: the Minneapolis Steamers (1921), Ottawa Commoners (1922), New York Americans (1922), the Pittsburgh Steelers (1927) and the Vancouver Trappers (1929). The Great Depression which struck in 1931 crippled the league, with the Halifax Cruisers, the Toronto Blueshirts and the Buffalo Lakers going bankrupt and all forced to leave the league in 1933. In 1935 the successor to the Blueshirts, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were formed, which made an even ten teams in the NAHL.
The rise of National Socialism in Canada in the mid 1930s, which lead to the destructive Canadian Civil War in 1937. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Commers and the Montreal Canadiens were kicked out, and Capone established three more teams, the Chicago Patriots, Calgary Northerners, and the Philadelphia Independents in 1938, to replace the two Canadian teams.
The outbreak of the Third Global War in 1940 in North America when Assiniboia was invaded by the Ontarian National Socialists, and the Confederates invaded the US. Capone was prepared to shut the league down for the war, but US President Joseph P. Kennedy personally requested that the NAHL continue to boost morale, including visiting the front and playing games for the soldiers, which would later become the February Memorial Classic held in Chicago. While many players would be drafted, many others were exempt due to their injuries they sustained while playing. One of the most memorable moments was that the 1941 Coleman Cup was played in Winnipeg between the Red Bombers and the Boston Buccaners, and the Winnipeg victory was only cut short during a night time bombing raid by Ontario.
After the destruction of the Third Global War, the NAHL continued to do it's best to boost the spirits of the American, Assiniboian and Alysekan people. The establishment of Quebec, much to the joy of hockey fans, allowed the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Commoner's return to the league. The new nation of Newfoundland also joined the NAHL, with a new Halifax team, the Sailors, being created in 1948. Now up to 14 teams, Commissioner Capone predicted a "golden age" of hockey. However, Capone's death in 1949 in a train accident nearly crippled the league with the end of the dynamic leadership of Capone. However, under a new Board of Management, six new teams were welcomed in the 1950s: The Quebec Voyagers (1951), the Indianapolis Indians and Cleveland Blue Rocks (both 1952), Wascana Pionners (1955), Seattle Jets (1957), and the Anchorage Eskimos (1959).