A Marlboro team playing for the Stanley Cup? Yes it actually happened! And in this day and age of minor teams playing 120 game schedules, their route to the Stanley Cup was a real “eye opener”!
In the 1903-04 season the Marlboros competed at the highest level in the Ontario Hockey League Senior Division. The NHL had not even been formed at this point in time
With all games played indoors on natural ice, the schedule was at the mercy of “mother nature” and thus the season began much later than the present day.
The pre-season consisted of 4 exhibition games with the following results:
|Dec. 18||Marlboros 3 – Barrie Colts 8|
|Dec. 19||Marlboros 2 – Toronto Argonauts 2|
|Jan. 1||Marlboros 3 – Montreal Wanderers 3|
|Jan. 1||Marlboros 4 – Montreal Wanderers 4|
The regular season consisted of 4 games and the Marlboros were crowned “Western Division Champions”.
|Jan. 9||Marlboros 7 – Toronto St. Georges 3|
|Jan. 13||Marlboros 8 – Barrie Colts 3|
|Jan. 16||Marlboros 7 – Toronto St. Georges 3|
|Jan. 23||Marlboros 4 – Barrie Colts 3|
The next stage was the Ontario Finals, a best 2 out of 3. The Marlboros defeated a team from Perth, Ontario in 2 straight games.
|Feb. 16||Marlboros 9 – Perth 3|
|Feb. 20||Marlboros 19 – Perth 6|
As newly crowned OHA Senior Champions there was no organized Canadian playdowns at the time. If a team considered itself strong enough it could issue a challenge to the previous year’s Stanley Cup champion, in a winner takes all series.
The defending champions and current cup holders at the time were the famed “Ottawa Silver Seven” lead by no less than five future Hockey Hall of Fame players including the legendary “one eyed” Frank Magee. They were a formidable opponent.
As challengers, the Marlboros took the train to Ottawa to begin a best of three series for the Stanley Cup, first awarded back in 1893.
Game one was played on February 23 with the Marlboros scoring early and often to take a 3-1 lead at the end of the first 30 minute half.
In the second half the Marlboros were forced to endure a style of hockey they had never been exposed to, as the Ottawa team administered a physical beating that included cross checking to the face and neck, tripping, slashing over the head and boarding with ”intent to injure”.
Ottawa stormed back with 5 unanswered goals to take Game 1 by a 6-3 score.
Game 2 played two days later was not even a contest, as the battered and outclassed Marlboros were dubbed 11-2 in the deciding game.
Was this the beginnings of a future NHL rivalry?
Upon returning home the Marlboros were forced to take care of some unfinished business, a one game final for the City of Toronto championship.
Playing the St. Georges team the Marlboros were victorious once again and hoisted the “Wilson Trophy” after a well deserved 8-3 win.
The team finished up its season with a pair of exhibition games; losing in Peterborough before defeating OHA intermediate champions Stratford to close out the season.
A total of 15 games and a shot at the Stanley Cup! If only it was that easy now!