The spread of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus has begun to have a serious impact on the sports world: in Italy and Japan, football matches are postponed or held without spectators, the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix has been postponed, there is talk of a possible rescheduling or even cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, and questions about Euro 2020. England does not rule out a scenario in which the season in one of the main football championships in the world may not be played out, and the championship, which Liverpool so clearly claims, will remain unplayed. Previously, only the First and Second World Wars intervened in the tournament.
In the entire history of sports, only one disease has negatively affected sports life - the Spanish flu that raged more than a hundred years ago. In 1919, tens of millions of people around the world died because of him, and the Stanley Hockey Cup final series was canceled only once.
There are several theories of where the H1N1 flu virus originated at the end of 1917, but researchers agree that its spread around the planet was greatly facilitated by both World War I and technological progress, which allowed a person to travel vast distances much faster than in 20 years before that.
At first, the disease did not significantly affect professional sports in North America. There have been cases when baseball players went on the field in face dressings, but no one canceled the game due to the epidemic. Even the death of Ottawa Senators defender Hamby Shore in October 1918 from the flu did not affect the resumption of hockey championships in Canada and the United States.
In those years, the National Hockey League (NHL) was not a de facto monopolist in North America, as it is now. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association (HATP) competed with it. The Stanley Cup was played between the winners of the regular championships of two leagues, who needed to agree among themselves on what rules to play - after all, they each had their own. The main difference was the pass forward - in the conservative NHL it was initially banned, because of which the games were much more stringent than in our time, and in the HATP it was allowed in the middle zone, and there the matches were more spectacular and energy-intensive. In 1918, the NHL surrendered under the onslaught of the times, but the new style has not yet become fashionable in the east.
In 1919, the Montreal Canadiens entered the Stanley Cup final from the NHL, and the Seattle Metro came from the HATP. The teams did not move from city to city, but carried out a series of up to three victories only in Seattle, although at that time there remained the danger of contracting the “Spanish”. It was decided to play only according to the HATP rules, so the Montreal hockey players had to face unusual loads. Seattle also had a hard time - right before the final, defender Bernie Morris went to jail for evading military service, and only seven field players remained in the team against 12 from the Canadian club. Everyone who went on the ice had to fight to the point of exhaustion, since it was not customary to make a replacement.
Seattle won two of their first three matches. In the fourth, both teams were barely moving on the ice, and as part of the guests only the great goalkeeper Georges Vezina was at his best and did not miss a single goal. The main time ended in a goalless draw, and it was decided to spend an additional period, after which another one was needed. It was not possible to identify the winner even after two overtime. The players were in a terrible state and fell on the ice, so the referees declared a draw and ordered them to replay the match, although for the future it was decided that in the Stanley Cup finals, each game should end in victory.
In the fifth match (or rather, in the replayed fourth), “Seattle” led 3-0 by the end of the second period, but the Montreal put the game into overtime, managing to even the score in the final series. After the final whistle, all the players fell back onto the ice again, and it became obvious that this was no longer banal fatigue, but something more serious. Several hockey players had to be sent to the hospital, where a terrible diagnosis was confirmed - the Spanish flu. Five exhausting games in the cold in the presence of several hundred spectators were unlikely to end with anything else.
Despite the fact that both teams suffered huge losses, the next game was still scheduled for April 1. However, five and a half hours before the start, it was canceled. The players were in hospitals with temperatures below 42 degrees. Montreal owner George F. Kennedy, who was seriously ill with the flu, offered to give the Stanley Cup to Seattle, but Mets head coach Pete Muldoon declined the offer. The Canadiens also wanted to temporarily attract local players to the team, but the HATP leadership was against it.
Almost all hockey players were gradually recovering, but the 37-year-old Montreal defender Joe Hall only got worse. He developed pneumonia, and on April 5, he died in the hospital, not waiting for his family to come to him. Three days later, a funeral took place, at which his partners and rivals came. The disease did not pass without a trace for George Kennedy - he died two years later, having failed to cope with the complications that arose.
After the death of Hull, the final series of the Stanley Cup was decided to be finally canceled. Since then, the main hockey trophy in the NHL did not take place only once - when the lockout thundered in the 2004/2005 season. In 1948, when the Stanley Cup took on a modern look, the Montreal Canadiens - Seattle Metropolitan - Series was not completed on the nameplate of the 1919 winners.
The result of the 1919 Stanley Cup final was that in professional hockey they began to pay more attention to the health of players, and the composition of teams increased so that it was possible to make substitutions more often. Thus, the Spanish flu epidemic not only caused one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of mankind, but also changed the face of an entire sport that could have been completely different now if it had not been for the events of a hundred years ago. And how coronavirus will affect modern sport, one can only guess.