The Cost of Rushing Back to Sports: A Star’s Life

Written by on May 25, 2020

No one made a lot of it when Joe Corridor skated off the ice.

On March 29, 1919, his Montreal Canadiens had been on the verge of shedding Recreation 5 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Seattle Metropolitans. Corridor, 37, was considered one of hockey’s authentic enforcers, identified for making use of his wood stick like a cudgel and delivering knockout blows. The Canadiens, behind by 3-Zero heading into the third interval, wanted his pounding dedication.

However he went meekly to the bench and sat down.

The Seattle crowd roared for the Metropolitans. The Canadiens mounted a comeback and gained, 4-3, in additional time. Corridor was gone.

Reporters failed to attract a connection between his departure — and the gaunt pallor of gamers on each groups — and the Spanish flu, which had swept internationally the 12 months earlier than. By the point the 1919 Stanley Cup finals had gotten underway, la grippe had grow to be an afterthought.

“Individuals had been exuberant, in want of one thing to rejoice,” mentioned Kevin Ticen, a Seattle writer who has written concerning the finals. “There was additionally lots of denial.”

Then the celebration turned somber. Days after Montreal’s comeback, gamers on either side grew sick. Greater than half of the Canadiens, and the proprietor of the crew, had been affected by the flu. Corridor was struggling worst of all.

The sports activities world, mentioned his grandson Larry Corridor, 79, ought to be taught from historical past. “What occurred to my grandfather is related now in a method I by no means thought it will be,” he mentioned. “The flu that hit the Stanley Cup got here on the finish of a collection of pandemic waves. Individuals relaxed, after which, sadly, it got here once more.”

Hours earlier than a winner-take-all Recreation 6, hockey officers did one thing that they had by no means achieved earlier than or since.

They canceled the Stanley Cup finals midstream.

Joe Corridor lay in a hospital, gasping for breath. His temperature was spiking. He was combating for his life.

Even now, amid day by day tales of loss of life and the struggle in opposition to Covid-19, it may be onerous to fathom the ache of that point, 101 years in the past, when an aggressive pandemic and the devastation of World Conflict I laid waste to the world.

In america, the primary lethal outbreak of the Spanish flu got here in Kansas, hitting a small city and its Military base in early 1918. From there, it’s thought, troopers unfold the flu throughout the nation and into the trenches of Europe after which far past, fueling one of many worst disasters in human historical past.

Over two years, the Spanish flu killed at the very least 50 million folks, together with 55,000 in Canada and 675,000 in america.

Greater than half of its victims died throughout the second wave, which lasted three months late in 1918. A Jack Dempsey struggle was postponed. Many excessive colleges and schools shortened or shuttered their sports activities seasons. Michigan and Pittsburgh had been named the faculty soccer nationwide champions. Each performed solely 5 video games.

Main League Baseball was the dominant sport of the time. Fearful about viral transmission, it banned the spitball. In a lately revealed e-book, “Conflict Fever,” the historical past professors Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith mentioned that a number of Boston Purple Sox briefly fell ailing throughout spring coaching close to an Military base in Arkansas and that the crew’s greatest star, Babe Ruth, was sickened by the virus within the season’s first full month.

Ruth recovered and led the Sox to a World Collection title in 1918. However teeming crowds at Fenway Park could effectively have unfold the pandemic and helped make Boston one of many worst American epicenters of an infection.

No sport, nonetheless, was affected fairly like hockey.

PictureThe Red Sox won the 1918 World Series, and the teeming crowds at Fenway Park may well have spread the Spanish flu and helped make Boston one of the worst American epicenters.
Credit score…Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, by way of Getty Photographs

Joe Corridor was born in Britain and raised in rural Canada. He was considered one of skilled hockey’s early stars and amongst its most infamous. A vagabond of kinds, Corridor performed for 9 groups and performed for 2 Stanley Cup winners earlier than touchdown with the Canadiens in 1917 for one final cease.

He wasn’t massive — solely about 165 kilos and 5 toes 9 inches. Although away from video games he was effectively favored and identified for his quiet dignity, on the ice he carried himself like a warrior.

On one event, he was mentioned to have attacked two Toronto gamers on the similar time and precipitated a riot. Then there was a story about an in-game skirmish throughout which he inflicted such bloody mayhem that he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

“They referred to as him Dangerous Joe in these days, or generally simply the Dangerous Man,” Larry Corridor mentioned. “A troublesome man who refused to again down.”

Hockey was completely different then, mentioned Eric Zweig, a historian and the writer of “Fever Season,” a e-book about Corridor and the Cup. Gamers weren’t as massive and powerful as they’re now, however they had been robust and sturdy. Groups dressed solely about 10 gamers. They didn’t put on masks or helmets and had little padding.

Their pay? Larry Corridor, a well being membership proprietor who spoke on the cellphone from his dwelling two hours north of Toronto, described a cherished merchandise on a wall in his workplace: Joe Corridor’s contract for the 1918-19 season. He earned $600, with a possible $100 bonus.

Blow-by-blow accounts of what occurred throughout the 1919 Stanley Cup come from archived newspapers and a slim variety of historical past books. There isn’t a identified audio or movie report.

Descendants of the Montreal and Seattle gamers have a tendency to not know a lot. “My father by no means actually spoke of it, at the very least to not me,” mentioned Barbara Daniels, 90, the daughter of Frank Foyston, Seattle’s finest participant. Possibly there was an excessive amount of ache within the reminiscences.

Craig Patrick, a former N.H.L. participant and coach who was an assistant for the “Miracle on Ice” crew that gained gold on the 1980 Winter Olympics, is the grandson of a league proprietor who figured prominently within the 1919 battle for the Cup.

What little he is aware of concerning the championship collection comes from what he has learn. “In my household,” he mentioned, “I don’t keep in mind any tales being informed about it in any respect.”

However in any case this time, Joe Corridor’s household remembers. “The genes go on,” Larry Corridor mentioned, “and for us, so do the tales. They’re a part of who we’re.”

The 1919 Stanley Cup pitted the perfect crew from the N.H.L. in opposition to the perfect crew from the Pacific Coast Hockey Affiliation, a plucky upstart with golf equipment in Washington, Oregon and western Canada. Its champions that 12 months had been the Metropolitans.

That they had overwhelmed Montreal in 1917 to grow to be the primary American franchise to win the Cup.

“They had been completely big in Seattle, true celebrities,” mentioned Ticen, who has chronicled the crew’s championship season in a e-book, “When It Mattered Most.”

“They performed sold-out video games in a state-of-the-art area for its day,” he mentioned. “There are children climbing the roof to observe from skylights. The video games are electrical, and in all places the gamers go within the metropolis folks flock to them.”

Because the N.H.L. started its regular-season video games in late 1918, some referred to as the approaching hockey 12 months the Peace Season, a nod to the truth that World Conflict I had ended a month earlier.

However the Spanish Flu stored coming in waves.

In Seattle, the loss of life toll mounted that October, and town clamped down. Carrying masks turned obligatory, and spitting might end in arrest. Companies, colleges and church buildings had been closed, and huge gatherings had been banned.

When the variety of sick folks decreased, the measures had been loosened — which led to the virus’s lethal return.

By March, when Montreal arrived by practice for the championship collection, which might be performed totally in Seattle, the pandemic had retreated sufficient to grow to be an afterthought.

The fated struggle for the Cup is understood not just for the way it ended, but in addition for its depth. Recreation Four is taken into account by many to be one of many best in hockey historical past. Seattle held a 2-1 collection lead and wanted only one extra victory to take the Cup. However after two additional time durations, 80 minutes of play and never a single aim from both aspect, the competition was referred to as a tie.

Exhausted gamers collapsed to the ice. Some wanted to be carried to the locker rooms. “They might be enjoying for hockey championships for the subsequent thousand years,” wrote a reporter available, “however they’ll by no means stage a better wrestle.”

Then got here Recreation 5 and Corridor’s wilting departure. His sickness was barely talked about in preliminary stories. Corridor, one newspaper mentioned, merely had a excessive fever attributable to “overexertion.”

Information tales about Corridor’s situation reported his regressing every day because it turned clear that he had been struck particularly onerous by the virus. His fever rose to alarm­ing ranges — 102 levels, 103, 104.

Due to the double-overtime tie and Montreal’s Recreation 5 win, the groups had been slated to play as soon as extra to resolve the championship. The Spanish flu unfold like fireplace by way of each groups, and the Canadiens didn’t have sufficient wholesome gamers to maintain going. After a proposal to herald replacements was rejected, Montreal supplied to forfeit. Seattle refused to say the title that method. Lastly, hockey officers determined to name the collection a draw, a outcome memorialized on the Stanley Cup.

The 12 months and crew names had been etched on the silver chalice. Under that was engraved:


And Joe Corridor?

His teammates recovered, however he remained hospitalized.

Fluid crammed his lungs, and his fever stayed stubbornly excessive. His spouse raced by practice from Canada to be at his aspect, however she was too late.

Every week after his final sport, the nice enforcer died.

Credit score…Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, by way of Related Press

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