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Harry “Hap” Holmes Cleveland Connection

Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Every year the AHL awards the goaltender(s) with the lowest goals against average who have played in at least 25 regular season games the “Hap Holmes Memorial Award”.

Who is Harry “Hap” Holmes? How is he connected to the great city of Cleveland?

Holmes got his professional hockey start with the Toronto Blueshirts from 1912-1915. During his second season (1913-14), Holmes led the Blueshirts to their first Stanley Cup win. This was also the first time a Toronto based team won a Stanley Cup.

He would then go on to play for the Seattle Metropolitans from 1915-17 and then again from 1918-1924. Holmes guided the Metropolitans to becoming the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917.

What was Holmes doing during his break from the Metropolitans in 1917-18? He was winning a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Arenas.

At the end of the 1923-24 season, The PHA merged with the WCHL causing the Metropolitans to fold. After the merger, Holmes would find a home with the Victoria Cougars from 1924-1926. The Cougars would win the Stanley Cup in 1925. This was the last time a non-NHL team and Holmes would win the cup.

In his final two seasons of play, the Cougars were bought by an NHL franchise. They didn’t fare as well as past teams Holmes played on.

So, where does the city of Cleveland fit into Holmes’ narrative?

Let’s start with the obvious. Four winners of the “Hap Holmes Memorial Award” were on a Cleveland team. Gary Kurt (1970-71), Les Binkley (1965-66), and Johnny Bower (1951-52 and 1957-58) won the award while playing for the Cleveland Barons.

Now, let’s talk about the not so obvious connection. In 1929, the Kitchener Dutchmen of the International Hockey League were moved to Cleveland. Their coach was * drum roll * Harry “Hap” Holmes.

For those of you who don’t know, the Indians were the first professional hockey team in Cleveland. At the start of the 1934-35 season, they were renamed the Cleveland Falcons. In 1937, the Falcons changed their name to what would become the most popular hockey name in Cleveland, the Barons.