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Exploring the Washington Lions of the American Hockey League (AHL)

Join us on a journey to explore the Washington Lions of the American Hockey League (AHL). Learn about their connection to Montreal, their brief history in DC, and check out their great programs.
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My last post went way back to the 1920s. This one is a couple of decades after that, but well before the Washington Capitals arrived here. Our second “Before Ovechkin” post will cover the Washington Lions of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Stu Smith of the Washington Lions (1941)
Stu Smith of the Washington Lions (1941-42)

The Washington Lions were the first serious hockey team to land in the nation’s capital. Interestingly enough, they had a strong connection to Montreal, as the Canadiens largely subsidized their budget (I find this interesting because Washington took the Montreal Expos and made them the Nationals). Some of the former Candiens roster ended up in Washington like Stu Smith (pictured above).

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The team was originally playing in New Haven as the Eagles, but they failed to make a profit after the 1940-41 season, so they packed up and headed south to the District and Uline Arena (i.e., where the Beatles played their first U.S. concert).

The team’s tenure in D.C. initially only lasted two seasons after kicking off in 1941. After the ’42-’43 season, they disbanded due to World War II. A team using the Washington Lions name continued to play in in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League  during the ’44-’45 and ’46-’47 seasons.

In late 1947, the Lions were back as a professional team in the AHL. In ’47-’48, they were horrible at 17-45 and in ’48-’49, they were atrocious with a record of 11-53. In January of 1949, near the end of the season, the owner of the Lions was quoted in the Baltimore Sun, saying the team might be forced to quit the AHL for financial reasons.

Washington, Jan. 20 (AP)–This may be the last year for the Washington Lions in the American Hockey League, Owner M. J. Uline said today.

Uline said the hockey club is losing money steadily and estimated this year’s deficit at about $60,000.

“The trouble with the league is that it’s too scattered out,” he said. “Nobody can make money under present conditions except maybe one or two clubs.”

Uline added, however, that he does not intend to withdraw from hockey even though he quits the American League.

“We’ll stay in hockey,” he commented.

He declined to discuss what hockey league he might shift to.

Uline also owns the Washington Capitals, of the Basketball Association of America. He said the basketball team is making money this year for the first time.

Both the hockey and basketball teams play their games in Uline Arena.

Well, that was the last season they played here because they moved to Cincinnati to become the Mohawks the following season.

Check out the great Washington Lions programs below. You can find anything on the Internet.

Washington Lions 1956 program
Washington Lions 1956 program
Washington Lions 1948-89
Washington Lions 1948-89
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Enjoy daily

Ghosts of DC stories.