Thomas Arena became the home of two NAHC clubs in 1912

Albert "Bert" Thomas was a well-known hotelier in Toronto - and the owner of the Federally Aligned Baseball League's Toronto entry, the Wolves. With several hotels and a ballpark in his portfolio, Thomas was "a very interested observer" at the meeting that resulted in the formation of the North American Hockey Confederation in 1909. At that meeting he made his wishes known - he wanted a franchise for Toronto. At the time there was no arena sufficiently large in the city to support an NAHC club and the owners put Thomas off. Undaunted, he went out and purchased a parcel of land and began constructing a state-of-the-art arena with an artificial ice plant that would be the best arena in Canada upon its completion in 1912 (this statement would be amended to the "best in the East" after the Yeadon's ice palace in Vancouver was opened in 1911).

Meanwhile, hockey renegade Jack Connolly, who at one time owned three NAHC franchises, sold off one of them (Quebec), operated another (the Montreal Valiants) and kept a third in reserve and inactive (New Leiskard). The latter club was Connolly's ticket into Toronto, or so he believed. Connolly and Thomas were friendly, and Connolly erroneously believed that Thomas' arena was being built to support his former New Leiskard club's move into Toronto. When word slowly leaked out that Thomas had gone to NAHC league president Percy Hopkins, asked for and received permission to own a club in Toronto, Connolly tamped down his famous temper and approached Thomas about sharing the arena. Thomas accepted (Connolly would be paying rent after all) and so, just like Montreal, Toronto would feature two hockey clubs. But unlike Montreal, it was an open question as to whether Toronto would actually support two clubs.

The NAHC league meetings of 1912 were held as usual in Thomas' Global Grand Hotel in Toronto. As Hopkins prepared to preside over the vote on the admission of Thomas' Toronto club (with Ottawa owner Martin Delaware and Montreal Nationals owner Albert Trautman smirking), Connolly announced that he was reactivating the New Leiskard club but would shift it to Toronto. Both Trautman and Delaware protested, reminding the gathering that Connolly had promised to divest himself of all but one of his clubs. Connolly retorted that he had promised to do so within five years and therefore his time "had not yet expired." Connolly then smiled and said he would accept a postponement on his move until after the vote on Thomas' club had been completed. Hopkins called the vote, and Thomas was admitted unanimously. Thomas, as had been prearranged, then joined with Connolly and Quebec owner Maurice Flaubert in voting to approve the reactivation and relocation of the former New Leiskard franchise. 

The 1911-12 season was a landmark one because it marked the debut of the Yeadon brothers' Transcontinental Hockey Association (TCHA) a West Coast-based league which from the day it began would go toe-to-toe with the NAHC for hockey supremacy. "This means war!" trumpeted Jack Connolly; this was quite possibly the only printable remark he made upon first hearing of the TCHA's designs on the NAHC's player pool.

The Yeadons cemented themselves a place in history with not only their "pirate" league (as dubbed by Connolly, who was himself hockey's original buccaneer), but also for building state-of-the-art arenas for their league, complete with ice plants that would ultimately allow the season to be lengthened and the sport to be played in cities where natural ice was rare or (eventually) non-existent. The Vancouver arena (named, naturally, the Yeadon Arena) was a beautiful facility that upon its opening was the largest in Canada (with a seating capacity of 10,000), had the first artificial ice plant in the country and featured a spacious 200' by 85' surface that promoted an open and flowing game (even with an extra skater on the ice). Victoria's new arena was smaller (4,000 seat capacity) but also had artificial ice and a large skating area. Surrey would play in Vancouver until a new arena could be built (which never happened as it turned out).

The NAHC's reaction to the new circuit was two-fold: initially they ridiculed it, and after their players started heading west to play in it, they "banned for life" any player who went to the TCHA. Those lifetime bans ultimately didn't amount to anything, but in that first year there were clear lines drawn. Speaking of which, that was another Yeadon innovation - striping the ice surface to create "zones" - an offensive zone for each team and a "neutral" zone in the center. While the Yeadons and the TCHA would be good for hockey in the long term, that first season put a severe financial strain on all involved on both sides of the "hockey war."

There were some big defections in 1911 - Francis Craft, the stellar right wing of the Montreal Nationals, headed west to play for the Surrey Seals. Gevis Murphy of the Valiants packed up to join his friend Bill Yeadon in Vancouver Other top skaters to head west included Max Thibodeau, Al Carson, Ralph Verville and Leo Boisvert. Former New Leiskard netminder John Tomlinson joined Victoria rather than accept Connolly's offer to join the Valiants.

The TCHA had much more balance than the eastern circuit - the three clubs were very evenly matched and the season featured many close games en route to a final standings table that was the picture of parity. 

Bill (L) and Frank (R) Yeadon, started the rival Continental Hockey Association in 1911

As had been the case the year before, the aftermath of the 1910-11 season brought massive changes to the professional hockey landscape. 

In the NAHC, Jack Connolly saw a downturn in profits for his mining interests exacerbate the financial issues caused by running an overpriced team in New Leiskard (where attendance was hard to come by) as well as a brand-new team in Montreal that had yet to find its following. So what to do? Well, as usual Connolly had a plan - he would disband the Silver Skates, but in a move that duplicated his machinations of the year before, he would "retain the franchise rights" and announced his second club would return for the 1912-13 season... in Toronto.

Why the wait? Well, Bert Thomas was busily building a state-of-the-art arena right across Front Street from the Union Station in downtown Toronto. But the arena (and its first-in-the-city ice plant) would not be ready for the 1911-12 season. So Connolly would have to wait. But... there was another issue: Thomas was building the arena to put his own team there. And, mainly out of lingering spite towards Connolly, the NAHC League President and his supporters (Montreal owner Al Trautman and Ottawa owner Martin Delaware) stood ready to approve Thomas' application at the next NAHC League Meetings. Things would certainly be interesting at those meetings and in 1912-13.

So the NAHC would operate as a four-team circuit in 1911-12. The Ottawa Athletics, Montreal Nationals, Montreal Valiants and Quebec Champlains represented the three largest cities in Canada and though some smaller metropolises would enter the league in later years, never again would a "frontier outpost" such as New Leiskard have a top-flight pro hockey team. With four clubs, the league again expanded its schedule - each club would face the other three in six games, for an 18-game schedule.  

As the NAHC owners met at the Global Grand in late October, the main discussion wasn't Connolly's end-around move into Toronto, but rather the new challenger that had arisen on the West Coast. Bill and George Yeadon, the independently-wealthy hockey playing brothers from British Columbia, had departed from the employ of Jack Connolly's New Leiskard club prior to the 1910-11 season and returned to Vancouver where they worked in the family's import/export business. But as both extremely talented hockey players and shrewd businessmen, the Yeadons would not be outside the game for long.